While those fishermen who packed their freezers full of sockeye and coho salmon this summer may be saving their catch for a winter-time feast, the same isn’t true for another creature on the Kenai Peninsula.
Currently, the Kenai River’s population of rainbow trout are gorging on the remainder of summer’s bounty — decaying salmon flesh and fresh eggs — making for one of the best times to catch a trophy trout on the river.
“It’s feeding season for sure,” said Robert Begich, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologist. “Everything that they can get a hold of.”
Dave Atcheson, author of “Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula” and a fishing instructor at Kenai Peninsula College, said this year has been different from prior years because of the level of the river.
“There’s quite a few fish around, but with the water so high they are a little more spread out,” he said. “But this time of year is great. It is usually less crowded once the river drops and the power boats really can’t go on there.”
“We have been plagued all fall by changing water conditions,” he said. “We had a few different high water events in the upper and middle river and now it seems we are solid.”
However, the water level has started to stabilize to its usual levels.
“So kind of the old water conditions people are used to this time of year should hold true for the rest of the season here,” he said.
Atcheson said residents can find success fishing with either a fly rod or a spinning rod with fly gear.
“Many people use like a slinky weight and a leader with spinning gear and they will fish flesh flies this time of year — that look like pieces of salmon flesh,” he said. “People are still using beads that mimic salmon eggs or egg patterns.”
There’s not really a big difference between the two techniques, Atcheson said, just personal preference and fishing acumen.
“Sometimes you can get to the deeper water better with the spinning gear and so that helps a little bit,” he said.
“For the silvers too it is nice to have both spinning gear and fly gear and you can throw spinners at them and then throw flies out too.”
Atcheson recommended trying flesh flies, egg patterns and egg-sucking leeches for the best rainbow success on the upper and middle Kenai River.“Most people turn their attention to the area below Skilak Lake — or the middle river as we call it between Bing’s (Landing) and Skilak Lake — this time of year,” Begich said.
Begich added that residents can fish the species throughout the winter after the silver salmon season — which is almost over — closes at the end of November.
“Last year, silver salmon was probably the best I’ve ever seen at the end of October,” Atcheson said.
Begich reminded residents to check Fish and Game rules and regulations before heading out.
“It has been good when people get out there and the last few days have been perfect days to go,” he said.
Local fly fisherman Nate Nelson said, “this has definitely been a different year.”
“The water levels and clarity have played with us quite a bit this year,” he said. “It is still great fishing, you just have to work a little bit more for your fish.”
Nelson said this is his favorite time of the year to fish, he said.
“You start to thin out on the people,” he said. “There are not so many, for lack of a better term, tourists. Everybody comes to Alaska to fish and it tends to thin out a little bit and that’s why I choose to fish in the late September, early October time.”
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.