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Salmon runs spurting; halibut biting

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2007

As the month of June comes to a close, the early runs of king and sockeye salmon are starting to wind down in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, but there are still plenty of fish to catch for those willing to give it some time this weekend.

"It's still worth fishing," said Brian Miller of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna.

In the Kenai River, king salmon fishing is still reported to be fair. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's creel surveys, the king catch declined on the Kenai after last weekend, likely due to water turbidity from heavy rains Saturday and Sunday.

"Kings slowed down, but it's picking up as the water clears, and fish are definitely still being caught," Miller said.

Fish and Game's sonar counter 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river recorded a drop-off in the daily count of kings passing by earlier in the week, but several hundred fish a day are still entering the river. On Monday 195 kings were counted, followed by 250 more Tuesday and 320 Wednesday for a cumulative 14,262 kings this season.

Sockeyes are also making their way into the Kenai, and while fishing on the lower river won't pick up until more sizable numbers of fish come in with the late run next month, the tail end of the early run fish are still producing catchable numbers on the upper Kenai and Russian rivers.

"On the Russian River it's hot, then cold, then hot. It's the end of the run and they're moving in spurts, so you just have to stay for a while and it will pick up," Miller said.

Evidence of these spurts was recorded at the Fish and Game weir at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake. While more than 2,600 sockeyes passed through the weir last weekend, the daily count dropped to 994 fish Monday, increased to 1,062 fish Tuesday, followed by 1,196 fish Wednesday for a cumulative 19,784 sockeyes this season.

The story is much the same on the Kasilof River. King salmon fishing has been fair, but the early run should be just about out of gas. Sockeyes are still coming in, though, and anglers are reporting picking up fish by flipping flies at Cohoe Cove and Crooked Creek campgrounds.

On the Kasilof, the personal-use setnet fishery ended Sunday, but its finish signalled the start of the personal-use dipnet fishery, which got off to a dreadful beginning. Several anglers reported being skunked or only getting flounders in their nets for the first few days of the fishery.

The commercial fishing season for the Upper Cook Inlet region also got under way this week, but almost immediately went into a 48-hour closure period. Anglers interested in determining when the nets are in the water can contact Fish and Game at 262-9611.

With the salmon fishing in between runs for sport fishermen, anglers may opt to turn their pursuits to flatfish this weekend and during the July Fourth holiday. The Homer Chamber of Commerce will be holding its third annual Independence Day Halibut Fishing Tournament on Wednesday.

The tournament kicks off at 6 a.m. and all fish must be weighed by 5 p.m. Entry fee is $100 and 70 percent of the fee goes to prizes for the three largest fish of the day. Some proceeds also go toward the Homer Spit Fishing Hole Silver Salmon Enhancement Program.

Preregistration for the tournament is required. For more information, contact the Homer chamber at (907) 235-7740 or visit their Internet site at www.homeralaska.org.

The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is another alternative for flatfish, and several barn doors already have been brought up from the cold inlet bottom.

For the first time in a long time a Homer resident is leading the derby. Daniel Prisaznuk of Homer caught a 340.6 pound halibut Monday while fishing aboard the "Artic Addiction" with Capt. Mike Manns of Manns Charter Service.

"This fish might be near record length. It was 97 inches long, unheard of in this area," said Linda Winters, of the Homer Chamber of Commerce in a press release.

Winters also reported it took Prisaznuk approximately 1 1/2 hours to pull the huge fish up from the depths of Cook Inlet.

While significantly bigger than the other fish caught in the derby, the other leaders are no small frys. The second-, third- and fourth-place fish weigh 232 pounds, 211.2 pounds and 210 pounds, respectively. A 174.2-pound halibut leads the Lady Anglers division.

For more information on the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, call the Homer chamber at (907) 235-7740 or visit their Internet site at www.homeralaska.org.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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