Kings 'moving in'; openers set

As weather warms, so does Peninsula king salmon action

Set your alarm clock -- 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.


If you wake, chances are you'll be one of hundreds of groggy-eyed hopefuls plunking salmon eggs or other shiny objects into the Ninilchik and Anchor rivers and Deep Creek in hopes of hooking the season's first run of king salmon.

The three-day weekend fishery for the three rivers will be open May 26-28.

"They are freshly in from the salt water so they are still fairly aggressive," said Mike Booz, a Lower Cook Inlet sport fisheries biologist for Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Booz said regular fishing rules apply for the openers -- bait and multiple hooks are allowed.

The three rivers will be open again from June 2-4 and June 9-11. Only the Anchor will be open June 16-18. The Anchor opened last weekend for king fishing.

The Ninilchik has the more favorable water conditions -- Deep Creek and the Anchor tend to be higher and muddier -- and will likely receive the majority of attention from fishermen. Booz said a variety of gear can lead to success just as long as fishermen have enough weight to keep it on the bottom on the dead drift.

Dave Atcheson, a local fishing instructor and author of "Fishing Alaska's Kenai Peninsula" recommended adding a small weight and a tiny Spin-N-Glow to the end of a hunk of eggs for good measure.

"Actually when a lot of people are fishing with eggs, I'll go down and fish with flies, like a big chartreuse fly or like a bunny leech," he said. He advised fishermen to swing the fly to give it some more action.

The Memorial Day openers on the lower Peninsula usually signal the start to the summer king fishing season and draw fishermen from around the state. Other rivers will soon be flooded with Oncorhynchus tschawytscha -- the biggest, most aggressive of the salmon species.

The Kenai River is currently open to king salmon fishing but restrictions include no bait and single hook, artificial lures only.

"Water conditions are good -- they're clear," said Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for Fish and Game. "Obviously it is very low still, but there are people out fishing."

Catching on the Kenai is still slow, Pawluk said. However, as the water starts to warm, the bite will likely pick up as fish shake off winter's lethargic habits. Sonars have detected kings coming into the river and Fish and Game has gathered reports of anglers striking it lucky despite it being a bit early in the year.

"It is too early to tell how this run is going to play out," he said.

Standard regulations are in effect on the Kenai River for the early run, which ends June 30. No kings may be retained that are between 46 inches and 55 inches. Any king over 55 inches must be brought to the department to be sealed.

King salmon sanctuaries include the mouths of the three major tributaries of the lower Kenai at Slikok Creek, Funny River and the Killey River. In those sanctuaries there is no boat fishing, no king salmon fishing and only fly fishing is allowed. Until June 11, the Kenai is closed to rainbow trout fishing and the section of the river from the outlet of Skilak Lake down to the confluence of the upper Killey River is closed to all fishing.

Reports of saltwater fishing have been good if conditions are agreeable, Pawluk said.

"They've been catching kings out there along Deep Creek ... Whiskey Gulch and Anchor Point, so there are kings moving in," he said. "Whether they are spawners or just mostly feeders we are not really sure yet."

The Kasilof River, which is favored early by guides, is slow fishing, but that's normal right now, Pawluk said. The Kasilof is open to all fishing with bait and multiple hooks allowed. Fishermen are finding luck fishing for steelhead along the river.

"Things should start to be moving by next week for sure," he said. "It is so early in the game and with this weather we've been having, I don't really know how that is having an effect on people getting out fishing or cold weather still making the kings pretty lethargic."

Fishermen are encouraged to double-check the status of their sportfishing license and check the Fish and Game regulations book before heading out fishing.


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