Take your pick. Fishing in both fresh water and salt water promises to be smoking hot this weekend, and there's no end in sight.
The buzz of outboards, the doink, doink, doink of sinkers hitting the water, the splash of salmon jumping -- it must be the Kenai River in mid-July.
With the cooler weather earlier this month, the Kenai has been dropping and clearing, and was in excellent shape at midweek.
Last week, word spread that hordes of the reds -- sockeye salmon -- were in the Kenai, or would be any day. That was all it took. By Friday night, half the population of Southcentral Alaska had migrated to the Kenai. No other fish, not even king salmon, is capable of inciting that level of activity.
But the red fishing didn't really turn on until Monday. By Tuesday, the lower 25 miles of the Kenai was echoing to whoops and hollers of "Fish on!" Red fishing should remain hot through this weekend, and continue to smoke for at least another week. By this weekend, these feisty fish should be present in good numbers throughout the river downstream from Skilak Lake.
When fishing for reds, please don't trample the bank vegetation. Landowners have spent millions of dollars to protect and restore this important part of the habitat needed by juvenile salmon. Wear waders, so you can fish while standing in the water. Stick to existing trails. Try to leave the bank in better condition than when you found it.
When fishing for reds (or any other fish in fresh water), remember that state regulation requires that fish hooked elsewhere than in the mouth must be released immediately. The fine for a violation of this regulation is $125.
To report salmon snaggers and other violators, call Fish and Wildlife Protection at 262-4573. If you have a cell phone, 711 will put you through to Alaska State Troopers dispatch, and the call is free. Be prepared to describe the violator(s). A description of boats and vehicles, including boat registration numbers or vehicle license numbers is also helpful.
Judging from all reports, king salmon fishing greatly improved this week.
"We had over 60 percent success on our half-day charters Wednesday, and it's usually about 50 this time of year," said Jim Golden, of The Sports Den, in Soldotna.
Wednesday morning, one guide started fishing at 6 a.m. and had four fish by 8. Another had limited out by 9:30. That afternoon, one boat went out at 1 and was finished by 3, Golden said.
"I was out for two hours," he said. "We had two on, and saw other boats with fish on, all around us, all the time," he said.
Tuesday, Doug East, of Valdez, pulled in a 74-pounder while fishing with Captain Lynn Keogh, of Key-O's Guide Service.
On July 11, a visitor fishing from the Fish Walk in front of the Soldotna Visitor Information Center, hooked and landed a 40-pounder, after battling with it for an hour and a half. This may have been the first time a king salmon was caught from this walkway, which was intended to be used for red fishing.
Even if you don't go fishing for kings, stop by the visitor center and see the life-size photo of Soldotna resident Les Anderson with his 97-pound, 4-ounce world record king, and a beautifully displayed mount of the fish.
Anglers with drift boats (and other non-powered boats) have had great success fishing for kings on Mondays this month. On Mondays in July, fishing isn't allowed from powered boats or registered guide boats. Anglers in one drift boat, back-bouncing at Big Eddy, reportedly caught and released 12 kings Monday.
Geneese Peterson, at Kenai Cache Tackle, said guides had reported seeing bright reds in some of the sloughs and backwaters of the Kenai River between Sportsman's Landing and Jim's Landing.
"They didn't know whether these were just a few fish that were ahead of the main run, or what," she said. "They were trout fishing."
Whatever, the next few days should see improved red fishing throughout the upper Kenai and in the Russian River.
File this under "Well, duh." Anglers have finally discovered that sockeyes migrate up the Kasilof and can be legally caught with a drifted fly. Maybe this will relieve pressure off the Kenai.
A sonar count estimate of 5,000 reds per day makes this relatively small stream quite productive. That number has been exceeded in more than half of the days since June 15. The daily sonar count has been exceeding 10,000 this week.
Lower Peninsula Streams
A few silvers are coming into the lower peninsula streams. Early morning fishing, before the light hits the water, is best.
Deep Creek-Anchor Point Marine
Halibut fishing remains good to excellent. Tiffany Kelly, at Ninilchik Saltwater Charters & Lodge, reported that anglers fishing from their three boats came back with nice fish Wednesday.
"One boat had one over 200 pounds and a couple over 100," she said. "Another boat had a couple 70s and some in the 40s. Everybody limited out."
If you tire of fishing, or if your doctor advises you to stop, consider digging razor clams at Ninilchik or Clam Gulch this weekend. Two of the year's best minus tides occur Saturday and Sunday. Check a tide book for details.
Halibut fishing remains good to excellent, and silvers are putting in a strong, early appearance. Chris Donich, at Daniel's Personalized Guide Service in Homer, said their customers came back with silvers, halibut and a couple of kings Tuesday. Saltwater silver fishing should improve over the next two weeks.
This time of year, some charterboat outfits combine halibut and silver salmon fishing. If this interests you, be sure to ask if these combo trips are available before you book a trip. Some skippers venture south, into lower Cook Inlet, and get into some excellent lingcod and rockfish fishing, weather allowing.
Resurrection Bay/ Gulf of Alaska
The silver fishing in the outer portion of Resurrection Bay is fairly erupting, it's so hot. Pony Cove is probably best, and the Fox Island area next-best. Whether you troll or mooch, fish with herring or hootchies, it just doesn't matter. These fish are gluttons, and they are seldom finicky. If you fly fish, bring an 8-weight rod along.
After you catch your limit of silvers, it's a fairly short run out into the Gulf of Alaska to excellent halibut, lingcod and rockfish fishing.
If you're driving your own boat, keep in mind that this water can turn dangerous quickly. Don't even think about going as far as Pony Cove unless you have a good seaworthy boat and lots of experience. Check the marine weather, and leave a float plan with the harbormaster before leaving Seward.
While in Seward, you might want to talk to one of the charterboat outfits about booking a trip later this month or early next month for salmon sharks, Alaska's only big game fish.
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