One summer of king salmon fishing magic

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

I have been very fortunate to live on the Kenai Peninsula for more than 30 years. I was able to spend a considerable amount of time fishing the Kenai River and the surrounding streams. I fished many days with remarkable success and felt compelled to write a book of short stories. I wanted to illustrate some of the great sport fishing the Peninsula offered. Here is the short version of one:

It was 1982 in the first week of June. I had only fished a couple times and for all intents and purposes I was a complete novice. I arrived at the Kasilof River with lots of enthusiasm but little know-how.

There were large numbers of king salmon entering the Kasilof that year. In the beginning I was employing the same style of fishing as the masses. I would fling a pixie lure as far as possible, retrieve at a steady rate and hope a salmon would strike, which they would at times, however not that often. Even being young and energetic, it became tiring and redundant after hundreds of casts without any results.

I was lucky to run into Brent on the riverbank, a guy I met at the city gym during winter. Brent was a very good fisherman and he advised me to try a different and very effective technique. He handed me what turned out to be the equivalent of magic beans and a couple of okie drifters. I thanked him for the tip. I do not remember if I saw Brent on the Kasilof again. I knew it was up to me to figure things out.

There was not a lot of fishing space to try this new tactic. I believed the stars were beginning to align for me, as the only open area was a 30-foot slot where a tree was partially submerged. Everybody seemed to be using lures exclusively, that spot was open and it turned out to be a goldmine. The surprising thing about that week is everyday I arrived my spot was vacated despite dozens of people watching day after day. It could be described as a spectacular show of sport fishing, as I was hooking and catching kings at a fast rate.

It didn't seem like it could have been better, but amazingly, it was. I slept in everyday, arriving at the river around 11 a.m. to nothing but blue skies. Usually this is the worst time to fish for king salmon. I'm not sure how I figured out the way to fish that hole but it was very simple. I waded in as far as my hip boots would allow, and then threw less than 8 feet in the direction of the tree. Everything after that was easy. Apparently the downed tree created a refuge for large schools of king salmon. Every time I cast into that pocket of fish they immediately picked it up like a magnet.

After a few days of catching our limit, my wife at the time, Diane, and I took out her friend's two young boys. I thought it would be a great experience for them. We arrived at the usual time as dozens of anglers were casting lures and didn't see any fish on the bank. We headed down river to the tree hole. The fishermen were stacked six to eight feet apart, and as usual the hole was open. I was extremely confident, remarking, "Watch this I'll liven this place up."

And did I ever. Within seconds the first king was hooked and 10 minutes later I landed it. The crowd seemed pleased to see a fish caught. I waded back out and instantly hooked another king handing the pole to Diane. She fought and landed the second fish, which brought mixed emotions from the onlookers. Like clockwork I hooked and lost another, then just as quick hooked up and handed the pole to one of the boys. He had quite a fight on his hands. The crowd looked perplexed as we hooked and landed our fourth king. We caught out limit, all 20- to 30-pounders, in the time most people get for lunch break. For several more days it was like the movie "Groundhog Day" -- different day, same results.

For me, that was a one-year wonder then the tree swept a different direction. It was gone and so was the magic.

Grant Christopher is a self-employed Kenai resident and 30 year angler. Primarily a bank fishermen, he prefers to hook reds and silvers.

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