Anglers starting to tire of whipping the water with little to show for their effort shouldn't be discouraged. This is the annual calm before the late-run salmon storm, and it won't be long now until the big fish bite is on.
"The counts should gradually start picking up this week, and we should be into regular king fishing by next week," said Mark Glasssmaker, owner of Alaska Fishing guide service in Soldotna.
By many angler accounts, fishing for kings and sockeyes has been poor to fair on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers recently. Since the beginning of July, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's sonar unit located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River has recorded daily counts in the triple digits, with 609 kings counted on Sunday, 401 kings on Monday and 450 on Tuesday, for a cumulative 1,460 kings so far in the late run. Historically, counts of more than 1,000 kings per day are common toward the end of July and produce some of the best fishing of the year.
However, there are still numerous fish in the river from the early run of kings, which ended June 30 with a cumulative 15,904 fish for the season.
"It's been spotty, but we're still picking up fish. We've been averaging one to three fish per boat," Glassmaker said.
He added that a few sockeyes have also been caught while trolling for kings, which even though it's still early for them, is a good sign of things to come.
"(The Fish and Game sonar counter) is getting about 3,000 fish a day on the Kenai, so there's not a lot of sockeyes yet, but a few people have been picking them up and we've been seeing a few roll around in the eddies, bigger fish too, not the early-run fish headed for the Russian (River)," he said.
In fact, the Fish and Game counts for sockeyes which began on Sunday, recorded 3,709 fish on Sunday, 4,464 on Monday, 3,722 on Tuesday and 2,671 on the Independence Day holiday for a cumulative 14,566 sockeyes so far in the late run. Historically, though, daily counts of more than 50,000 sockeye have not been uncommon later in the month.
Sockeye fishing also has slowed up at the Russian River. Fish and Game's daily counts are well below 1,000 fish per day, but many anglers willing to work for their fish are catching their bag limit within a few hours.
While the salmon fishing on the Kenai has required some effort, trout fishing has been just the opposite.
"The trout fishing below Skilak Lake has been excellent," Glassmaker said.
According the Fish and Game, fishing for rainbow trout on the Upper Kenai River between Skilak and Kenai lakes has also been good, and this fishery should continue improve as rainbows move into their summer feeding areas.
The salmon fishing on the Kasilof River has been much the same as on the Kenai.
"Last week was slow, but it's starting to pick up with a few late-run kings starting to be caught," Glassmaker said.
The late run of sockeyes has also begun on the Kasilof, but hasn't been worth writing home about yet this year. June ended with a dreadful daily count of 492 sockeyes, but numbers picked up in the new month. On Sunday, 1,770 sockeye were counted, followed by 3,637 on Monday, 1,273 on Tuesday and 2,9990 on Wednesday for a cumulative 50,474 sockeyes so far this season.
This hasn't translated to many fish being caught. Fish and Game creel surveys indicate bank fishing for sockeyes at Crooked Creek State Park to be slow and not expected to pick up until more significant numbers of sockeye enter the river.
Dipnetters at the mouth of the river aren't fairing much better, many anglers described the dipnetting as poor this past week. Dipnetting on the Kenai River opens Tuesday though which should give fishermen another option for filling their freezer with fresh fillets.
Anglers looking to land an easy catch may want to make the drive south to Homer this weekend.
The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit opened to snagging at noon Thursday. It remains open to snagging the remainder of the hatchery-produced king salmon until midnight Sunday.
Excellent Halibut fishing has also been reported 15-20 miles west of the Spit, and fishing has been very good for anglers opting to go out of Deep Creek and Anchor Point. According to the Homer Chamber of Commerce, two huge flat fish also were brought in just days of each at the end of last month.
Jerry Saunders of Chugiak boated a 358.4-pound barn-door on June 28 to take the lead in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.
This was just three days after Daniel Prisaznuk of Homer landed a 340.6-pound halibut. Saunders, who received $1,000 and is a contender for the jackpot prize of largest fish, was fishing in a private boat dubbed "Slow Going" operated by Capt. Ken Petska.
The derby continues until Sept. 30, so there is still time for more big fish to be caught. For more information, contact the Homer chamber at (907) 235-7740 or visit the derby Web site at homerhalibutderby.com.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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