Cameron Hawthorne, owner of Kenai Lake Tackle Shop in Cooper Landing, had one bit of advice for anglers interested in fishing for sockeye salmon on the Russian and upper Kenai rivers: Hurry up and get there.
"I think (the run) is increasing, and I'm getting a lot of word from the lower river guys that they're still coming up," Hawthorne said. "Hopefully, this one will run into the first week of July. I've never seen it this good, not on the first run."
Numbers collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game support Haw-thorne's observation. Through Tuesday, 24,116 sockeye salmon had been counted at the department's Russian River weir, with 7,429 fish passing by on Tuesday. With the early run escapement goal of 14,000 to 37,000 fish in hand, the sanctuary area at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers was opened last Saturday.
"It just keeps going, Hawthorne said. "Usually, with the Russian, it's spotty. One day, the fish will be there and the next day you're hunting for fish. This time, every day fish are there up and down the river."
Most anglers take the Kenai-Russian River ferry to the south bank of the river. The ferry makes its first trip of the day at 6 a.m. and its last at 11 p.m., though some anglers try to avoid the crowds by fishing overnight. An adult round-trip ticket is $6.
The confluence of the Kenai and Russian rivers is a fly-fishing-only area, and most anglers use a coho fly to catch their sockeyes. Hawthorne said that even newcomers to the fishery are coming back with their three-fish limit.
"Even the new people are getting their limits, people that have never done it before. That's real neat to see," Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne said that fishing for other species has been good, though the crowds have been going crazy for the salmon.
"The trout fishing is real good, but there doesn't seem to be too many people doing that right now," Hawthorne said.
Anglers looking for salmon on the lower Kenai Peninsula will have fewer options this weekend as the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers and Deep Creek are closed to all fishing until July 1 to protect spawning king salmon.
Fish and Game did report that fishing for salmon at the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon has been good, with kings in the 20-to-30-pound range. Anglers use a variety of tackle at the fishin' hole, with herring, spinners or salmon eggs bringing the best results.
Fish and Game also reports good to excellent halibut fishing out of Homer, with numerous fish tipping the scales at over 100 pounds, and good fishing for halibut out of Anchor Point and Ninilchik, where improving tides and weather should make for better fishing after high winds and fog slowed things down earlier this week.
Fish and Game issued a reminder this week that regulation changes adopted during the February Board of Fisheries meetings, listed in the 2002 Sportfishing Regulations Summary for Southcentral Alaska, will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
However, Fish and Game has issued emergency orders that override the new regulations to protect weak king salmon runs on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The Kenai is closed to all sportfishing for early run kings salmon, including catch-and-release fishing. Fishing with gear normally used to catch kings salmon is prohibited.
The king salmon fishery on the Kasilof River has been limited to hatchery fish only, which can be identified by the healed adipose fin clip. The adipose fin is a small, fin just ahead of the tail and is clipped on hatchery-reared fish. Wild king salmon, which have an adipose fin intact, must be immediately released without removing the fish from the water.
Tackle on the Kasilof has been limited to one single hook, and after harvesting a king, anglers cannot fish in any fresh waters on the Kenai Peninsula open to king salmon sport fishing for the remainder of that day.
Also, guides on the Kasilof may not fish while clients are present or within their control.
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