Peninsula has plenty to offer anglers this weekend

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2003

Decisions, decisions. What to take advantage of this weekend?

Perhaps the second weekend king salmon opening on the Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River? Maybe the king salmon fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers that's starting to heat up? Then again, maybe a trip to the peninsula's saltwater fisheries salmon and halibut in Resurrection Bay or lower Cook Inlet, or kings in the Homer Spit Lagoon is in order.

But there's also this weekend's clam tides, or maybe it's a good time to get away from the salmon-crazy crowds and chase rainbows on one of the peninsula's stocked lakes?

With all these choices, what's an angler to do?

Fortunately, it's shaping up to be one of those weekends where you can't go wrong.

Last weekend, anglers enjoyed the challenge of relearning to fish the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers and Deep Creek after last fall's floods gave the southern peninsula streams a facelift.

Stan Harrington at the Anchor Angler in Anchor Point said the floods actually improved the fishing conditions on the Anchor River.

"We had nice holding water for fish, with deeper holes than before," Harrington said. "We had a good showing last weekend. Overall, I'd have rated it as good. The biggest fish I saw was 34 pounds.

"We'll see a little more (action this weekend). Usually the second and third weekend is the peak of our runs, plus we'll see a bunch of steelhead moving downriver."

Steelhead overwinter in the Anchor River, and Harrington saw it as a good sign that the fish fared well during the floods.

Anglers should note that steelhead are a catch-and-release-only fish on the peninsula and must be released immediately without removing the fish from the water.

Harrington reported the Anchor River to be clear and low, but said Deep Creek was still a little murky.

The Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River open for king salmon fishing at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and close at 11:59 p.m. Monday.

Harrington reported that halibut fishing, as always, has been good while the saltwater king salmon fishery has slowed down just a bit as bait fish have been moving from one area to another.

"The beach trolling has been a little slower than what we've been seeing," Harrington said. "They're still catching fish, but they have to work for them."

For those anglers not interested in searching out a new hole or working hard while trolling, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports bright kings being landed at the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon.

Herring is the preferred bait, but anglers also are having success with blue and green Vibrax spinners.

A series of small clam tides may make for tougher halibut fishing but some OK clamming. The series starts today with a minus-1.4-foot tide at 10:25 a.m. at Clam Gulch and concludes with a minus-1.3 tide Monday at 12:11 p.m.

Any minus tide will expose the calm beds around Clam Gulch, though a minus-2.0 or greater tide is recommended for the best clamming. Further south, where beaches are steeper, a minus-3.0 or greater tide is recommended for the best clamming.

Fishing for king salmon has been picking up on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, though Fish and Game area sportfish manager Mark Gamblin said anglers need to be aware of regulation changes for this season.

On the Kasilof, only hatchery-reared fish, identifiable by a healed adipose fin-clip, may be harvested. Gamblin said Fish and Game has been doing creel surveys, and about 25 percent of the fish being caught are hatchery fish, meaning that only one in four fish are harvestable.

Gamblin also reminded anglers not to clean the fish in such a way that the fin clip wouldn't be identifiable before leaving the fishery.

Gamblin said the fishing has been getting better.

"We're getting reports of not outstanding catches, but people are enjoying some decent success," Gamblin said. "Fish are coming into the river in average numbers.

"The Kasilof is at least as good as the Kenai. The (run on the) Kasilof starts a little bit earlier, and people have been catching kings there for a couple of weeks."

Major regulation changes to the Kenai River king salmon fishery include a new slot limit, restricting the harvest to fish less than 44 inches and greater than 55 inches in length.

Harvested salmon greater than 55 inches in length must be brought to Fish and Game or Fish and Wildlife Protection to be sealed within three days of harvest.

Gamblin said that would be a rare event during the early run.

"We're expecting that once every two or three years in the early run, but more frequently during the late run," Gamblin said.

One other big change to the regulations prohibits nonresident anglers from fishing from boats on the Kenai between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in May and June.

For those anglers looking to dodge the salmon-chasing crowds, several lakes around the peninsula are stocked with rainbow trout. The farther off the beaten path, the more likely an angler is to find a nice secluded spot to present a fly or cast a lure.

"I've talked to one or two people that have hiked in," Gamblin said. "The normal trip is good fishing, and I wouldn't expect anything different than in the past."

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