With the punishing power to snap rods, melt reels and crush lures, few spring fish are as exciting to feel at the end of a rod as the mighty chinook, and area anglers are hoping to get in on that excitement this weekend as the Anchor River will be opening a week early this year.
"This will be the first time the river's been open this early since the 60's," said Stan Harrington, of the Anchor Angler tackle shop in Anchor Point.
The Anchor River has, in recent years, been limited to only four weekend openers, beginning Memorial Weekend, but with sonar escapement numbers of more than 12,500 salmon last year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game made additional fishing opportunities available this year.
However, since this has been the first time in a long time that the river will be open this early, Harrington said many anglers were unaware of the opening until just recently.
"A lot of people didn't realize it until last week, but then the word must of gotten out because we've been getting calls a lot of them from Anchorage asking if it was true," he said.
As such, Harrington is expecting a busy weekend on the river.
"There should be a good number of fishermen on the river, but the Anchor is in good shape with a lot of fish coming in," he said.
Harrington's major concern with the river is that the water levels are running unseasonably low and clear for this time of year.
"Under these conditions, fish may get a little spooky once pressure gets put on them," he said.
The daily bag limit for the Anchor River is one salmon per day, one in possession.
Fishing prospects are also looking good further to the south according to Harrington.
The low tides this past week made it difficult for chinooks to enter into the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon en masse, but as the tides change throughout this weekend and into next week, the large schools of salmon sitting just off shore should be able to move in.
"A lot of fish should be moving in over the next few days, so it should make for a good weekend fishery," he said.
Harrington also reported that the offshore fishery has been producing very well, and he was expecting this trend to continue.
"The salt water fishery has been good from Bluff Point To Ninilchik," he said.
Anglers trolling the shallows have been reporting numerous chinooks in the 20-30 pound range, and this fishery is expected to get even better this weekend, as it typically peaks between May 20-25.
"Lots of halibut are getting caught in the shallows," Harrington added.
These flat fish have moved in to feed on the large hooligan (eulachon) schools moving through, and anglers fluttering cut herring on, or near, the bottom stand a good chance of getting one to bite.
The daily bag limit for halibut is two per day, four in possession.
Harrington also said that all anglers should remember to respect the closures at the mouth of the rivers, which extends one mile out from shore and two miles both south and north for the Anchor River and Deep Creek, and one mile out and one mile in both directions for Stariski Creek.
Further to the north, the Kasilof River opened to the use of bait and multiple hooks on Monday, but anglers are reporting few fish being caught there. Similar conditions have been reported on the Kenai River as well. However, these fisheries should pick up in the weeks ahead.
Some anglers have found success on freshwater rivers, however. Joshua Johnson, 12, from Soldotna, turned in the biggest fish caught during the king salmon derby conducted Tuesday in conjunction with Les Anderson Day. Johnson landed his king on the Kenai River. The fish weighed in at 36.7 pounds.
Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby
Standings as of May 18
1. Thomas Lees, Palmer, 161.8 pounds; 2. Betty Lees, Palmer, 150.4 pounds; 3. Howard Willis, Woodland, Calif., 146 pounds; 4. Todd Carsten, Anchorage, 125 pounds; 5. Morris Melani, Big Lake, 106.4 pounds.
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