It's been a sluggish start to the fishing season here on the Kenai Peninsula. During the Memorial Day rush last weekend, anglers seemed to be catching more hooligan than salmon.
According to Robert Begich, an area management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, the public has reported a good number of hooligan in the Kenai River, more than last year and similar to the 2008 season.
"Hooligan are moving up Kenai River so certain people might impale them on their king fishing gear," he said.
To avoid this, Scott Miller of Trustworthy Hardware, suggested anglers try another type of lure.
"If you want to get away from catching hooligan on your king gear switch to big winged cheaters instead of Quickfish," he said.
Gillnetting for hooligan closed at the end of May, but dipnets may be used to harvest them through June 15.
With Fish and Game's current king counts on the Kenai River at some 700 fish, the numbers of kings swimming up river is lower than the current five-year average of 1,845 that usually have been counted by this date.
"We were forecasting a run that was below average and it looks like it's coming to fruition so far," Begich said. "We're kind of in a holding pattern until more fish get in the river."
The low number of kings entering the Kenai currently has made the fishing slower than usual, Begich said. Anglers might try their luck in the typical early-run locations south of river mile 18, he said.
Miller said he's hoping the muddy Kenai will clear up and the water level to come down to make for some better king fishing.
"With the tides we have this week, the waning tides might bring the fish in," he said.
At least one angler had some success on the Kenai this past weekend. Alaska's balladeer Hobo Jim Varsos caught two kings out with fishing guide John Iverson. Varsos hooked "one realeaser and one keeper," he said. He had to release the 60-pound salmon due to the slot limits but the keeper was a solid 38 pounds. Varsos said when bait is not open on the Kenai he uses a "special little spin and glow." But he was not giving up any of his secrets.
"If anyone wants to find out they'll have to go to the toy store and use their imagination," he said.
Fishing on the Kasilof seems to be a little better, but it's dawdling too.
"There were a couple fair days of fishing there last week but it's off to a slow start there as well," Begich said.
"Fishing was just okay at best but it should get better this week if the water comes up," Miller said.
Further down the Peninsula the southern rivers had a faint opening last weekend, according to Homer Fish and Game biologist Nicky Szarzi.
She said the fishing was fair in the Ninilchik River but the conditions were really bad in Deep Creek. The Anchor River, which opened two weekends ago for kings, has been fair, she said. Sonar counts on the Anchor so far have indicated anywhere from 40 to 150 fish in the last week for a total of 876 kings in the river.
"The water is starting to drop a bit so water clarity should improve in the Anchor," Szarzi said. "For Deep Creek, I'm not sure it's going to improve enough to make it very fishable."
She said the warmer weather recently should make the snow melt faster and if there's no rain this week the water should clear up for fishing. Only problem is the forecast calls for rain, she said.
Debbie Dahman of the Ninilchik General Store said that the saltwater has been more promising.
"The rivers were kind of slow, but everyone was getting their halibut but there was a few kings caught in the salt," she said.
To try and hook some kings on the salt Szarzi suggested anglers "continue with the traditional lures and experiment with different fishing depths."
She said anglers have been having fairly good success with kings around the Anchor River and Kachemak Bay, she said.
To target more local Cook Inlet king salmon stocks anglers should try fishing between Bluff Point and the Ninilchik River in shallower water, closer to the shore, Szarzi said.
Another option for king fishing this weekend is the Nick Dudiak fishing lagoon in Homer. King salmon have been coming into the fishing hole during incoming tides, Szarzi said. This Saturday, a section of the lagoon will be reserved for children 15 and under and Fish and Game staff will be on hand from 8 to 10 a.m. to assist the young anglers during the best catching time.
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/.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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