Anglers looking for a Kenai River king salmon will have to wait until Monday, when the river will open downstream from the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna, but plenty of other fishing opportunities exist on the Kenai Peninsula.
The early run of red salmon on the upper Kenai River and the Russian River has started to taper just a bit -- anglers must now work a little harder for their fish -- but there are plenty of fish in the river for the taking.
"It's slowed down just a little, but there's still between 4,000 and 5,000 fish going over the (Alaska Department of Fish and Game fish weir) counter in the Russian," Darwin Peterson, owner of Kenai Cache Tackle Shop in Copper Landing, said. "It's on a downhill slope all right, but most people are getting their limit without too much trouble, especially on the Russian. There's still a lot of fish stacked up near the falls."
Instead of waiting for the fish to come to them, anglers fishing the Russian will need to start searching out spots where fish are holding, a task for which polarized glasses are a necessity.
With the first run of salmon in the river, Peterson reported that trout fishing also is beginning to pick up.
"They're catching some on muddler minnows, flesh flies, and they're just starting to use egg patterns," Peterson said. "A few of the guides are doing well plugging."
Peterson said that the second run of red salmon generally doesn't hit the upper Kenai until after the Fourth of July, but in some years, there's enough fish in the first run that the two run together, something that just might happen this year.
Peterson said lake fishing also is producing well. Anglers reported success on Rainbow Lake at the end of Snug Harbor Road in Cooper Landing, and Crescent Lake opens Monday.
"That's always good fishing for grayling," Peterson said. "We've had a lot of hikers walking in, and they say the snow is gone and the trail is good."
Mark Gamblin, area management biologist for Fish and Game, said lake fishing always is a good option.
"I try to encourage people to think about lakes in the area. There's plenty of good fishing opportunities there, too," Gamblin said.
Fish and Game stocks 27 lakes on the peninsula with either rainbow trout or landlocked salmon.
Also Monday, the Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River open to fishing for the Dolly Varden that follow the salmon into the streams to feed.
The Kasilof River is open to sportfishing for king salmon through Sunday, but an emergency order limiting the harvest to hatchery-reared fish is still in place. Hatchery fish can be identified by a healed adipose fin-clip. The adipose fin is a small, fleshy fin on the back of the fish just in front of the tail. Wild salmon, those with an adipose fin intact, must be released immediately and cannot be removed from the water.
"In talking with guides and our staff out monitoring the fishery, some people are having good success," Gamblin said. "It's still a good opportunity for people to get out and pursue a king salmon."
Monday marks the beginning of the second run of king salmon on the Kenai River. While the middle river remains closed through July 14 to sportfishing for king salmon, the lower river, downstream from the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna, will open to king fishing under normal regulations, including the use of bait.
The use of bait will be prohibited for all fishing upstream from the Sterling Highway bridge to Skilak Lake during the closure.
Gamblin said that early run is not an indicator of the health of the second run, and added that if projections hold true, the second run will make for some better fishing.
Anglers hankering for king salmon would do well to try the Homer Spit Lagoon, where the number of fish returning has prompted Fish and Game to open the area to snagging, effective at noon today. The daily limit is still two king salmon of any size, and any salmon bigger than 20 inches in length must be recorded immediately on the back of a fishing license or harvest card.
Fish and Game reported good to excellent halibut fishing out of Homer and Seldovia this week, and good halibut fishing out of Anchor Point and Ninilchik.
Fishing from Seward beaches for king salmon has slowed, but the first confirmed silver salmon of the season was landed near Pony Cove in Resurrection Bay this week, and that fishery is expected to pick up in the next week.
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