It’s not quite summertime and the cotton’s not on high, but the fish have started jumping in central Kenai Peninsula rivers.
Locals have reported a number of king salmon making splashing noises in the Kenai River around Big Eddy and, according to Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement Troopers, one angler pulled in a king from the Kasilof this week.
“It’s not unheard of this time of year,” said Brian Miller, one of the managers at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing.
“And, the Big Eddy area is the kind of place you’d find them in the deep holes,” he said.
Miller has not heard a lot of buzz in the Soldotna store, which carries a large selection of fishing tackle, but he said, “People are going to start fishing it real soon.”
He has heard reports of hooligan (smelt) in Knik Arm, and said people have been coming into the store inquiring about hooligan nets.
“I normally carry them. I’ll have them here by Monday,” he said Wednesday.
Department of Fish and Game’s new sport fish area management biologist, Robert Begich, also said it would not be surprising to have kings showing up in Kenai Peninsula rivers between early and mid-May.
He said there have been reports of fish starting up the Anchor River and said fish bound for northern rivers such as the Susitna would be “poking their noses into the Kenai.”
The Anchor River opens for king fishing May 19.
The department has not begun king salmon counts yet. Workers currently are doing northern pike netting in some area lakes.
“We won’t start Kenai River (king) counts until next week,” Begich said Wednesday.
He agreed that hooligan should be coming in any day now.
“A lot of times they start coming in in pulses and we get reports of salmon feeding on them,” said Begich.
“Fishing’s been slow to start so there are no reports of hooligan yet,” he said.
Begich said the open season for hooligan in salt waters is April 1 to May 31, and in fresh waters it’s April 1 to June 15.
People may use dipnets to catch the smelt in the Kenai River and small, hand-held gillnets are permitted from the mouth of the Kenai River upstream to a Fish and Game marker just down from Cunningham Park in Kenai. The open season for the gillnet fishery is April 1 to May 31.
No personal use permit is required, but people required to have sportfishing licenses should have them in their possession.
There is no bag or possession limit for personal use smelt.
From the mouth of the Kenai River to the Soldotna bridge, one king salmon per day may be taken, but it must be less than 44 inches or longer than 55 inches. The slot limit does not apply between July 1 and July 31. Kings much be 20 inches or longer.
Above the Soldotna bridge, the slot limit continues for two additional weeks to July 14.
In the Kasilof River, one king salmon with an adipose fin may be kept only on Tuesdays and Saturdays, according to trooper Sgt. Glenn Godfrey.
He said the kings must be longer than 20 inches.
“They’re catching a lot of steelhead there now, but of course they have to be released,” Godfrey said.
No retention of steelhead or rainbow trout is allowed year-round.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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