Fishing for rainbow trout, Dolly Varden and grayling in central Kenai Peninsula lakes is red hot as the weather warms and fish become increasingly active.
"The fishing is phenomenal in the lakes right now," said Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "... These fish are ravenous -- they are cruising the lake shores looking for food and lake fishing from all the reports that we've gotten has been pretty good."
Fishing local lakes can be a great alternative during the unpredictable early season king salmon runs, before the Russian River's early push of sockeye and before the Kenai River rainbow trout opener on June 11.
Colin Lowe, owner of Kenai Cache Outfitters, said local lakes are best fished in the early morning or mid-evening hours. He suggested anglers work the banks and shoreline slowly stripping flies. Also consider targeting small coves, inlets, outlets or islands, Lowe said.
"We've been doing really good on nymphs in sizes 8 to 12 just flipping them out there in the evening and stripping them in slowly," he said. "It is pretty non-stop action in the evening."
Lowe suggested black, olive or brown nymphs fished just below the surface or experimenting with spinners and spoons on light spin casting tackle. If there is an insect hatch on the lake, try flipping dry flies on the surface. He suggested Nest, Hidden, Scout, Kelly and Peterson lakes.
Pawluk said king salmon action is a little slow on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers but he expects the run to start ramping up through the next two weekends.
However, there are several reasons to be optimistic -- officials haven't yet seen the large annual influx of hooligan into the river, which usually precedes the king run. Pawluk said crews started to see pulses of them on sonar just a few days ago.
"So they might be starting their move upstream," he said.
The water in the Kasilof and Kenai rivers is still cold, which could be a cause of the current slow bite. As the weather warms, however, fish might be more active and aggressive.
"We're kind of holding out hope that it is a later-arriving run right now for hooligan and especially king salmon," Pawluk said.
According to Fish and Game, the daily passage estimate for kings on May 27 was 31 fish. The cumulative estimate through May 27 is 403 king salmon. Currently, the Kenai is restricted to no bait and single hook, artificial lures only.
The Kasilof has been "quiet" for kings, Pawluk said.
"We know of a few fish that have been caught, but I think it is a combination both very little effort taking place there and just it being very slow," he said.
However, anglers are finding some success catching steelhead on the Kasilof River. Below the Kasilof bridge to the mouth of the river, anglers cannot remove steelhead from the water and they must be released immediately.
The section of the Kenai River from the outlet of Skilak Lake down to the confluence of the upper Killey River is closed to all fishing until June 11.
Fish and Game also restricted king salmon fishermen to one, unbaited, artificial lure on the Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River starting Saturday at 12:01 a.m. through June 20. Single hook means a fish hook with only one point. Fishermen reported slow action on during the Ninilchik opener.
Fish and Game will host a youth only fishing day at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit for anglers ages 15 or younger on Saturday. Fishing rods will be available for youth to check out and staff will be on hand to help.
Fishermen are encouraged to double-check the status of their sport fishing license and check the Fish and Game regulations book before heading out.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.