Reds pushing in to Kenai River

Posted: Thursday, July 08, 2010

The late-run salmon on the Kenai River are coming in, giving some anglers hope in the slow, early days of July.

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Steve Voth from Captain Bligh's guide service writes: "First day off the slot limit and we caught the largest fish that I have heard of this year. This was my clients' first day ever on the Kenai. Tim Nickens and his family were up from Westville, Oklahoma for his 30th high school reunion in Eagle River and wanted to show the family the state. It was a little slow in the morning; they happened into a sockeye. The sun was out in the afternoon and the kids had just fallen asleep, they were at mud island and all of a sudden the rod went down, and then it was game on. Tim said that he has never had a fish that had so much power and actually directed where the boat would go."

Steve Voth of Captain Bligh's Beaver Creek Lodge and Guide Service said one of his boats landed a sockeye and a large king salmon in the same trip last week.

"Basically a lot of the fish that we ran into so far this year has been pretty small fish," he said.

But not the one landed by his client Tim Nickens of Westville, Okla.

Nickens caught a 65-pounder on July 1, right when Department of Fish and Game's slot limits were lifted for late-run kings on the Kenai.

Voth said he's "pretty darn sure" it's the biggest king salmon caught so far this year.

"It was an awesome fish," he said.

Voth said the boat, guided by Brett Gesh, was fishing all day and had caught and released some smaller jack salmon and then a sockeye.

Near the end of the trip the boat was fishing the incoming tide at Mud Island when Nickens' daughter's rod became buried.

"The rod tip was in the water," Voth said. The fish "was in control of the boat and drug us around for probably 15 minutes."

That fishing adventure really made Nickens trip to Alaska for his 30th high school reunion at Chugiak High School in Eagle River, he said.

"He grew up in Eagle River and never caught a king on the Kenai before," Voth said.

Jason Pawluk, Fish and Game's assistant area management biologist, said king fishing on the Kenai is slow for this time of year and the majority of the fish are small.

"We're seeing a lot of one ocean and two ocean kings," he said, which means three and four-year-old king salmon have been returning.

He suggests anglers keep trying for those Kenai kings though.

"It has been slow but there could be a good push of fish here any day," he said.

However, sockeye salmon are making a big run for it up the Kenai.

Pawluk said the department is seeing pretty good numbers of late-run sockeye.

On July 5, Fish and Game's sonar counted 10,209 salmon.

"We're tracking better than the past two years," he said. "Usually the Kenai becomes fishable with good success rates at 15,000 to 20,000 fish passing the sonar," he said, so being near 11,000 is "good."

Anglers will just have to "put in more effort to get the fish."

He said the department's offshore test fishery has been showing good indices for the red salmon.

"It's just encouraging to see a good showing of fish in the Kenai so far, and in the Kasilof, and hopefully it will continue," he said.

Personal-use dipnetting opens on the Kenai this Saturday.

"Usually it is good the first few days of dipnetting season," he said.

The Kasilof dipnet fishery has been "good on occasion," Pawluk said.

He said people that want to dipnet on the Kasilof should try and go on Saturdays, as that's the day historically a good number of fish push past the sonar.

On the Southern Peninsula, halibut fishing continues to be good, said Nicky Szarzi, Homer Fish and Game biologist.

And that means a new leader for the Homer Halibut Derby.

Cheryl Goeke of Mesquite, Nev. caught a 250.6 pound flatfish on July 1 with Big Bear Halibut Charters.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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