Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer. More importantly on the Kenai Peninsula, the long weekend marks the beginning, in earnest, of the fishing season.
The first of the weekend king salmon openings on the Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River commence at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and as the kings begin to push into the rivers, anglers begin their push toward the southern peninsula.
"They've started moving in for this weekend," Stan Harrington of the Anchor Angler in Anchor Point said Wednesday. "Thursday night and Friday there's a big push."
With so many anglers returning to the same spot year after year -- much in the same way as the fish they are after -- Harrington said the first opener on the lower peninsula can be quite a party.
"The first weekend is usually a social event more than a fishing event," Harrington said.
In addition to finding a spot to park the camper, anglers also will be fighting high, muddy water as snow melt continues to feed the rivers.
"Rivers are high. They're starting to drop, but they're still bank level and dirty. It's going to make it pretty tough fishing," Harrington said.
The tackle of choice on the Anchor, Ninilchik and Deep Creek is a Spin-N-Glo and salmon eggs. Harrington said that while the smaller Spin-N-Glos are ideal for the low, clear water conditions generally found on the lower peninsula's streams, anglers would have to choose lures a little bit bigger to handle this weekend's conditions.
Harrington added that steelhead trout are being seen in the rivers. Anglers need to be aware that steelhead is catch-and-release only, and must not be removed from the water.
The Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River close Monday at midnight. There will be three more weekend openings on the Anchor River for king salmon and two more openings on the Ninilchik and Deep Creek. The limit for kings is one per day, and not more than two may be taken from the Anchor River and Deep Creek combined. After taking a king from the Anchor River or Deep Creek, an angler may not fish for any other species of fish that same day.
Harrington said the Deep Creek marine fishery for kings had slowed down during the past week.
"They're still picking up fish, but it's slow fishing," Harrington said.
Fishing for halibut in lower Cook Inlet has been very good, Harrington said.
"A lot of king anglers trolling in shallow water have been picking up halibut if their bait gets close to the bottom," Harrington said.
A series of big tides will make landing the big halibut difficult this weekend, but will make for good clamming. Good clam tides begin today with a minus 2.4-foot tide at Deep Creek and conclude Wednesday with a minus 3-foot tide. The limit for razor clams is the first 45 clams dug.
On the central peninsula, Alaska Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist Jeff Breakfield said fishing for king salmon on the Kenai River has been slow, but is starting to pick up.
"The water is low still, and there's not a lot of fishermen willing to get out and try it quite yet," Breakfield said.
Breakfield said he had been to the Kasilof twice in the past 10 days and caught fish on each trip.
"It's pretty nice, actually," Breakfield said. "There's some shore fishermen, and some boats -- there were about a dozen boats out (Wednesday) -- and they are picking up a few nice kings, but it's still not real red hot."
Breakup recently made it to the peninsula's lakes, and fishing for rainbow trout should begin to pick up.
"I would suspect that now that the ice is off, the fish are moving around," Breakfield said. "As the water temperature warms up, the fish should get more active."
The upper Kenai River, above Skilak Lake, is closed to fishing until June 11.
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