With a forest fire lapping at the shores of Kenai Lake and snowmelt swelling the Kenai River to flood stage, it's hard to know which end of the pump to screw the hose onto. But with fine weather and good tides in the offing, this might be a good time to get out on the salt water and fish for halibut and other targets of opportunity.
Deep Creek-Anchor Point Marine
Most anglers fishing for halibut out of Deep Creek beach and Anchor Point have been catching their limits. Lots of good "eating size" flatfish are being brought ashore, and more bigger ones are starting to show up in catches, said Mary Keogh, at Key-O's Guide Service in Ninilchik.
"We just started into the good tides Wednesday," she said. "We're going out looking for some bigger fish today. The fishing this weekend should be good."
King salmon fishing has slowed down, but halibut fishing has been steadily improving as the larger fish move into Cook Inlet. Chris Donich, at Daniel's Personalized Guide Service, said some of the charterboats have been finding a "good halibut bite" off Point Adams. She also mentioned that Captain Donich has been doing "real well" fishing for halibut in the kelp beds near Anchor Point.
"Wednesday, they brought back three or four that were about 75 pounds," she said.
A few days ago, with three fathers and their young sons aboard, a large salmon shark surfaced behind the boat and gave everybody a thrill, she said.
"It was about a 400-pounder," Donich said. "They tried to get it to bite, but it wouldn't."
If more anglers fishing Cook Inlet targeted salmon sharks, more would be caught. When hooked on salmon or halibut gear, these big, strong fish nearly always either bite off the line or wear through it with their sandpapery hides.
The Homer Spit enhancement lagoon will open to snagging at noon on Friday and will remain open through midnight July 8.
Gulf of Alaska
Lingcod fishing along the North Gulf Coast opens Sunday. These big predators are usually found on or near the bottom, on rocky structure. They can be taken with most any jig. They are fine eating. Preferable to halibut, many people say.
Lingcod must be a minimum of 35 inches in length with the head attached, or 28 inches with the head removed. The daily bag and possession limit is one. It's illegal to take a lingcod in Resurrection Bay, and to fish for any species inside Resurrection Bay if you possess lingcod taken elsewhere.
Salmon sharks will start showing up in these waters as the salmon runs come through. The annual limit for sharks is two of any species, and all sharks must be entered on your harvest ticket.
Trolling for king salmon remains slow. The beach fisheries for king salmon near Lowell Creek and the Seward Lagoon outflow also remain slow. Silver salmon should start showing up in the "outside" bays soon.
Before leaving for Seward, you might want to check on whether the Seward Highway has been closed due to the forest fire near the highway in the Trail Lakes Campground area.
Prince William Sound
With the weather looking so good, this would be a good time to trailer your boat over to Prince William Sound and do a little exploring and halibut fishing. Getting there is simply a matter of driving through the tunnel to Whittier, launching your boat at the ramp in the small boat harbor and heading out. Fuel is available in the small boat harbor. Be sure to have a chart of the area before leaving the dock, and check the marine weather and file a float plan with the Whittier harbormaster's office.
Anglers, eternally an optimistic lot, were creative in their descriptions of fishing the Kenai this week. The algae that had been fouling fishing gear for weeks is gone, they say. The warm, sunny weather has been wonderful, they say. You can have the river almost to yourself, they say. But is anyone catching king salmon? They're in there, they say.
One wag, commenting on the unusually high river, said, "You know what bothers me most about this? How do we blame it on the setnetters?"
One bit of very good news is that the Kenai opens to fishing with bait at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, downstream from a marker at the outlet of Skilak Lake. Even better, reliable sources tell me that there are plenty of kings in the river, and it's only a matter of learning how to fish for them in the high, turbid water. Even without bait, a few nice kings were being caught early this week. Bait will make a big difference. It always does.
Don't let anyone tell you that king salmon have to see salmon eggs in order to chew on them. Back-bouncing with a Spin-N-Glo and cured salmon roe will catch kings in water thick enough to plow. Just don't expect to find kings in the usual places. They require less cover in turbid water, and can be found closer to the bank than usual, where they don't have to buck so much current. Watch, and you'll see them rolling around in "frog" water and near the bank.
Monday is the first Monday of this year that motorized boats are prohibited. Fishing from registered guide boats isn't allowed downstream from Skilak Lake on either Sundays or Mondays in July.
The present high water situation won't change until the weather cools, slowing the melting of snow and glaciers in the mountains. To monitor Kenai River stages on the Internet, visit the National Weather Service Alaska River Forecast Center on the Internet at: www.alaska.net/~ak rfc/. This site displays river stages on a graph, for easy viewing.
High water is making fishing the Russian almost impossible. Chest waders are an absolute necessity, as is a partner who is handy with a landing net. The early red run has peaked, but reds are still coming through.
Due to the danger of docking in high water, the Russian River ferry ceased operating Tuesday. The Russian River Campground remains open, as does the parking lot at the Russian River ferry and the boat launch at Sportsman's Landing. Even with the poor fishing conditions, this area will likely be crowded this weekend, due to the ferry not running. For ferry status, call the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at (907) 262-7021.
Fishing for king salmon in the Kasilof has been "fair" to "good" for the past week, but the early run is definitely past its peak. However, a strong run of reds is in the river, and anglers flipping flies from shore have been having some luck.
Anglers wanting to try something different might consider floating from Tustumena Lake to the takeout at the Sterling Highway bridge in a raft or drift boat. Reds can be caught all along this stretch of water. Upstream from the Sterling Highway bridge, the Kasilof is closed to king salmon fishing beginning Sunday.
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