Fish on! Second run of sockeyes hits Russian

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2000

The second run of sockeye salmon has hit the Russian River, according to Cameron Hawthorne at the Kenai Lake Lodge and Kenai Lake Tackle shop.

"They blasted in here yesterday," Hawthorne said Thursday afternoon. "My son and two of his friends were fishing down there, and they hooked 60 fish -- that's their story anyway."

Hawthorne did say that several guides have corroborated the story and have switched over from trout fishing to fishing for reds over the past couple of days.

"The reds are piling up," Hawthorne said.

Anglers heading up to the Russian River and its confluence with the Kenai River should be prepared to deal with somewhat different fishing conditions than were present during the first run of reds on the Kenai.

While water clarity remains pretty good despite recent heavy rains, the water level is high and the current is moving fast.

"There are some places where you didn't need hip boots before that you do now," Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne said that trout fishing along the Russian River and the upper Kenai River has been excellent, though many anglers stop chasing rainbows once the reds hit the river.

Hawthorne said that the Kenai and Russian Rivers aren't thick with anglers just yet, and that the campground is about one-quarter full, but he expects that to change as word of the reds' arrival gets out.

Anglers fishing for reds from the bank on the lower part of the Kenai River are having plenty of success using flies.

"The sockeyes have been better this year than in three or four years," said Mitch Grissim.

Grissim, a guest at Krog's Kamp in Soldotna, has been coming to the peninsula for seven years with a group of family members from Nashville, Tenn., and Seattle. He said that the group has been catching plenty of reds, some as large as 14 pounds, fishing from the bank at the camp.

"We've caught more fish this year -- and we still have two days left," said Fred Culbreath, Grissim's father-in-law. "We're going to go home with 120 pounds of fillets each."

In addition to their reds and a moderately successful quest for a Kenai king salmon, the clan took advantage of Cook Inlet's steady halibut fishing. Grissim's 11-year-old daughter Anna Maria, on her first fishing trip with the guys, caught the first halibut of the day on their charter trip out of Ninilchik.

King salmon have been entering the Kenai River in excellent numbers -- 2,392 kings were counted passing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar counter at the mouth of the river, boosting the total of late-run kings to 26,705.

Water clarity has decreased on the lower Kenai River with the recent rains, and the muddy conditions have made things a little tougher on anglers hoping to land a king.

Recent rough weather has blown out a few halibut trips on Cook Inlet, but Kathy Coe at Ofishial Charters in Ninilchik said that many anglers are coming back with nice-sized fish.

"Besides the rain, it's been pretty good fishing," Coe said. "There were several 70-pound fish caught this morning, and we're out on another trip this afternoon."

Coe said that generally, fishing a deeper hole nets a bigger fish, but that it isn't always the case. She said an acquaintance fishing a hole that generally produces 30-pound "chicken" halibut hooked a fish that weighed in at close to 300 pounds recently.

Coe said that the fish in the inlet seem to be migrating just a little, but that the fishing is still good. Boats are limiting out in relatively short time, which is good because the tides in the inlet are moving quickly, limiting the window of opportunity for keeping bait on the bottom without using several pounds of weight.

When the next big clam tide cycle starts July 29, Coe said that Ofishial Charters will head to Seward for a week to check out the silver salmon action, which has been reported as good and getting better in Resurrection Bay by Fish and Game.

The silver salmon haven't quite made it to the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon just yet, but are expected to hit around the first of August. There are a few early-run kings to be had at the lagoon, and their numbers are expected to increase dramatically as August approaches.

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