Fishing far from the madding crowds

Peninsula offers plenty of angling alternatives to packed salmon streams

Posted: Friday, June 18, 2004

Fishing on the Kenai Peninsula is often described as incomparable and rightly so. It offers some of the best salmon fishing on the planet.

However, with world-class salmon runs come world-class crowds and the frenzied scene of elbow-to-elbow combat fishing that is commonplace at nearly every road-accessible stream on the peninsula is definitely not for everyone.

Luckily, anglers wishing to get away from the salmon-mad crowds can try their luck for trout on one of the peninsula's lakes.

"June, before the water warms up, is still a good time to try lake fishing since fish are still actively feeding," said Dave Atcheson, author of fishing Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

He pointed out that many lakes are stocked annually by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and are in close proximity to roads, but angling pressure may also be high at these locations.

To truly get away from it all, Atcheson recommended going deep into the Swan Lake and Swanson River Canoe Trails, which combined offer more than 60 lakes of varying sizes and depths.

"These are good locations to take a weekend trip and try and get at least three or four lakes back," he said.

Atcheson recommended using spinners, spoons and weighted flies, and to target multiple areas.

"Fish can be found near submerged weed beds and logs, under over-hanging foliage, around islands, shoals and near drop-offs. Inlets and outlets are also good places to fish," he said.

For those that have the skills to pay the bills, Atcheson said rainbow trout and dollies in the 10- to 20-inch range can be the reward.

"On a good day, it wouldn't be unheard of to land 30 to 40 fish," he added.

For those looking to stretch their legs to wet a hook, rather than canoeing their way to good fishing off the beaten path, there are also several options.

The Resurrection Pass Trail intersects or travels closely by at least four good fishing locales Trout, Juneau, Swan and Devil's Pass lakes.

In addition to being good spots for trout, Juneau Lake is also the only lake on the peninsula with a burbot a freshwater member of the cod family.

"Grayling fishing can also be really fun right now," said Atcheson. "There are a few lakes that can be hiked or biked to, and if you have a float tube, the fishing is even better."

He recommended Lower Fuller Lake as an excellent spot to catch these small purplish-grey fish with over-sized sail fins.

"Most of the fish in this lake are 12- to 13-inches long and aren't too finicky. They'll rise for a variety of dry flies, but can also be taken beneath the surface with streamers," said Atcheson.

Tackle for fly fishers is typically a two- to three-weight rod with floating line according to Atcheson, and an ultralight rod with six-pound test and spinners for those that prefer spinning tackle.

Atcheson also said Crescent Lake can also offer some exciting angling for grayling, and that fish are frequently bigger in this spot as well. However, he pointed out the the lake doesn't open to fishing until July.

For anglers looking for fish with a little more teeth, pike may be right up your alley. According to the Fish and Game Web site, there are at least 13 peninsula lakes that hold pike, "and we suspect there may be even more," said Robert Begich, a sport fishery research biologist.

Pike are an invasive species to peninsula waters, and they are prolific breeders with voracious appetites, feeding on trout, salmon and even young of their own species. However, it is the pike's willingness to eat that makes them an easy target for anglers, and this aggressive species can be fished in a variety of ways.

Begich recommended spoons, minnow imitations, herring chunks and occasionally top water plugs. Fly fishers may also have success with streamers and poppers.

"Whatever you use, it's better to get down in the water column, especially if midday fishing. Target fish in around 6 to 10 feet of water," he said.

As to tackle, it's better to err on the heavy side. Spinning rods should be equivalent to those used to land silver salmon, and fly fishers can usually get by with a 7- or 8-weight rod.

"You may want to go with a steel leader to keep their teeth from cutting the line, or use a packaged leader with a snap swivel," said Begich.

Begich recommended Stormy Lake or Sevena Lake for anyone looking to hook up with one of these toothy combatants.

"Some of the largest pike we've encountered have come out of Stormy Lake," he said. "With their torpedo shape, they're built for speed. They can hit and fight hard."

Begich suggested using an canoe or boat to cover a lot of water, and look for structures that may harbor the baitfish they pike naturally fed on. Fishing at dawn and dusk can also maximize the chances of getting a strike.

"Pike tend to be very active in these low light conditions," he said.

Fish and Game is always looking to update their knowledge of pike habitat on the peninsula, and anyone that has success with this species is encouraged to call in information such as where and how they caught their fish.

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