Still building: King, red fishing simmers

Fishing fair, expected to pick up as salmon runs reach their peak

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2007


  Guide Paul Zobeck helps his client, Nici Lehmer of Kansas City, Mo., hold up a 42-pound king she landed on the lower Kenai River on THursday morning. It was Lehmer's first king ever. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Guide Paul Zobeck helps his client, Nici Lehmer of Kansas City, Mo., hold up a 42-pound king she landed on the lower Kenai River on THursday morning. It was Lehmer's first king ever.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Toto was nowhere around, but early Thursday morning Nici Lehmer knew she wasn't in Kansas anymore — Kansas City, Mo., that is.

Lehmer came up from the "Show Me State" to do a little vacationing and a lot of fishing, some of which included an early morning charter for world famous Kenai River king salmon, and she would not be going home empty-handed.

Despite getting up at the crack of dawn, facing a few hours in the cold rain, and forking over a small sum to her fishing guide, Lehmer immediately knew it had all been worth it the minute she saw her rod bend like a horseshoe, and heard the drag of her reel whining like an undisciplined child throwing a conniption for candy.

Lehmer grabbed her rod and after initially thinking her arms might pop from their sockets, she planted her feet arched her back and began to battle, with the mighty chinook.

Fresh from the salt water, her fish came to fight, and it didn't make things easy on Lehmer, but in the end she was victorious.

"I'm so excited I'm about to fly," she said after boating a 42-pound king just barely starting to blush with its river colors.

"This was my first king, but it was a lot of fun. It's much different than halibut fishing," she said.

Lehmer and three fishing buddies were out with guide Paul Zobeck of Grand Slam Salmon Fishing Charters on Thursday morning, and while there were many other boats around them on the water, few had their nets in the air.

"I'd say the fishing is medium. There's a few select hot spots, but the run is still building," Zobeck said.

Zobeck and many other guides were sticking to the lower river in the hopes of success.

"With the run still building, the tidal areas are the place to be, so we're just playing the tide," he said.

That playing seemed to be paying off, too, since Lehmer landed her king near "Mud Island," and according to Zobeck there had been other fish on lines in the boat at different times, including one bite as far up river as "Falling In Hole."

"We had made three contacts by 8 a.m., and one of them was a big one, real big, but it broke off on a snag," Zobeck said.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the king fishing should continue to improve as the month progresses. Daily king counts from the Fish and Game sonar station, 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river, have only broke into the quadruple-digits once in the late run, but the triple-digit numbers are holding strong.

On Monday, 601 kings were counted, followed by 500 Tuesday and 927 Wednesday for a cumulative 6,635 kings in the late run, which began on July 1.

On the Kasilof River, the late run of king salmon has just started, but fishing was reported as fair last weekend.

Fishing can pick up at any time in July, though, and the Kasilof typically provides good late-run king salmon fishing through July 31.

There are new regulations on the Kasilof River as of July 1, so Fish and Game reminds anglers to check their regulation booklets to ensure their tackle, tactics and take-home fish are all legal.

Sockeye salmon also are continuing to enter both rivers, but are still far from entering in numbers that translate into good to excellent fishing. According to Fish and Game, daily numbers of sockeyes entering the river this week were 8,634 Monday, followed by 3,904 Tuesday and 4,617 Wednesday for a cumulative 51,004 in the late run, but still only a pittance of what will likely enter the river later this month.

With the Kenai sockeye run building in intensity, anglers — personal use and sport — are starting to take their positions on the river. Dipnetting opened Tuesday, but few fishermen have had much to show for their efforts.

The situation is much the same on the Kasilof, except slightly more bleak. Fish and Game has reported bank anglers are finding the fishing fair at Crooked Creek State Recreation site, but further downriver at the mouth, dipnetters are still struggling to get more fish in an hour than can be counted on one hand.

Seekers of southern peninsula shellfish should show caution this week. While good clam tides run through Wednesday, the Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a red tide warning for waters and beaches around Kachemak Bay.

According to DEC, the risks of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) from clams and mussels are elevated during a red tide. They warn harvesters to only eat shellfish from beaches approved by DEC as safe. These include Halibut Cove Lagoon, Jakolof Bay, Kasitsna Bay (McDonald Spit), Tutka Bay, Chugachik Island, Sadie Cove, Polly Creek and Crescent River in the Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay area.

For more information on the red tide or PSP, visit the DEC Web site at or call the DEC information officer at (907) 465-5009.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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