This is it, folks. The weekend that anglers have been waiting for: the southern stream openers.
Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of king salmon fishing on the Kenai Peninsula and everyone is ready to run for it -- except the fish.
The lower portions of the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek will open to king fishing on Saturday at 12:01 a.m. and remain open through midnight Monday.
The Anchor River had a weak king opener last weekend, but anglers can give it another shot when it opens again for the weekend this Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
"It's probably going to be muddy this weekend, and high," said Nicky Szarzi, a fisheries biologist with Fish and Game in Homer. "The water is still high at this time and it's kind of going up and down as snow melts during the day."
Sonar counts on the Anchor are coming in much lower than previous years, with 114 kings counted as of Monday since they began on May 13.
The best bet for fish, according to Szarzi, would probably be the Ninilchik this holiday weekend.
"The Ninilchik is typically the river that clears the first so it's usually fishable on Memorial Day," she said.
Szarzi suggested that anglers try using baited single- or double-hooks on lower Peninsula streams.
While the kings are coming in on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, local fishermen are saying the fish are running late.
"It's a little slow on the Kenai," said Steve McClure, of McClure's Guide Service. "Water level is good, water quality is good, everything is good but the fish are a little late."
According to Scott Anderson, of Soldotna, fishing the Kenai is decent because of the low water levels and high fish concentrations.
"One hundred percent of the fish are traveling through 10 percent of the river," he said. "I wouldn't call it phenomenal by any means but they're pretty easy to pick off this time of year."
Counts on the Kenai are a little lower than normal, too, with 446 cumulative as of Tuesday, with anywhere from 32 to 75 kings swimming up the river.
Anderson said that fishing the Kasilof has been promising in the tidal areas.
"There's a lot of fish swirling around in the flush of the tide," he said, adding that he picked up two kings the other night.
Anderson said anglers should try to use corkies or Spin-n-Glos, especially blue ones.
"Blue is always a good bet on the Kasilof," he said.
In other salmon news, the first reds should be trickling into the Kasilof any day now, according to Anderson.
As far as saltwater fishing goes, anglers have been having some offshore success.
"People have been doing pretty well fishing further offshore at depth for feeder kings," Szarzi said. "They have been catching a few fish within a mile from shore within the special harvest area."
Dick Marshall, of Kenai, said that the saltwater has been inconsistent, and he's been out several times this season.
"It's slow but spotty but if you work at it you'll get them," he said. "There seems to be good fishing right around high tide."
He said that while some fishermen get in the habit of trying to catch halibut at high tide, from what he's seen there's been a fairly good salmon bite about then.
There's a new leader for the Homer Halibut Derby. Jesus (Skip) Torres III of Elmendorf Air Force Base, caught a 248-pound halibut last Friday during the Alaska Veterans Halibut Fishing Tournament.
And if the king openers do not prove too booming, there's good, low clamming tides now through Memorial Day.
If it's too crowded out on the streams or salt, try giving some area lakes a go. Fish and Game stocks several lakes with rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and Arctic char, which are always a good bet for some family fishing fun. Brochures listing all the stocked lakes can be picked up at department offices or found on the Tight Lines website.
Remember to always check to 2010 Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations before you put a line in the water. Hardcopies of the regs can be found anywhere licenses are sold, or linked off of the Tight Lines website: http://explorethekenai.com/tightlines/.
Until next time, tight lines.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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