Kings in, reds on the way

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

On the Kenai River, it's the best of times and the worst of times.

"I think people that have come up and are fishing for king salmon are pretty happy. I know fishing has been pretty good in the lower river," said Richard Hatt at The Fishin' Hole tackle shop in Soldotna. "As far as people here for sockeye, they're still waiting."

Indeed, count estimates for late-run Kenai River king salmon are pretty good. From Sunday through Wednesday, a daily average of 1,408 fish have been detected passing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar counter, for a total of 10,973 tallied since July 1.

"(The numbers) are better than pretty good," said Mark Gamblin, Fish and Game sportfish area manager for the upper Kenai Peninsula. "As of (Thursday), we're looking at a good string return. We've only seen one other season with a stronger start, that was 2002. ... Angling success has been excellent."

Hatt said that good river conditions coupled with opening the river, from the mouth to Skilak Lake, to the use of bait have made for some nice catches.

The sockeye count, though, has yet to pick up for the big July run. The sonar counter, located at River Mile 19.5, detected 6,432 reds Wednesday and has recorded 43,163 sockeye salmon since July 1.

"I know there are people catching a few, but they're spending a lot of time down on the river to do that," Hatt said.

According to Fish and Game, the second run of red salmon typically peaks during the third week of July.

"We're still kind of between the early and late runs," Gamblin said.

For king salmon, the slot limit remains in effect from the Sterling Highway bridge upstream to Skilak Lake through Monday. Salmon from 44 to 55 inches in length must be released.

Downstream from the bridge, king salmon of any size may be retained.

Anglers willing to try for something other than salmon are having success, though. Hatt said a friend of his picked up a very nice Dolly Varden recently while fishing with salmon eggs, and rainbow trout are in the river looking to feed on eggs as well.

On the upper Kenai River, the sanctuary area at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers remains open to fishing by emergency order, though fishing for red salmon has cooled off. The limit for red salmon on the upper Kenai is three per day.

On the Kasilof River, the king salmon run is past its peak, but good numbers of red salmon have been entering the river and anglers have had success flipping flies from the bank.

Halibut fishing remains good to very good in lower Cook Inlet, with reports of several fish in the 200-pound range being landed in the past week. A series of clam tides this weekend, starting with a minus-2.2-foot tide at 8:41 a.m. at Clam Gulch and running through Thursday may make for tougher halibut fishing, but plenty of good clamming as the tides get even lower as the weekend progresses.

For anglers heading to Seward, silver salmon are being caught in the Pony Cove area of Resurrection Bay, while pink and king salmon also may occasionally bite.

Halibut fishing is reportedly very good to excellent in North Golf Coast waters.

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