This Friday marks the change from the early run of Kenai River king salmon to the late run, and anglers anxious to catch one of those fish will be able to up their odds by adding bait to their tackle.
The river opens to fishing with bait at 12:01 a.m. Friday from regulatory markers about 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek, between river miles 18 and 19, downstream to the river’s mouth.
Fishing for kings on the Kenai River has yet to heat up.
“I would describe it as very slow,” said Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist with the Department of Fish and Game. “It’s not looking good for the start of the next run based on what we’re seeing now.”
Over the past week, Pawluk said, fewer than 150 kings have passed through the sonar on average each day. That’s well below the 200 to 300 the department would expect at this time during average years.
Pawluk said the lower Kenai is nearly devoid of fish, with test-netters yielding single digits many days.
The low counts mean king fishing will be slow in early July, Pawluk said — unless a flood of fish comes in the next couple days.
An estimated 9,694 kings had passed through the sonar as of Tuesday, according to Fish and Game, but only 66 came through on Monday.
“Not only are there not a lot of kings in the river, but people aren’t catching them,” Pawluk said. “We’re just not seeing fish, so that gives us concern going into July.”
From the regulatory markers downstream of Slikok Creek upstream to Skilak Lake, an emergency order is in place through 11:59 p.m. July 14 prohibiting anglers from using bait and retaining kings between 20 and 55 inches.
The restriction also includes the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai upstream to the northern-most edge of the Sterling Highway Bridge.
The early run for sockeye salmon also is cooling.
Pawluk said a foot survey completed by the department a few days ago in the sanctuary of the Russian River showed about 4,100 sockeye holding in the area. A second survey, carried out Tuesday, revealed about 1,400 in the same water.
Fishing downstream of the Russian River ferry landing has slowed down, Pawluk said, adding he counted 66 anglers Tuesday.
The sanctuary remains closed until July 15. Check the regulations for details. The department’s most recent count, released Tuesday, had the season passage for sockeye at 16,481 on the Russian.
“We are seeing high passage rates through the weir, which tells me the bulk of the run is in the Russian,” Pawluk added.
To the south, another emergency order was issued to protect Anchor River kings. The order, which prohibits the use of bait and treble hooks and close fishing two miles north and south of the river’s mouth, goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. July 31.
The lower portions of the Anchor River, Deep Creek, and Stariski Creek will open Friday to all sport fishing except kings, which must be released.
On the Anchor, anglers must use unbaited, single hooks or artificial lures through July 31.
Bait and treble hooks are allowed on Deep Creek, Stariski and the Ninilchik.
The Ninilchik reopens to king fishing on Friday, including hatchery fish, which are defined as those missing the adipose fin.
For halibut, Sterling resident Chad Aldridge remains the leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby after landing a 350.8 pounder two weeks ago.
Halibut fishing has been steady out of Homer, Deep Creek and Anchor Point, according to Carolyn Bunker of Fish and Game.
“Many anglers have been catching their bag limits,” Bunker said. “Sampled halibut landed over the past week averaged 20 pounds, ranging from 6 to 156 pounds.”
In other saltwater fishing, ling cod season opens Friday.
There is a minimum size limit of 35 inches, with a bag limit of two per angler, per day. Try fishing the rock piles and pinnacles off Elizabeth Island and Kennedy Entrance, Bunker said.
There will be good clamming tides through July 5, according to a report from Fish and Game, but an emergency order was issued to reduce the sport, personal use and subsistence bag and possession limits for littleneck and butter clams in Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay from 1,000 littleneck clams and 700 butter clams to a combined limit of 80 clams, Bunker said.
There are 27 stocked lakes on the Kenai Peninsula and fishing has been described as steady in many of them. Contact Fish and Game for additional information.