Good news greeted anglers venturing onto the Kenai River looking for a chance to catch a king salmon for the first time since the river was closed by emergency order last month: The fishing is good.
Take a report from Alaska Fishing Charters and Soldotna Bed and Breakfast Lodge, where guest Ed Valderde of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., landed a 74-pound king on Tuesday while fishing with guide Joe Szczesny.
Tuesday was the first day fishing was allowed from motorized boats, and with bait now legal, anglers reported good success -- on Tuesday, Soldotna Bed and Breakfast Lodge guests also reeled in a 48-pounder and a 44-pounder.
"Fishing has been good and fishing conditions have been excellent," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologist Mark Gamblin. "For the first few days (of the king salmon opening), we've been seeing good numbers of chinook enter the river."
In fact, the department's sonar counter recorded more than 500 fish heading up the river on Monday, and 1,600 fish on Tuesday.
Gamblin said the numbers gave him reason to feel optimistic about the second run after the weakest early run on record.
"That's the way I'm feeling, but we're also telling people to keep in mind that this is only two or three days of data," Gamblin said. "For the time being, things are looking optimistic."
The Kenai River is open to sportfishing for king salmon downstream from the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna. The river upstream from the Soldotna bridge remains closed to king salmon fishing by emergency order through July 14, and bait is prohibited while fishing for other species in that area during the closure.
Other species anglers may like to target in the middle and upper Kenai River and on the Russian River include Dolly Varden and rainbow trout. With spawning salmon in the river, rainbows and Dollies should begin to take egg patterns and flesh flies.
The Ninilchik River, Deep Creek and the Anchor River also are good places to try for Dollies -- far from the salmon-mad crowds. In addition to flies, fish will take salmon eggs, small spinners and spoons. With the streams low and clear, best times for fishing are early morning and evening.
Fishing for red salmon on the Russian River has slowed, but Gamblin said there are still good numbers of fish in the river. Anglers will do best to hike up the river and search out pools where fish are holding.
Fishing for reds on the upper Kenai may heat up in a week or so as sockeyes have been entering the Kenai by thousands this week. Gamblin said that Fish and Game sonar counted 5,000 fish on Monday and 7,800 Tuesday, along with 6,000 reds returning to the Kasilof on Monday and 3,000 on Tuesday.
Those numbers bode well for the personal-use dipnet fisheries at the mouths of both rivers. The Kasilof dipnet fishery already has opened, and the Kenai fishery opens Wednesday, though fishing hours will be restricted to 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. this year.
Fishing for halibut out of Homer, Anchor Point and Deep Creek remains good and is expected to improve with this week's small tides. Halibut fishing out of Seward also has been very good to excellent, when the weather cooperates.
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