With the 2011 king salmon season in the books, it’s time for anglers on the central Kenai Peninsula to shift their focus.
Silver salmon are beginning to enter the Kenai and Kasilof rivers — the run has yet to pick up, guides and biologists say — and rainbow trout are available in the middle and upper portions of the Kenai.
For many, August and September are the best months to fish.
“I’m just really looking forward to it because the king season wasn’t what it was supposed to be,” said Cody Dutcher, a guide with Widespread Fishing. “The crowds start to die down a little and there are a lot of fish to be caught.”
What will the run of silvers look like this season? Most believe it’s too early to tell.
Pat Shields of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Wednesday commercial harvest rates for silvers on the east side are well below average, but since it’s early in the run, things could turn around.
Shields said about 11,000 silvers had been harvested in the east side set-net fishery through Tuesday. At the same time last year, Shields said, the number was about 18,000.
“Our harvest would indicate that the run is either below average or late,” Shields said. “But they are extremely variable in their run timing, so it’s too early to say if it’s going to be a slow run. Things can change quickly and they can come in bunches.”
There is a new regulation affecting all Kenai Peninsula streams, according to a release from Fish and Game. The rule states a silver salmon may not be removed from the water prior to release. If it is, it counts toward the bag limit of the person hooking it and must be retained.
Dutcher expects silver fishing to pick up in the Kenai and Kasilof over the next few weeks. For now, he said, the best bet is to work tide water and intercept silvers on incoming tides.
Anglers in pursuit of silver should fish with rigs similar to those used to catch kings, only smaller. Try using salmon eggs with Spin N Glo lures, or Qwik Fish, Dutcher said.
Sockeye fishing has slowed in the Kenai, but figures to improve in the Russian River later this month.
The season passage for late-run sockeye on the Russian was 11,114 as of Tuesday, compared to 11,720 at the same time in 2010.
If the run follows last year’s pattern, fish should begin to enter the Russian in larger numbers over the next couple weeks. In 2010, at least 1,000 sockeye entered the river 10 of 12 days beginning Aug. 20. So far this season, 1,000-plus, single-day numbers have been reported just three times, according to Fish and Game.
Dutcher described the sockeye action as fair near Bings Landing, saying many anglers are putting in long days to catch their limits.
“It hasn’t been red-hot,” he said. “We have been catching them, but it hasn’t been on fire.
Meanwhile, dipnetting remains open on the Kasilof through Aug. 7, but all kings must be released. Kenai dipnetting closed Sunday.
To the south, there will be a youth-only fishing day at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon in Homer. The event begins at 12:01 a.m., Saturday, running to midnight. A portion of the lagoon will be open to children 15 and younger.
Fish and Game staff will be there from 5 to 8 p.m. to help anglers set up fishing gear and provide pointers.
Also to the south, the lower portions of the Anchor River, Deep Creek, and Stariski Creek are open to all sport fishing except for kings. The Ninilchik is open to the harvest of hatchery kings, but most have moved upstream, said Carolyn Bunker of Fish and Game.
Bunker said silvers are starting to arrive in all three streams. She suggested fishing near the river mouth during the incoming tide.
Fishing for dolly varden, meanwhile, has been spotty in most sections of those areas. Try using small, bright spinners, fresh salmon eggs or fly patterns that resemble muddler minnows or egg patterns, Bunker said.
The daily possession limit for dolly varden is two.
Fish and Game will continue to monitor kings even though the season is closed.
The department uses five indices to assess run strength on the Kenai, and the ELSD sonar estimate as of Monday was 32,109 for the season. On its website, however, Fish and Game said the number could be inflated.
The net apportioned sonar estimate Monday had the season passage at 17,622, which the department said is below average and similar to the runs of 2009 and 2010.