With increased numbers of late run salmon entering the Kenai River, fishing is on the verge of becoming more action packed that a Diehard movie sequel.
"Based on sonar estimates, we're starting to see good numbers of late-run kings entering the river, especially for this time of year," said Larry Marsh, an assistant area manager biologist with Fish and Game.
July started with 1,167 kings entering the Kenai last Thursday, followed by 1,125 kings on Friday, and then another 1,053 kings on Saturday.
Sonar numbers dropped slightly over Sunday and Monday, but by Tuesday were back up to 1,231 kings, with an additional 1,932 kings on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative number of late run fish up to 8,065.
"It's still early in the year, but based on the high numbers we're already seeing, we're expecting an above average return," said Marsh.
The success rate for anglers targeting kings appears to correspond to the numbers of fish entering the river, given the necessary lag time as fish fight their way up the fast flowing waters.
"Fishing was good earlier in the week, but then slowed down a bit," said Bo Ansel of Bo's Fishing Guide Service.
As to the cause of the angling action tapering off, Ansel listed both water levels running higher than normal on the Kenai, as well as the commercial fishers taking their nets to the water, as two possibilities.
Ansel said several clients were still picking up big fish despite the slowing of the bite. "We had a 69-pounder come in on Tuesday, and a couple of 50- to 60-pound fish on Wednesday," he said.
Looking toward the weekend, Ansel was optimistic.
"I'm hoping it will pick up over the weekend. It usually does around this time," he said.
Marsh was equally optimistic, saying, "I think we'll see some good fishing here soon as the king run continues to build."
The early run of sockeyes is starting to wind down. As of Wednesday, 526 fish passed through the Russian River weir, located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake.
However, anglers won't have long to wait before the bite is on again, as the late run red salmon are starting to enter the Kenai River, and fishing will likely continue to pick up as the run builds strength.
"The late run for sockeyes is just getting under way. We've got about 20,000 fish in the river now, but by mid-July we should start to see some real strong numbers entering the river," said Marsh.
The late run of reds typically peaks between July 15 and July 21, and based on the numbers so far, Fish and Game believe anglers may have another banner year.
"Based on the forecast, We should have an exceptional year, very similar to last year's return," said Marsh.
The Kenai River dipnet fishery also opens on Saturday, with fishing allowed seven days a week, between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
"Dipnetting should be fair," said Marsh.
Further to the south, both the angling and dipnetting have been spotty at best on the Kasilof River.
The late run kings are entering the river, but this run is small compared to the early run, and more difficult to fish. Guides and drift boat fishers are picking up a few fish, but bank angling has been slow.
"The sockeye run has been spotty in the Kasilof," said Marsh. "It started out strong, then tapered off, but we're still on track for a record return."
Further to the south, big kings are still being picked up in the marine waters off of Deep Creek and Anchor Point, and numerous smaller kings in the 10- to 20-pound range are being caught around Bluff Point.
"Halibut fishing was good this past week," said Marsh, although he pointed out that anglers had to contend with the extreme tides and gusty afternoon winds. Tides are expected to mellow during the upcoming week.
At the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon, a few silvers have shown up. The bulk of the silver run typically doesn't arrive until mid-July. The lagoon is closed to snagging until mid-September.
Lingcod season opened July 1. There is a size limit of 35 inches, and a bag limit of two per day, and two in possession.
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