Ice fishing action heating up on the Peninsula; derby starts in February

Cold catching

A recent cold snap registering temperatures as low as 25 degrees below zero may have shuttered some fair-weather fisherman indoors.


But when the Kenai Peninsula gets cold, the grizzled and hardy fishermen go ice fishing.

Brian Miller, co-owner and manager of Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing, said he has talked to a number of locals who have braved the sunny, yet deceptively cold days in search of a winter salmon, trout or other species in one of the area's many lakes.

"Most of the fishing has been pretty good," Miller said. "Some of the ice has been sketchy on some of the lakes still. But, most of the people getting out prior to the cold snap were doing fairly well in most of the places they were going."

Miller said he has heard good things about Swanson Lake's fishing activity, as well as the various lakes in that area.

"Most of the people have been very successful," he said. "The fish haven't been that lethargic yet so they are still active and catchable."

Many anglers favor a jig with a hunk of bait -- shrimp or eggs -- on it.

"Don't oversize your jig," Miller advised. "If you are going for bigger fish the bigger jigs work, but if you are fishing in a stocked lake with some smaller fish in it, then size the jig down."

Trustworthy will host its annual ice fishing tournament at the beginning of February, which is free to participate in, Miller said, and features a number of divisions and prizes for various categories. Miller encouraged residents to come into the store for more details.

"Come and get your name signed up before you go out fishing on the first and join in with the derby," he said. "It is a wide open derby for adults and kids and families, women -- it is pretty neat."

Although more experienced ice fishermen would likely have little trouble with the current conditions, Miller advised everyone to take precautions and stay warm.

"If I was going out right now I would make sure I had a heater or some sort of alternative heat source and a tent," he said. "I wouldn't try and go out in this type of weather without making sure you have all the proper tools and equipment. But I do know there are people out there fishing."

Recommended gear includes waterproof boots, insulated gloves, warm clothing, a chair or bucket to sit on, some sort of a shelter from the elements, as well as the essential auger -- powered or hand-crank.

Jason Pawluk, assistant management biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, encouraged residents to reassess their gear and needed equipment with the start of the new year -- specifically checking on their sport fishing license.

"It is one of the things people forget about because even though the calendar changes, it is still winter and cold and most people don't really think of it," he said.

Pawluk said Fish and Game staff hadn't heard too many reports on how anglers were faring so far. He mentioned, however, that he and others visited Arc Lake to scout fishing conditions for the Salmon in the Classroom program. Three lines fished for an hour produced two silver salmon, he said.

Ice conditions in the lowland areas are good, but Pawluk advised fishermen to be cautious around bigger lakes that might have thin spots. Many of the area's lakes also have a lot of snow on them, which makes for a good workout, he said.

"Once you are even on the lake it is tough trudging through," he said.

Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Longmere Lake in Sterling, Sport Lake in Soldotna and the Swanson River system of lakes are likely safe bets for good fishing this time of year.

However, with the numerous lakes on the Peninsula, anglers have a host of options from the nearby and accessible to the more remote areas.

For local ice thickness reports, anglers can call the Soldotna Wildlife Troopers at 262-4573 or the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at 262-7021 for observational information from officers and rangers in the field.

For a list of Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocked lakes, visit, click "sport fishing," then on the left side click "fishing information" then "lake fishing info," and finally "Kenai." Information includes underwater contours of lakes, maps, average depths, stocking information and more.

Or download this PDF:

Anglers are reminded to always check Fish and Game rules and regulations before heading out.

Tight Lines runs on the third Thursday of the month from October through April, and will return as a weekly feature in May.


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