More kings in the cards?

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008

After the water boiled last weekend, the fishing has started to simmer down a bit this week as big tides have moved back in and the early run of king salmon on the Kenai River may be moving slightly past its peak.

"It's been good, but I think we're starting to hit a bit of a low as it moves between runs. We see it every year," said Mike Beals of Big T Fishing.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar numbers seem to reflect the same thing. On the Kenai River, the sonar unit -- located 8.6 miles from the mouth -- recorded a daily count of 956 kings last Saturday, but then began to steadily decline each day thereafter with 302, 288 and 212 kings recorded on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, for a cumulative 11,555 kings so far this season.

These numbers are very similar to last season when by June 18, 2007 the sonar unit picked up a daily count of 270 kings for a cumulative 11,365 kings.

Despite dwindling numbers, fish are still being caught on the Kenai, and some decent sized ones too, according to Beals.

"I've had some very large fish. To date I've had three over 60 (pounds) and four over 70 (pounds)," he said.

However, Beals added most of these fish were 53 to 54 inches in length, and so were returned to the water to comply with slot limit regulations that require kings 46 inches to 54 inches to be released immediately.

While the Kenai may be slowing slightly, the Kasilof River is still producing very well, according to Beals.

"The Kasilof has been a good fishery this year, and we're still catching fish every day. I had two boats out this morning and they've already caught three fish," he said around mid-morning on Thursday.

Fish and Game's early run king salmon creel survey also indicated that number of king salmon anglers are catching has been stable and the data indicates anglers fishing from drift boats were having the best success, but bank anglers at the Crooked Creek State Recreation Site have also been catching kings.

Anglers on both rivers are starting to pick up more sockeye salmon, but the Russian River area still prevails as the location offering the best odds for limiting out on fish, despite weir numbers that are significantly below last year's for this same time.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, daily counts at the weir -- located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake, about 78 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River -- were 423, 429 and 598, respectively, for a cumulative 2,468 sockeye so far this season.

For comparison, the weir recorded 1,312 sockeye on this date in 2007, for a cumulative 10,999 sockeye for the 2007 year.

Beals said the lower numbers aren't even noticeable, though.

"I went up with some people that had never even held a rod and they limited out with no problems. They were thrilled," he said.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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