Fishermen reported mixed results while fishing for sockeye salmon along the banks of the Kenai and Russian rivers since the Monday opener -- some left with limits of fresh salmon, others with simply broken hearts and sore shoulders.
Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said many anglers were reporting better luck in the clear waters of the Russian River above the Russian River Ferry, rather than the more popular spot immediately downstream of the ferry.
Water levels in the Russian River are high and swift, Pawluk said. The fast water conditions led to many anglers losing gear to the rocks and having to switch to heavier line.
"The good thing about having high water in the Russian is that it kind of persuades the red salmon to run up the Russian ... whereas in low water years they're kind of hesitant to start running up a very clear-watered stream with about six inches of water," he said.
Anglers who were able to fish early in the morning found better success as the fish hadn't been spooked by the amount of anglers trampling around and were holding in the usual holes.
"The past two years haven't been that great and I don't know if this year is going to be any better," he said. "Will the fish show up in a little bit better numbers? Yeah they will and they'll be fishable."
With the faster, swifter water, anglers should adjust their weight and leader length accordingly. Weight should be just enough to bounce along the bottom of the river but no so much it gets caught in the rocks each cast. Pawluk said some anglers will use a four- to five-foot leader.
"Trust me -- short leaders are not good for sockeye fishing," Pawluk said. "I don't know where it got so bent out of shape, but longer leaders work better for sockeye fishing and I think more people are catching on to it."
The Kenai River also opened to trout fishing on Monday and Pawluk said fishing has been good to excellent.
"I think we saw everyone catching fish," he said. "We did good and it was a mix of post-spawners and rainbow trout that didn't spawn, so a good mix of size and color. We even caught a few Dollies in there."
Pawluk suggested fishing a flesh pattern, egg-sucking leeches, smolt or sculpin pattern.
"We just really kind of played around and got off on the bars," he said. "You could sometimes see the fish, but really at this time a lot of things are enticing to the trout."
Sockeye and trout fishing remain the best options for anglers to catch fish this weekend, but local lakes are still performing well as the weather holds in current patterns. Pawluk suggested trying the Swanson River canoe system or fishing Kelly and Peterson lakes, Watson Lake or Scout Lake. Try hitting the early morning hours or the mid evening hours, he suggested.
The Kenai and Kasilof Rivers remain slow for king salmon action. Fish and Game issued several restrictions to those rivers on Wednesday. (See Page 1 for a summary of those restrictions.)
In short they are:
* Effective Friday, retention of naturally-produced king salmon in the Kasilof River will be prohibited through June 30. Naturally-produced kings (identified by an intact adipose fin) may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.
* Sport fishing for any species is prohibited within one mile of shore in the salt waters of Cook Inlet south of the mouth of the Ninilchik River to Bluff Point (south of Anchor Point, but north of Homer) starting Friday and ending June 30.
* From Friday through June 30, in the Kenai River drainage from the mouth upstream to Skilak Lake and in the Moose River from the confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge, only kings less than 20 inches or greater than 55 inches in length may be retained.
* From July 1 through July 14, in the Kenai River drainage from Fish and Game regulatory markers located 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake and in the Moose River from the confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge only kings less than 20 inches or greater than 55 inches may be retained and use of bait is not allowed.
Always double check the regulations book before heading out fishing.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.