King season kicks off on peninsula

Ninilchik, Anchor rivers shaping up to be hot spots

Posted: Friday, May 28, 2004

There's good news and bad news for anglers hoping to wet a hook this weekend in one of the many salmon streams of the southern Kenai Peninsula.

Although the heavy rains earlier in the week affected all the southern rivers, the reprieve from the rain clouds over the last few days has left most of these salmon hot spots in relatively good shape.

"The Anchor River is almost perfect," said Stan Harrington at the Anchor Angler in Anchor Point. "It's still running a little high, but it's started to clear up -- clarity is at about 2 feet or better -- so we should have a good weekend."

Harrington said said traditional gear, such as Spin-N-Glos and salmon eggs, will likely take most of the fish, but that fly fishers should be able to pull in a few as well, given the water conditions.

"Things have also been good offshore," added Harrington. "We've been seeing a lot of kings in the 12- to 25-pound range, but we're starting to see bigger fish come in now. We just had a 40-pounder brought in (Wednesday night)."

"The halibut fishing has also been outstanding. A lot of halibut are being caught in 20- to 30-feet of water with these small tides. People are catching them just off shore while trolling for kings," Harrington said.

Although the fishing outlook for the Ninilchik and Anchor Rivers looks like it couldn't be much better, things at Deep Creek aren't looking quite so promising.

"Out of the three rivers, Deep Creek probably has the worst conditions, which is pretty normal," said Harrington.

Deep Creek is running fast and high with water the color of chocolate milk from all the mud washed in from recent rains.

Nicky Szarzi, area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, offered a positive outlook for anglers looking to fish the Ninilchik River.

"The Ninilchik River usually offers the best opportunity for catching a king on opening weekend and all indications are that it will be the same this year," she said. The Ninilchik will also offer some increased angling opportunities this year (see related story, page C-1).

Szarzi said that in addition to king salmon, anglers shouldn't be surprised if they land a trout or two.

"A few steelhead could be caught as they have just completed their spawning and are now migrating out of the river," she said.

However, steelhead are catch-and-release only and cannot be removed from the water for any reason -- including photo opportunities.

Further to the north, fishing in the Kasilof River has been spotty but is starting to pick up, according to Larry Marsh, assistant area manager biologist with the Fish and Game Sport Fish Division.

"I would say the fishing has been fair, but that it's better than on the Kenai," he said.

Like the more southern rivers, Marsh said both the Kasilof and Kenai were running high and dirty, but the Kasilof offered a bit of an angling advantage.

"It's a smaller area and so it's easier for anglers to target fish. They just work the holes where fish are stacked up, like right below the confluence with Crooked Creek," he said.

Marsh even said a 43-pound hatchery lunker came out of the "People Hole" area of the Kasilof on Tuesday. "That's pretty big for the Kasilof," he said.

However, Marsh pointed out that kings are only trickling into the Kasilof, but should start to get really active at the end of the first week of June.

Up on the Kenai River, Marsh said the king salmon run is off to a slow start given the difficult water conditions fish are returning to.

"The numbers are a little below what we were expecting at this time. As of Tuesday, we had counted 755 fish (by sonar estimate)," he said.

There have been 13 years out of the last 16 years with stronger returns by this point in the season, according to Marsh's data, but he said anglers shouldn't start assuming the worst.

"It's still very early in the return and typically May only makes up eight to 10 percent of the total return."

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