Timing is everything. Last week, forest fires were the peninsula and the Kenai River was on the brink of a flood. By Thursday, the fires were contained and the river was clearing and dropping, just in time for the start of the annual Kenai River Classic.
High, turbid water due to rapid snowmelt in the mountains has made king salmon fishing difficult for several days, but cooler weather earlier this week improved the state of the river, as well as the fishing.
Wednesday evening, M.P. King, at Stewart's Landing, said, "King salmon fishing has been pretty good. Lots of small fish today, but we saw some nice ones, too."
The upper river (upstream from Skilak Lake) started dropping last Saturday, and has continued to drop at a rate of about 1 inch per day. The streamflow at Soldotna has been hanging at about 18,000 cubic feet per second for the past few days. That's about 4,000 cfs higher than the median daily streamflow based on 34 years of record. The Kenai has been clearing for several days, and should keep improving unless more hot weather or heavy rain in the mountains intervenes.
The water clarity and the ability to use bait (starting July 1) definitely made a difference, King said. With the water so high, people who are "adaptive" are doing better than those who are just doing the same old thing, she said. The salmon aren't in the same places they were when the river was lower.
The Russian and the Kenai River near the confluence of the two streams were so high this past week that fishing was very difficult, whether from boat or bank. The first run of red (sockeye) salmon is well past its peak, and the second run is at least a week away from arriving here. If cool weather continues, waters will drop and clear, and fishing for trout and Dolly Varden char will improve.
Good numbers of red salmon are entering the Kasilof, and anglers are catching them near where the Sterling Highway bridge crosses the river. The early run of kings is pretty much over, although a few are still being caught.
Lower Peninsula Streams
The Anchor River, from its mouth upstream to the confluence of the North and South forks, opened July 1 for species other than king salmon. The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek, from their mouths upstream two miles to Department of Fish and Game markers, also opened July 1 for everything but king salmon. Rainbow or steelhead trout can't be retained year-round on these three streams.
Deep Creek-Anchor Point Marine
Halibut fishing in these waters usually improves during May and June and is excellent in July. This year is no exception.
Sharon Kruse, at Rod 'N' Real Fishing Charters, in Ninilchik, said, "People have been bringing in their limits -- 60-, 70-, 80-pounders, with a lot of smaller ones in between. The biggest we've caught so far this year was a 172-pounder, caught last Saturday."
There's something new in Homer this summer. If you're fishing from a charter boat, and you have a ticket for the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby, and you catch and release a halibut that weighs more than 80 pounds, as verified by your skipper, your ticket will be put into a drawing. At the end of the season, the name drawn wins $5,000. It pays to buy your derby ticket.
Speaking of the derby, on June 25, David Gapp, of Andover, Minn., caught a 322.2-pound barn door to lead the derby. But only for six days. On July 1, Tom Barkman, of Homer, bumped Gapp's fish into second place with a 322.8-pounder. If Barkman's fish holds its lead, that fraction of a pound will be an expensive difference. Last year, the angler who took first place won $31,820 with a 337-pound halibut. The next-heaviest fish, a 332.2-pounder, won only $1,000 for being the first-place fish for June.
A decent set of minus tides for pursuing the wily littleneck (steamer) and butter clam runs through Sunday. If you go, be sure to pick up a free harvest permit, and to fill it out before leaving the beach. These permits are available at most places where fishing licenses are sold.
The beaches where these clams reside are on the other side of Kachemak Bay from Homer. Crossing the bay in the afternoon, after the wind has had time to work on the water, can be hazardous to occupants of small, open skiffs.
Gulf of Alaska
Fishing for halibut, rockfish and lingcod has been excellent and should continue that way for at least the next few weeks. Anglers jigging for lingcod and rockfish in 150 feet and less have been catching lots of halibut, including some large ones.
Lingcod season opened July 1. Lingcod may not be taken inside Resurrection Bay (Cape Resurrection to Aialik Cape.)
The enhanced king salmon run has passed its peak. Fishing for kings from the beach has been slow. Bank anglers will have to wait for the silvers, which are expected to start arriving in a couple of weeks.
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