Embracing winter: ice fishing on the Kenai Peninsula

Fishing across the Kenai Peninsula this time of year is easy to find, you just have to drill through a layer of ice to get to it.

 

In comparison to summer on the river, ice fishing any of the many stocked lakes in the area brings a tranquility and calm and this year, the fishing has been good, especially at Spirit Lake near Strawberry Road.

The lake has been producing a steady catch of landlocked silvers and rainbow trout and is the perfect place to bring someone new to the world of ice fishing, as I learned the day after Christmas when Pastor Jon Watson of the Peninsula Christian Center of Soldotna packed me and some fellow anglers onto the back of his side-by-side before heading onto the ice.

“It’s also known as Elephant Lake, because it looks like an elephant,” Watson told me. “Today, we’re going to the leg.”

The short drive across the elephant to it’s hind leg took us past families in their heated shelters and solo anglers dragging sleds. The ice was riddled with holes from days past and, soon, we added a few more with an auger that has been in Alaska longer than Pastor Watson has. Soon enough, the holes were drilled and the lines were dropped and Pastor Watson was egging the fish on with a simple rhyme — “fishy fishy in the lake, come on fishy take my bait.”

Patience is a virtue in ice fishing, and after some time and a few verses of Pastor Watson’s rhyme, a rainbow trout was on the line and, then, on the ice.

Ice Fishing Report

“Locally, lakes are good,” Scott Miller of Trustworthy Hardware said in an interview on Tuesday. “There’s been a lot of attention at Spirit Lake right now for landlocked silvers and rainbows seem to be doing well. We’ve also had a lot of people out on the Swanson River system for Arctic char and Dolly Vardens. The dollies are in spawning colors right now and are pretty.”

Miller warned anglers to be cautious of the overflow, with the ever changing temperatures this winter’s weather has presented.

“The ice if good on smaller lakes, but with larger lakes I’d be cautious,” Miller said. He said he would stay away from Skilak Lake and Kenai Lake. The fishing at Hidden Lake has been okay, but he’d approach it with caution. The best bets, according to Miller, are the small, local lakes like Scout Lake, Sport Lake and Longmere Lake.

“Those are all doing good,” Miller said. “The snow hasn’t been too deep and the fish are nice and active.”

As for bait, Miller suggests small little salmon eggs or little shrimps.

“The bait is doing much better than lures, but if you want to use lures it’s best for the first couple of hours after the first light,” he said. “When you first get that first light, the lures will work, but the bait is the way to go.”

On the lakes within the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, the ice is looking pretty good according to Federal Wildlife Officer Joe Williams, but advises anglers to be cognizant of the regulations.

“The first big thing is that we have a new 2018 sport fishing license,” Williams said. “People kind of forget about that, but they can take care of it online really easy.”

Besides licensing, Williams reminds anglers that live bait is not allowed and there is a maximum of two rods per hole.

“You’re allowed to have more than one line when ice fishing, but they should be closely attended to while fishing,” he said.

Ice Fishing Derby

For those excited to spend their days on the ice, Trustworthy Hardware is hosting their annual Ice Fishing Derby, starting Feb. 1.

The derby is free and open to everyone, with the stipulation that the fishing takes place on a frozen Kenai Peninsula lake. There are a variety of divisions for any age and categories for each of the eight different species found on the Kenai Peninsula — rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic char, kokanee, lake trout, pike, grayling, burbot and white fish.

All the species can be caught in the area, although with burbot and white fish, anglers will need to trek to Juneau Lake.

“We have people do it, though, they go up and get pretty serious about this competition,” Miller said. “There’s quite a bit of fish to go after.”

Anyone interested in the derby can contact Trustworthy to sign up. There are prizes for each category and, for the third year in a row, there will be a catch and release category where anglers can borrow a trough and text a picture of their catch to be considered in the derby.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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