Here's a ray of sunshine in what has otherwise been a cloudy week for sportfishing on the Kenai Peninsula: While the runs of king salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers have been protected by emergency order, the early run of red salmon has arrived at the Russian River en masse.
"There isn't a lot of people here, but we've got a lot of fish," said Darwin Peterson, owner of the Kenai Cache Tackle Shop in Cooper Landing. "The fish are coming in several days before the season opens. The Russian has a lot of fish in it and the sanctuary's full. Everybody's getting their limit with just a little bit of effort."
The sanctuary area at the confluence of the Kenai and Russian rivers is closed to fishing until July 15. The sanctuary includes the waters of the Kenai upstream from the Russian River ferry to Alaska Department of Fish and Game markers on the Kenai and on the Russian.
The Kenai River downstream from the ferry opened to fly fishing Tuesday, and the Russian River upstream from the Fish and Game marker to another set of markers 600 yards below the falls opens Saturday.
Peterson said that while things weren't too crowded on Wednesday and Thursday, he does expect to see plenty of anglers this weekend.
"There's spaces in the campgrounds right now, but I drove through (Thursday) morning, and every site is reserved," Peterson said.
The fly of choice for anglers targeting sockeyes is a coho fly.
Peterson said that there had been sprinkling of rain in the area, but water conditions were close to ideal.
"It looks to me like we have more fish than we've had in years," Peterson said. "The water's gone down, and it's nice and clear."
For anglers intent on catching a king salmon, the lower Kenai Peninsula offers several options. One more weekend opener has been ordered by Fish and Game for the Ninilchik River run of hatchery-reared king salmon. The river opens downstream from the Sterling Highway bridge at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and closes at midnight Monday.
Hatchery fish can be identified by the lack of an adipose fin, a small fleshy fin on the back of the fish just ahead of the tail. Hatchery fish have a scar where the fin was removed.
The Anchor River also is open for one more weekend of king salmon fishing. Heath Harrington at the Anchor Angler tackle shop in Anchor Point said last weekend's fishing was excellent, and expects more of the same for the final opener of the season.
"It's up a little bit, and a little bit off-color (from this week's rain), but it's still fishable," Harrington said. "Last weekend we had some terrific fishing. This weekend should be just as good or better."
Harrington said that the hot setup has been a Spin-N-Glo with salmon eggs, and added that fly-fishers using bright patterns were having some success as well.
Anglers also have been faring well at the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon, where king salmon can be landed using a variety of lures, bait and flies.
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