Head for the hills between runs

Posted: Thursday, July 09, 2009

With summer in full force, it's not a bad time to make a break for the mountains and cool off a bit.

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Cate Carre of Soldotna, fishing with her sweetheart, Arch Richardson, landed this 65-pound king after leaving her rod in the holder for just 5 seconds to start off the season on July 1 using a Kwikfish lure bought at a garage sale for 50 cents.

This is a great time of year to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Kenai Peninsula and catch some fish at the same time.

Dave Atcheson, a fly fishing instructor at Kenai Peninsula College and author of Fishing Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, said that the short ice-free season on mountain lakes means the fish that inhabit them are active through the summer, despite the heat.

Atcheson recommended visiting places like Fuller Lake, Crescent Lake, Carter Lake or Bench Lake for grayling and rainbow trout fishing.

"Since they're high mountain lakes, it's a shorter season, so the fish don't necessarily quiet down," he said.

When Mother Nature's thermostat spikes, like it has in the past week, insects are likely to be in full hatch, driving the fish into a feeding frenzy.

Atcheson said he saw this just recently.

"They're red hot on these nice warm days with these bugs flying around. I was at Fuller Lake a week ago and it was really good," he said.

Atcheson recommended using a dry fly to match the abundant insects for fly fishermen.

A 3-weight rod is suitable for most the lakes.

Lightweight spinning gear works as well if fly-fishing isn't your thing.

Additionally, Atcheson said that anglers could really benefit from a float or canoe.

"Any kind of float or canoe makes it more fun and you can look for structure and weed beds where the fish are hanging out," he said.

Some lakes, such as Fuller Lake, also have brush all around the shoreline making them difficult to fish without a float.

At lower elevations, Atcheson said most lakes and ponds are caught in the midsummer doldrums.

Nonetheless, the easy accessibility, and intensive stocking programs in some of the lower elevation lakes make them good options for families with small children or those not interested in hiking to find fish.

Atcheson said a great kid-friendly fishing spot is Johnson Lake in Kasilof. He said going with a gob of eggs on a bobber rig was a pretty good bet for getting the little ones on some fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Sportfish Division has lake stocking data available online on its Web site, http://www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/Statewide/LakeData/.

Always be sure to check the 2009 Fish and Game Sport Fishing Regulations before you put a line in the water, too.

King fishing on the Kenai River has improved some with the opening of bait below Skilak Lake, however, this is a slow period between the early and late runs.

Brad Dayton, of Pullman, Wash., didn't need any fireworks this past Saturday -- he created plenty of his own when he boated a 78-pound king salmon on the Kenai River.

Dayton was fishing with his brother, Randy, and his father, Lane. Brad Dayton said he landed the fish after about a half-hour battle, around noon.

Dayton said his family is full of avid anglers. His parents split their time between Lewiston, Idaho, and Poachers Cove on the Kenai River.

The fish measured 53 3/4 inches long, with a girth of 33 1/4 inches. Dayton said he plans to have the fish mounted.

Robert Begich, the area management biologist with Fish and Game in Soldotna, said that water conditions in the Kenai are "fantastic" for king fishing right now.

Russian reds continue their march, though the number of fish passing the weir at the mouth of Lower Russian Lake has dropped.

"If I was going to fish there I'd try the upper part of the fishing area," Begich said.

He recommended going early in the morning in low light conditions when the fish are staying close to shore.

Send fishing photos, tales and comments to tightlines@peninsulaclarion.com.

Fishing in the many lakes and ponds of the central peninsula tends to cool off as temperatures rise.

The fish in these lakes become active again in late August through September.

As a general rule Atcheson said that anglers will find improved fishing the farther they get from the road systems.

As a catch though, he said that bugs tend to get worse too, so go prepared.

Click on the "Kenai" link for a list of lakes on the peninsula.

This handy resource lists information like how many fish have been stocked and when. Additionally, there's a bathymetric diagram of each lake's bottom and directions to the access points.

When going off the road system, plan ahead and make sure you bring more than just fishing gear. Even on these beautiful summer days the weather can still swing wildly.

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