Lorraine Prestwood of Lakeview, Ore., displays the 74.85-pound king salmon she landed Wednesday on the Kenai River. The fish measured 54.75 inches in length and had a girth of 33.75 inches.
Lorraine Prestwood of Lakeview, Ore., had the thrill of a lifetime Wednesday as she successfully hooked, fought and landed a 74.85-pound king salmon on the Kenai River.
"It took an hour and a half to land that guy," said Prestwood, who was fishing with her husband, Jim, just below the Pillars from their own boat. "He was so big, my arms were just about to drop off."
After landing the big fish, the Prestwoods brought it over to the Alaska De-partment of Fish and Game office for sealing, a requirement for any king salmon 55 inches or greater in length. Lorraine's fish was just a hair shy of that 54.75 inches long, officially with a girth of 33.75 inches.
Prestwood said Fish and Game told her it was just the second fish they had sealed this season, and added that they told her hers was just a little bigger.
Wednesday's catch wasn't Lorraine's first experience with a big Kenai king salmon: In 2001, she snapped her rod landing a 59-pound fish. The fish, she said, jumped into the couple's boat as she fought it, and she landed on her rod while trying to wrestle the fish into submission.
The Prestwoods aren't sure exactly what they'll do with Lorraine's nearly trophy-sized fish. As full-time RVers, there's no room for a mount in the camper. The couple has been digging for clams and fishing for red salmon already. Jim said he'd like to go for halibut, but the fillets from the king will just about fill their freezer to capacity.
"We'll just brag a lot," Lorraine said. "We'll take a lot of pictures, freeze it and share it with the kids."
More anglers should have some success fishing for king salmon as the second run picks up. Fish and Game finished counting early run kings on June 30, with a sonar-counted estimated total of 12,391 fish. Fish and Game's estimated in-river harvest is between 4,000 and 5,000 fish, putting the total escapement in the midpoint of the department's escapement range goal.
"The late run is starting to pick up. Fishing has varied widely over the past few days," said area management biologist George Pappas.
Fish and Game begins counting late run kings July 1, and an estimated 3,760 had passed the sonar counter located 8.6 river miles from the mouth of the Kenai River through Wednesday, an average of 627 per day.
Pappas said that so far, the late run has ranked seventh out of the past 19 years, and Fish and Game has forecasted a big return of late run kings.
Several emergency orders and regulations changes currently affect the Kenai River. The slot limit restricting anglers from retaining king salmon between 44 and 55 inches in length now only applies upstream from the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna. Tackle on the lower Kenai is restricted to single hooks, and bait is allowed.
Pappas said anglers should keep in mind new regulations for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden on the Kenai River. Below Skilak Lake, the daily limit is one rainbow trout less than 18 inches; the same limit applies to Dolly Varden.
On the upper Kenai River, the limit for rainbows and Dollies is one fish less than 16 inches per day.
"That's something new for trout fishermen," Pappas said.
By emergency order, the river bank at Soldotna Creek Park has been closed to fishing through Aug. 15 to protect riparian habitat.
Also of note, the Kenai personal-use dipnet fishery opens Sunday. Fishing is restricted to the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The emergency order boosting the bag limit for sockeye salmon on the upper Kenai River in the Russian River/Kenai River fly-fishing-only area to four per day and eight in possession expires Thursday at 11:59 p.m. Starting Friday, the limit returns to three per day and three in possession.
The emergency order on the Kasilof River raising the rod-and-reel sockeye limit to six per day and 12 in possession remains in effect. No more than two per day may be silver salmon.
On the upper Kenai River, salmon numbers have tapered as the early run winds down.
"There's still some fish being caught, but it's definitely not what it was," said John Roberts at the Kenai Cache Tackle Shop in Cooper Landing. "We're between runs, but we're still seeing some fish."
More than 1,300 sockeye salmon were counted at the weir at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake on both July 3 and 4, but numbers dipped after that, with 616 fish tallied Wednesday.
Roberts said anglers targeting rainbow trout and Dolly Varden are having some success.
"It's decent fishing. Obviously, there are some that are doing better than others, as is always the case, but it's been pretty good," Roberts said. "We're hanging on to the fish we've got until we have the second run coming through. It's decent, but it's just going to get better."
Saltwater fishing continues to be productive as well. Halibut fishing on lower Cook Inlet has been steady, as has halibut fishing on Resurrection Bay out of Seward. Fishing for silver salmon on Resurrection Bay also has been reported as excellent this week.
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