To all the yearning anglers who thought they might die or go mad before the next year's salmon season, your eleventh hour call has come in.
For those willing to really work for them, a few spring run steelhead are moving up the Kasilof River and into Crooked Creek.
"We can vouch for three," Axel Burgheim said.
"But there's really not a run to speak of."
Burgheim and his wife Vamori came down from Willow, and have been camping at Crooked Creek State Recrea-tion Site all week.
The friendly couple made it a point to talk with just about everyone fishing the river, so they have a pretty good feel for who's catching what.
"There was a guy from Anchorage who caught one right when we arrived our first day," said Burgheim. "Then we've seen two others caught by a mystery man."
Burgheim described the man's tackle and tactics that landed him the two nice chromers, and he sounded like a steelhead die-hard.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Vamori Burgheim and her husband Axel take a break from fishing to make lunch at their campsite at Crooked Creek. The couple have been down all week from their home in Willow.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
"This guy just methodically worked the holes, back and forth, covering every square inch, until he got what ever was in there," said Burgheim.
Steelies aren't the only thing the mystery man brought in. Burgheim witnessed the man landing a 24-inch rainbow as well.
"I saw what he was using when he caught the rainbow," said Burgheim. "He was using imitation flesh and eggs, faded to look rotten. He had it rigged with a couple of split shots to bounce it a-long the bottom."
Burgheim himself hasn't landed any fish this week, but it's not due to lack of ex-perience. He's a professional outdoors wri-ter for numerous fishing magazines who's put in a lot of hours with steelhead.
"My biggest steelhead was 49-inches and more than 34 pounds," said Burgheim. "I caught it down in British Columbia. The call them crocodiles down there when they're that big."
He hasn't been missing fish for lack of trying either according to his wife.
"He's been up at 7 a.m. flogging the water," she said. "A few mornings, he was up before his gear thawed from freezing overnight. We had to pour boiling water into his wading shoes just so he could get them on."
The cold weather and slow fishing hasn't dampened his spirits though. He was still optimistic about landing a steelie before heading home.
"I think I'll get one before I go," he said. "I'm hopeful."
To be fair, Burgheim wasn't the only one not catching fish. The shores of the Kasilof by the mouth of Crooked Creek were dotted with anxious anglers, all hoping to hear their reels whine while seeing a slab of silver flash the water's surface.
"It's been slow," said David Pipkin of Soldotna. "I haven't even seen any roll."
Pipkin was fishing a half yellow and half orange corky with some yarn on spinning tackle. He said he didn't mind wetting a hook, despite the poor prospects of landing a sea-run trout.
"It's just a nice day to be out doing some of the first fishing of the year," said Pipkin. "I always come hang out on the river and start putting in time about now."
Jeff Austin was twitching his fly rod and working the line with a glowbug on the end hoping to entice a fish. He was having the same amount of luck as most others on the water the day.
"A good day of fishing's not always a good day of catching," said Austin. "But I like this river. It's easy to fish and not bad for steelhead. It's nothing like the Anchor River, but it's still not bad."
By the end of last weekend three more steelies were landed, bringing the total for the week up to six fish.
Any angler interested in getting an early jump on the fishing season should be sure to study the regulations before striking out. Crooked Creek, upstream from Alaska Department of Fish and Game markers near its mouth, is closed to all fishing. Tackle for fishing the Kasilof River is restricted to one single-hook, artificial lure through May 15.
From the mouth of the Kasilof upstream to the Sterling Highway bridge, rainbow and steelhead trout may not be retained. Anglers are required to relaease their fish without removing them from the water. Upstream from the Sterling Highway bridge, the bag and possession limit for rainbow and steelhead trout is two, with just one fish longer than 20 inches.
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