Unusually low water levels and modest fish counts mark the beginning of the early run king salmon season on the Kenai Peninsula.
Fish are being caught in the Kenai River, with 364 kings swimming in as of Tuesday, according to counts from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Kasilof River also is open and yielding a few fish, said Robert Begich, biologist with the department of fish and game.
The lower portion of the Anchor River will open to king fishing at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and remain open until midnight Monday. It reopens at 12:01 a.m. June 1, closing at midnight the same day.
Also opening at 12:01 a.m. Saturday are the lower portions of Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River. Both close at midnight Monday.
Expect low water levels everywhere.
"It's been quite a while. The last time I saw it this low was in the mid-90s," said Scott Anderson of Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware. "It's real low."
But anglers are still finding some success.
Anderson said the Kasilof is getting better each day, particularly for bank fishermen who are flipping flies on incoming tides.
Deep Creek saltwater fishing has been even better, Anderson said, with anglers consistently catching their limits the past two weeks. A 43-pounder was reported earlier this week, Anderson added.
Most fish are being caught by trolling herring, but plugs are working as well.
"It's been phenomenal, better than it's been in 10 years," Anderson said, adding he wasn't sure why. "We're hoping it's because there are more fish. That's the ideal scenario."
Low water levels are making it difficult to navigate some stretches of the Kenai by boat, but Begich said it's only a matter of time until that changes.
Both rivers are rising by a few inches each day.
"Water conditions are improving in both the Kenai and Kasilof," Begich said.
Anglers can use the shallows to their advantage because it means there is less water for the fish, meaning there is less space in which to swim.
Be the first to a hole, Anderson said, and there's a good chance you'll hook up.
However, it's easy to scare the fish away.
"The first couple boats are going to spook them out so you've got to be careful coming in," Anderson said. "A lot of times, May or June can be better fishing because even though there aren't as many fish, there is less room for them to hide."
If fishing in the river isn't your preference, try going for halibut in the salt.
The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is under way, giving anglers a chance to compete for cash prizes.
Dixie Lee Micke of Terra Bella, Calif., is the current leader after hooking a 138.2-pounder in Kachemak Bay aboard a private boat on May 8, said Paula Frisinger of the Homer Chamber of Commerce.
Frisinger said the fishing has been pretty slow, but that it should pick up soon.
"May is always slow. It's too early to really determine what's going on with it right now," she said. "Things don't pick up until Memorial Day."
Can't make the trip to Homer, or don't have a boat, but still want to fish for halibut?
Try it from the beach.
Yes, that's right.
Anderson said the method is gaining popularity as more anglers are using 12-foot surf rods and casting them out from shore, finding success on incoming tides.
South of Kasilof, Anderson reported one angler hooking a 90-pounder from the beach on 80-pound test, using baby octopus and herring.
"It's really exploding," Anderson said. "You've got a legitimate shot at catching fish off those incoming tides."
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