The Memorial Day holiday typical signals the start of serious salmon fishing on the lower Kenai Peninsula, but after a luckluster showing of fish last weekend, this Saturday and Sunday may hold more piscatorial promise.
"We've seen dramatic change over the last three days," said Mike Beals of Big T Fishing, in regard to the Kasilof River.
Beals annually guides anglers on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and he said both waterways have been running cold and with water levels much lower than usual for this time of year.
"It's been very difficult to launch from the Pillars (on the Kenai River) and there's been a lot of exposed rocks on the Kasilof," he said.
However, as air temperatures have finally starting to climb to the 60-degree mark, the glaciers that feed these two rivers are producing more melt-off.
"The water is rising a few inches each day and its getting warmer," Beals said.
This combination typically gets salmon moving, and based on the last few days, this year's weather appears to not be an exception.
"It's picking up on the Kasilof. Fish are moving on the tides and starting to hold in some of the holes. We just picked up four fish (on Wednesday), so I'd say it's looking good going into the weekend," Beals said.
Of these four fish, Beals said two were wild kings and two were hatchery-produced kings as evident by their lack of an adipose fin. Through June 30, naturally-produced/wild king salmon may be retained on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only, while the bag limit for hatchery king salmon 20 inches or longer is two per day/two in possession.
On the Kenai River, king counts -- recorded by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar unit located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River -- indicate that salmon numbers are rising on this waterway as well, but are still far from their peak. Daily counts for Monday through Wednesday were 207, 270 and 353, respectively, for a cumulative count of 1,675 kings so far in the early-run.
"I think maybe it'll be another week or so before the Kenai really turns on," Beals said.
Further to the south, the lower portions of the Anchor River, Ninilchik River and Deep Creek will again open to king salmon fishing this weekend for the three day fishery, starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. In addition, the Anchor River will be open to fishing on Wednesdays through June 18.
Water levels and clarity conditions on these waterways is reported to be improving as well.
The Fish and Game Anchor River sonar unit -- located two miles upstream from saltwater and 100 feet downstream from where the Anchor branches into the North and South forks -- recorded a daily count of 39 kings on Monday, followed by 45 on Tuesday and 60 on Wednesday, for a cumulative 535 kings so far this season.
Bag and possession limits for king salmon 20 inches or longer on the Anchor River and Deep Creek is one per day/one in possession. The bag and possession limit for Ninilchik River king salmon 20 inches or longer is two per day /two in possession, only one of which may be a wild king salmon.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at email@example.com.
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