Fishing frenzy hits Russian River

Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Russian is running red.

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Photo Courtesy Seward Chamber Of Commerce
Photo Courtesy Seward Chamber Of Commerce
Terry French of Anchorage leads the Seward Halibut Tournament with this 184.4-pound fish caught Sunday. The Seward derby runs through June 30 and include a grand prize of $10,000.

"We have been very busy," said Charlotte Bright, tackle store manager at Gwin's Lodge in Cooper Landing, of the angler traffic heading to and from the Russian River and upper Kenai River.

"The catch has been really good up here. We've been really busy in the store, and at the (Russian River) ferry, people are having to wait to get in there," Bright said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has raised the bag and possession limits for sockeye salmon in the fly-fishing-only section of the Russian River, which extends from its confluence with the Kenai River upstream to Fish and Game markers about 600 yards below the falls, and on the upper Kenai, from the fly-fishing-only area and the sanctuary -- which opened to fishing on Monday -- downstream to Jim's Landing. The daily bag limit is now six fish, and the possession limit is 12.

Through Tuesday, 21,745 sockeye had been counted at the Fish and Game weir at Lower Russian Lake, compared to just 1,421 sockeye counted on this date last year.

"There's been a lot of limiting out. We've been doing a lot of freezing," Bright said. "Everybody has a smile on their face -- even the ones with bruises between their eyes (from being whacked with a flying lead weight)."

Area managers are reminding anglers of new salmon carcass disposal guidelines for the Russian River. To avoid a build-up of salmon carcasses in eddies and slackwater areas on the Russian, which has been attracting bears to the stream, anglers are asked to do no more than gut and gill their catch streamside and carry the fish out whole. Anglers who do want to fillet their catch are asked to hike down to the confluence with the Kenai River, chop the carcass into numerous small pieces, and toss the pieces into the deeper, faster moving current.

Robert Begich, the area management biologist with Fish and Game in Soldotna, said rainbow trout fishing, both on the upper Kenai River and below Skilak Lake, has been good as well.

On the lower Kenai River, fishing for king salmon has been on the slow side. Fish and Game is projecting a lower than average return of early run king salmon. Sonar estimates indicate a cumulative total of 7,408 fish in the river through Monday, compared to 10,753 on the same date last year.

"It's going to be a below average run. Anglers can expect below average fishing," Begich said.

Begich said a smaller-than-average run will have a smaller-than-average tail end, meaning anglers are going to have to work harder for their kings until the late run fish begin showing up.

Begich said he doesn't anticipate any changes to the fishery at this time.

"It's the status quo for now," he said.

Elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula, sockeye salmon have been streaming into the Kasilof River, and fishing for halibut has been steadily improving on lower Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay, with most fishermen picking up their limit.

On Monday, Joe Pinto of Scottsdale, Ariz., had quite a thrill while fishing with Capt. Allen Henderson with Ninilchik Charters out of Deep Creek. After a salmon shark began attacking the boat's potential catch, Henderson pulled out 50 feet of 1,500-pound-test airline cable, rigged it with a 16-ought hook and a cod fillet, and handed the outfit over to Pinto.

Pinto battled for about 45 minutes before pulling in the 8-foot, 7-inch, 575-pound shark. The Ninilchik Charter Company crane was needed to lift the shark off the boat, and Pinto, who hadn't been fishing for 18 years and is on his first trip to Alaska, will be going home with a nice haul of shark meat.

Remember, keep those fishing photos and stories coming. You can e-mail them to us at, or go to and look for the Tight Lines link for lots more great fishing information.

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