Cory Kelly has plenty of elbowroom as he fishes the Kasilof River on Thursday afternoon. He said fishing had been slow during the time he was there.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Memorial Day holiday means many things honoring military members that have fallen, an extra day off from work, barbecues and camping trips.
On the Kenai Peninsula, it also means the official start of king salmon fishing on many southern waterways.
Few fish can compare to the king’s punishing power to snap rods, melt reels and crush lures, and while the salmon season is still just heating up, anglers will have many locations to take a chance at going mano a mano with this mighty fish this weekend.
On the Kenai River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s sonar counter located 8.6 miles upriver from the mouth is still only recording double-digit numbers of kings daily. On Monday, 60 kings were counted, followed by 66 on Tuesday, and 51 on Wednesday for a cumulative 195 kings so far this season. Counting began Sunday after getting a late start due to debris left over from winter ice jams.
Despite the few salmon in the river, anglers willing to work for them are catching fish. Scott Miller of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna said Thursday morning that three separate guides had reported landing fish on the lower river the day before.
“They were just about all under the slot limit, in the 40- to 42-inch range, except for one 52-incher that was released,” he said, referring to regulations that prohibits kings between 44 and 55 inches in length from being retained if caught below the bridge in Soldotna before June 30.
Miller added the bite on the Kasilof River was also picking up within the last day or two.
“Just about everybody that I’ve talked to has said they are starting to catch fish, and (on Thursday morning) I had four boats tell me they had caught their limits on Tuesday. They all said it was mostly wild fish being caught still.”
While hatchery fish those missing their adipose fin can be kept on the Kasilof seven days a week, naturally produced “wild” fish still with their adipose fin are typically only kept two days a week, but by emergency order Fish and Game added an additional day starting May 17.
Wild fish can now be kept on the Kasilof on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Miller speculated that several days of more than 60 degree temperatures earlier in the week may have been what got the fish moving in these two rivers.
“That and the little bit of rain we had may have brought the rivers up slightly,” he said.
Further to the south, the lower portions of the Anchor River, Ninilchik River and Deep Creek open to king fishing this weekend.
Anglers can fish from 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 26, through midnight, Monday, May 28 using bait and treble hooks in the Anchor River and Deep Creek, but only single hooks in the Ninilchik.
An emergency order has opened the Ninilchik to continuous fishing for hatchery kings starting Saturday through July 15. Bait is allowed, as well, through the order.
While the water remains muddy in Deep Creek and the Anchor River, the sonar counter on the latter located two miles upstream from the river’s mouth has been recording daily king counts in the triple digits since last Saturday.
This count peaked Tuesday when 195 kings swam by, followed by slightly less Wednesday when 135 kings were counted, for a cumulative 1,086 salmon so far this season.
For a quick kill, anglers also may want to be even further south this weekend. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, fair numbers of king salmon are showing up in Seldovia, Halibut Cove and the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit, where 3,000 kings are expected to return.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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