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On sockeye: Fortune favors the prepared [+video]

Posted: July 12, 2012 - 8:58am  |  Updated: July 12, 2012 - 9:31am
Janet Galley
Janet Galley sumbitted this photo of a 40 halibut she caught last summer. It was “my first time on the Peninsula ever ... and my first time halibut fishin’!”

Luck is nothing more than preparation meeting opportunity, and I’d contend fishing luck is no different.

As the number of early run Russian River sockeye fade away and the number of Kenai sockeye increase, fishermen can take the weekend off to prepare for the large pulse of sockeye likely to hit the river in late July.

The opportunity can come at the drop of a hat — last year 230,643 sockeye burst through the Kenai River on July 17 compared to just 2,916 two days before, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

So here are a few suggestions to prepare for this year’s onslaught:

Boots and waders:

* Don’t get caught in your sneakers on the banks of the Kenai. Investing in a good pair of hip or chest waders is well worth the money as lining for sockeye often takes getting out into the river up to your hips in some areas.

* If you already have some, pull them out of the garage a week early to look for holes or other areas that would leave you with wet socks come fishing time. If you find a hole, I recommend patching it by cutting a square from a rubber glove (if needed) and sealing the edges with a thick line of strong glue. I’ve kept my XtraTuffs going for about five years with that trick.

Tackle:

* On most areas of the Kenai River, I would suggest using a 4/0 or 5/0 size hook — you don’t need a giant hook to do the job.

* I suggest a 40 pound leader line. Some prefer heavier, some prefer lighter, but I find 40 pound just right.

* Use an egg loop knot (http://bit.ly/RZxJ7K) to tie the hook to the leader.

* Cut a two-inch section of Glo Yarn — either pink or chartreuse — and secure it to the hook through the loop created by the bait loop knot.

* Your leader will need to be about three or four feet long. The shorter the leader, the more likely you are to snag or foul hook a sockeye.

* At the end of the leader, tie a decent-sized barrel swivel and then secure a rubber-core sinker behind the swivel. The weight of the sinker depends on the speed and depth of the river. Adjust accordingly.

Technique:

* When at the river, stand at a 45 degree angle downstream; that way an outstretched arm is at a 90 degree angle with the bank. You need about four to five feet of line out to get the sinker to drift along the bottom of the bank. When flipping, gather the slack in your free hand to help you control the direction. As the sinker bounces along the bottom, point your rod tip to where you think it is, keeping the rod low to the water. Following the sinker until your arm is directly in front of you then give the famous “Kenai Twitch,” which is basically setting the hook but more relaxed.

* If you get snagged in the rocks, my favorite trick is to flip your reel over, grab the spool and push the rod underwater to the rocks and pull toward you. Nine times out of 10 you’ll get free.

Gear:
* Tie up about 10 rigs before you go on a Styrofoam tube with slits in it.

* I always bring a pair of safety sunglasses, toenail clippers for trimming line, a hook sharpener and rubber net. If you are fishing in the night or early morning hours, a head lamp can be helpful for tying line or filleting fish.

* In my backpack I usually stuff a change of socks, a beanie and a pair of gloves in plastic baggies.

* Don’t forget a stringer, fillet glove and plastic bags for the fillets. Bear spray is always a good idea, too.

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