Fishermen hit the river early for rainbow

Early birds get the trout

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008


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  John Pearson of Copper Landing is all smiles after landing a rainbow trout during an early season fishing foray two weeks ago on the upper Kenai River. Photo courtesy fo Phillip Christ

John Pearson of Copper Landing is all smiles after landing a rainbow trout during an early season fishing foray two weeks ago on the upper Kenai River.

Photo courtesy fo Phillip Christ

After many months of staring at sheets of ice on the frozen Kenai River, most anglers are chomping at the bit to wet a hook in flowing water.

"Ice fishing gets old after a few months. You get an itching to get back in the boat," said Phillip Christensen of Soldotna.

Earlier this month, Christensen and a few fishing buddies decided they couldn't wait any longer, so they took to the water of the upper Kenai River in pursuit of rainbow trout.

"I had been calling a buddy in Cooper Landing every day for the last three or four weeks waiting for the ice to go out," he said.

Finally, on March 9, there was enough open water to give it a go, so Christensen and some friends drove up to Sportsmen's Landing, near the Russian River, in the hope of launching a drift boat. While they were successful, getting the boat in the water was no easy task.

"There was an ice ledge four feet high," he said.

To overcome this obstacle they backed the boat trailer as close to the edge as the safely could, and then they slowly and carefully lowered the boat into the aquamarine waters.

"It was an almost vertical drop," Christensen said.


Early season fishing isn't without it's challenges. Phillip Christensen and his friends had to overcome an ice ledge that was four feet tall in order to get their boat into the river.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Christ

Once on the water, it wasn't long before the bite began.

"Normally you don't get a lot of resident fish in the river, most travel to the lakes, but those that are there are healthy, hungry and a lot of fun," he said.

Christensen said his weekend of fishing went well. He found out while floating to Jim's Landing, the fish were definitely ready to eat after being locked under the ice for so many months.

"The trout fishing was phenomenal. I mean just phenomenal. We had nine take downs and four fish landed all rainbows. The biggest was around 23 inches and the smallest was around 16 inches. It was all catch and release," he said.

Christensen said while he targets trout during early season piscatorial pursuits, he never knows for sure what he'll catch, since in 2001 he landed a most unusual fish for that time of year.

"We were pulling small plugs when I got what I thought was a huge rainbow, but my jaw hit the bottom of the boat when I landed it and saw it was a red (salmon)," he said.


Shawn Norris shows off a heathy rainbow trout.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Christ

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has recorded early, early run reds in the Kenai around this time of year, but these occurrences are rare.

Christensen said adding to how odd that salmon catch was, was the fact that he caught two of them.

"I put the line back in the water in the same place and within five minutes I had another one," he said.

This year's fishing forays didn't yield any salmon, but Christensen said he still enjoyed his day on the water with friends. He said he frequently opts to fish early in the season because of the benefits of beating the crowds later in the year.

"I will not fish the upper Kenai in fall. It's just too crowded. Fishing early can be difficult to launch the boat, and you may have to drag the boat over a few gravel shoals once in a while, but it's a lot of fun," he said.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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