Big numbers for late run kings

Posted: Friday, July 14, 2000

Anglers fishing for late-run king salmon in the lower part of the Kenai River are reporting catches of fairly large fish, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking that as an indicator of a pretty good run.

"(Fish size) doesn't vary a whole lot from year to year," said Mike Bethe, the area management biologist for sport fisheries on the upper Kenai Peninsula. "(This year's fish) appear to be pretty normal.

"We've got a lot of fish in the river, and with more fish in the river, there's more larger fish being caught."

Through Wednesday, 11,674 late-run king salmon had passed the Fish and Game sonar counter at the mouth of the Kenai River, well ahead of last year's numbers.

"It looks like a pretty good-sized run, but it's early yet," Bethe said.

The second run of red salmon has yet to hit the Kenai River, but Bethe expects it to begin to show in the next week.

"There's a few late-run sockeye in the river," Bethe said, adding that the bulk of the run could start to enter the river "maybe as early as Sunday."

Anglers on the upper Kenai River and the Russian River are still waiting for that second run of sockeye to hit. In the meantime, conditions are just about right for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden fishing.

"We're waiting for the sockeyes to come back, but that makes for good Dolly Varden and rainbow fishing," said Geneese Peterson at the Kenai Cache tackle shop in Cooper Landing.

With red salmon anglers waiting for the run to hit, anglers interested in hooking a trout should have plenty of elbow room to cast a fly.

"That's what's nice for trout fishermen," Peterson said. "Try using a nymph or an occasional dry fly. Small flesh flies work, too."

Peterson said the Kenai River is best fished by boat, allowing the angler access to many parts of the river that are otherwise unreachable. The Russian River is easily accessed by foot and can be fished from the banks.

"You can always do some lake fishing, too," Peterson said. "It's a good challenge, and it's a nice way to get away from the crowds."

Halibut fishing out of Homer continues to be steady, with plenty of larger fish being caught.

"We had three over 100 pounds earlier this week, and a 268-pounder that didn't have a derby ticket," said David Greiner, owner-operator of Kachemak King Sportfishing in Homer. "It's been my best year so far."

Greiner said that plenty of clients are landing fish that weigh in anywhere between 70 and 100 pounds.

Fish and Game reports that anglers are beginning to catch some bright king salmon, part of an enhancement project, in the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon, with salmon egg clusters or cut herring the bait of choice.

Red salmon are entering China Poot Bay in large numbers, while better than 100,000 pink salmon have entered Tutka Bay Lagoon, a hatchery site operated by the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. Commercial anglers are working both areas. Sport anglers are welcome, but are asked to give the commercial operations a wide berth.

For anglers wishing to get away from the beaten path, Fish and Game recommends a trip to Leisure Lake in Kachemak Bay State Park to fish for rainbow trout.

Leisure Lake is the source of China Poot Creek and is about a mile from the head of China Poot Bay. The lake was stocked with rainbow trout by the federal government in the 1950s, and those trout have benefited from salmon enhancement projects of the 1980s, growing big and fat on baby red salmon. Anglers can now find rainbows as large as 24 inches.

Alaska State Parks maintains trails and campsites in the area, which can be accessed by boat or via floatplane.

Silver salmon fishing out of Seward is beginning to pick up along the outer parts of Resurrection Bay. Good catches have been reported at Pony Cove and the Cheval Narrows.

The second run of kings has yet to hit the Seward area, but pink salmon are moving toward the freshwater drainages.

Finally, Fish and Game reports that most boats fishing for halibut and rockfish out of Seward are limiting out. Average halibut catches weigh in at 20 to 40 pounds, but fish over 100 pounds are taken regularly.

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