Seek rainbows, discover cohos [+video]

Kenai River offers anglers mixed bag on variety of rivers this weekend
Three eight graders from Kenai Middle School — Ian Mercado, Patrick Michels and Eric Kempf — show off their catch of pink salmon on Aug. 13.

It’s last call for sockeye fishermen and a first chance for coho chasers on the Kenai River this weekend.


Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said fishing should also be good for pink salmon and rainbow trout this week giving anglers a smorgasbord of opportunities.

“There’s still good sockeye fishing to be had, but hurry,” Pawluk said. “The cohos have arrived but not in huge numbers and it takes a while to get some and mostly you might not get a limit. The trout and Dolly fishing are peaking as well as the pink fishing. So it would be good all the way around.”

Pawluk said sockeye fishing was good in the confluence area of the Kenai and Russian rivers and in the clear water of the Russian, but was unsure if the fishery would sustain itself. Anglers looking to net a few chrome sockeye will have to wade through older sockeye that have turned red.

According to Fish and Game estimates, 1.5 million sockeye came up the river this year. Since Aug. 7, at least 1,000 sockeye have been counted through the Russian River weir, with 1,730 and 2,162 being counted on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

The lower river, however, is a different picture as pinks have started to swarm the river up to, and beyond the Soldotna bridge.

“Anywhere there is slow water, you’ll see ‘em rolling,” Pawluk said.

Silvers have also entered the lower river, but the fishery is still kind of slow and anglers might find it tough to get a limit, he added.

“It is still not really good, but there are a few fish to be had, is the best way to put it,” Pawluk said.

Even though both silvers and pinks have spread throughout the lower river, there are a few tricks for limiting pink bycatch.

“If you want to use hardware or lures to target silvers then you might here pretty soon, not right now, but pretty soon, focus your efforts above the bridge or before that mass of pinks gets up there because pretty soon any hardware you throw out, you are just going to be going through so many pinks,” Pawluk said.

Fishermen can also target silvers with bait and eggs and look for areas where pinks don’t congregate.

“It is not like they are mixed in and holding with those giant schools of pinks that are behind every island and between every seam,” Pawluk said.

Rainbow trout fishing should continue to pick up through the summer and into the fall, said Lee Kuepper, co-owner of Alaska’s Angling Addiction.

“Trout season is upon us,” he said. “We’ve been catching quite a few fish and some nice fish mixed in.”

Trout beads are working now alongside flesh patterns, but beads should start to come in hotter as the days go on. Right now both sizes — newer large 10 to 12 millimeter or older 6 to 8 millimeter — work well, he said.

“We’ve had some good ones, nothing over the 30 inch mark but definitely some ones that are up there,” he said. “I think it is going to be a good year for trout, especially with all these pinks that are going to start coming in here and all the eggs and the flesh that are in the water.”

Right now anglers can try fishing dry flies on the upper section of the river during the heat of the day in slower moving water areas around eddies, behind rocks, or anywhere insects might land.

“You do see fish coming up to hit the dry flies but for most part people stick with what they know and stick with beads and flesh,” Kuepper said. “Dry flies are definitely an over-looked area.”

Quartz Creek is also fishing well, but is not quite to its peak. Kuepper said that should come in another week or so.

“But it would be a good time to go out there and get away from some of the people before they get in there,” he said.


Brian Smith can be reached at


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