The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the king salmon fishing season on the southern Kenai Peninsula especially, and Dave Swick of Anchorage summed up this weekend's opener with one sentence: "Thank God for the (razor) clams."
While the Anchor River had its first opening of the season last weekend, the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek opened at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday for the first of this year's three-day openers, and the fishing got off to a fizzle.
"I started right after midnight and it was pretty slow," said Joe Rudi of Anchorage, on Saturday morning, fishing with roe not far from the mouth of the Ninilchik.
After several hours on Saturday, his luck had not changed.
"It's the same today. I've only seen one hook-up, and it ended up snapping the guy's line," he said.
Todd Derks, of Anchorage, said he and his three buddies also hadn't had much action, even though they were fishing above the Sterling Highway Bridge, using Spin-n-Glos and roe.
"It's been a very slow opener. I'm a little surprised actually. It's always a little slow on opening day, but usually there's still a few fish caught," he said.
After making the long drive down and getting a good campsite, Derks said he wasn't about to give up, though.
"I'm still hopeful I'll get one before it's time to go home," he said.
Derrick Yi of Anchorage made the trip down from Anchorage with his wife, father and several close friends. He said good or bad, the trip down to Ninilchik is an annual occurrence for his family.
"We've been coming for upwards of 25 years now, every Memorial weekend. Kings and clams, that's how we start off the season," he said.
Yi added that by midday Saturday, his family had more action with the digging spades than with the rods and reels.
"The king fishing has been pretty slow. I haven't seen any caught, or even rolling," he said.
Yi was hoping the big water of the afternoon flood tide would push a few fish in, and he intended to work the area near the dock with a Vibrax or Pixie lure toward the evening, but in the meantime he and his family made the most of the extreme minus tide of the morning.
"We definitely got some clams. I think we got about 200 between five of us," he said.
Not everyone went clamming after first busting at fishing. Teresa Meyer of Chugiak and Kelley Newman of Anchorage had both recently moved to Alaska, so as a cheechako rite of passage, they made the trip to Clam Gulch to go clamming before attempting to wet a hook.
"My next-door neighbor is from down here and she told me all about it, so we came to experience it for ourselves," Meyer said.
The decided to stage out of Bing's Landing in Sterling out of fear they wouldn't find a campsite in Clam Gulch, and indeed, the campground at the Clam Gulch State Recreation Area was filled to capacity. They said the clamming was worth the trip though, both from Anchorage and Sterling.
"It was a lot of fun, but it was harder to find them than I thought it would be. It takes a knack," Newman said.
However, after a couple of hours the two were able to gather more than enough razors to make a few meals. They were looking forward to cooking and eating a few clams to get their strength up for king fishing on the Kenai River later in the weekend.
"We'll probably cook a few on the grill, and saute some in garlic and butter, and we'll have to save some to take home for chowder," Meyer said.
As to how the two women felt about the king salmon season being off to a slow start, like true piscatorialists, they said it wouldn't dissuade them from trying their luck.
"We're still going to give it a shot," Meyer said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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