Sockeyes and Dollies and kings, oh my!
"That's where our universe is right now," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologist Mark Gamblin. "We've got two more weeks to weather through. Hopefully, we'll finish up with a bang."
Fishing on the Kenai River certainly has been good to excellent as the late run of sockeye salmon has been entering the river en masse, the late run of kings has been strong and plenty of Dolly Varden have been following the salmon into the river to feed on eggs.
"Depending on the area, I can't imagine spending a whole lot of time catching a limit, maybe two or three hours," said Richard Hatt, owner of The Fishin' Hole tackle shop in Soldotna. "You'll lose a lot of fish before you retain a bag limit. You can catch a lot of fish in that amount of time, but they're not always fair-hooked."
Hatt said anglers have been using all types of tackle for sockeyes. Coho flies are popular, but Hatt recommends trying a sharp hook, such as a Gamakatsu, with a piece of yarn.
"The sockeye's mouths are kind of bony. If you use a real sharp hook, you don't loose as many fish that way," Hatt said.
Fish and Game reports a steady stream of sockeyes entering the river. The sonar counter on the lower river tallied 24,186 fish Monday, 37,790 Tuesday and 27,295 Wednesday. Since the late-run sockeye count began July 1, 338,051 sockeyes have passed the sonar counter.
A good portion of those fish have made their way to the Fish and Game weir on the Russian River, where 269 fish were counted Monday, the first day of the late run count. That number swelled to 1,264 Tuesday and 3,530 Wednesday.
The waters of the Russian River and its confluence with the Kenai are among several areas designated as fly-fishing-only waters, and restrictions on the size of hooks apply.
Gamblin said that dipnetters at the mouth of the Kenai River were doing well, and added that this week's commercial opener will be a good indicator of how the rest of the month will go.
"That tells us what is out there in the inlet and coming our way," Gamblin said. "Together with the commercial test net boats at the lower end of the inlet, those are two of the more important tools we have to gauge how the run is developing. That and the sonar counts once they get into the river."
Hatt said reports from the king salmon fishery have been good as well.
"From the guides I've talked to, it sounds like about a 50 percent catch rate, which is not too bad, really," Hatt said.
Hatt said that some boats come back with a full limit, some come back empty some have a mixed bag.
"So far, things are still looking good," Gamblin said.
Plenty of Dolly Varden have followed the salmon into the river. Hatt reported his 10-year-old son Ryan caught two nice Dollies, one of them 16-to-18 inches, fishing off Big Eddy Road in Soldotna.
"He was trying to catch them using salmon eggs on a small hook and just waiting for them to bite," Hatt said.
Anglers also may start to see silver salmon in the Kenai in the next couple of weeks.
"Guys that fish down below in Beaver Creek and The Pastures, they'll start picking up silvers inadvertently while fishing for kings," Hatt said.
Fish and Game is conducting a large tagging study or silver salmon this summer and has been tagging fish in lower Cook Inlet with radio telemetry tags.
Jeff Fox of Fish and Game said biologists actually are applying two tags. A transponder tag, which will help biologists determine the total population, is inserted into the fish's cheek. The radio telemetry tag, which is 2 inches long, three-quarters of an inch wide and has a 12-inch wire antenna, is attached just below the dorsal fin.
Fox said that the telemetry tag will help biologists determine the apportionment of silvers to each stream throughout the inlet. Some permanent monitoring stations have been set up on the bigger river drainages, and Fish and Game will track the rest of the 700 tags by air.
Fish and Game is asking that anglers return radio tags as soon as possible after harvesting a silver so that the tags can be reused.
"They're approximately $200 a piece, so the goal is to reattach it to another fish," Fox said. "They look like a big mouse. They can't be mistaken for anything else."
Fish and Game is offering a T-shirt to anyone who returns a radio tag to the Soldotna office on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Tags that cannot be returned in person can be returned via the mail with a note including the date and location where the salmon was harvested, a return address and a T-shirt size.
Silvers are beginning to show in the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon, and halibut fishing from Homer, Anchor Point and Ninilchik has been good to very good.
Fishing for Dolly Varden on the Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River also has been good, and silvers and pinks will begin entering those streams in the next couple of weeks.
Halibut fishing out of Seward has been excellent, as has fishing for silver salmon in Resurrection Bay.
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