The Kenai River isn't known as the king of kings without good reason, and the aquamarine waterway again proved this week just how and why it's earned the informal title.
"The king fishing has been incredible to say the least," said Brian Miller, of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's sonar counter located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river indicated a prolific passage of kings this past week.
The counter has been recording an average of 850 kings per day, with the peak of the week coming Tuesday when a whopping 1,711 fish swam by for a cumulative 14,894 late run kings so far this season.
"There's been little lows here and there, but overall it's been very consistent," Miller said, adding that below the bridge is the place to be on the water.
"It seems like a lot of fish have been holding up in the lower river, especially around Big Eddy and Beaver Creek," he said.
As if the large numbers of fish weren't enough, the large size of the fish should get eager anglers frothing at the mouth.
"We've seen a lot of big fish this year," Miller said. "We've seen more 70-pounders this year than in a long time, which is really nice."
Miller added that there has been no shortage of 50- and 60-pound fish either, and more 40-pounders than you can shake an Ugly Stick at. However, he said the 80-pounders and above have still been few and far between.
"We've only seen one or two that big," Miller said in regard to these true lunkers.
According to Fish and Game, the late run sockeye salmon are also entering the river in good numbers, yet catch rates have not been as good as expected.
"It's been a little slow, at least that's the report I'm hearing from people on the river. There's good numbers pushing through, but you gotta work for them," Miller said.
Fish and Game recorded 26,325 fish entering the river on Wednesday, for a cumulative 541,502 fish so far in the late run return. Up at the Russian River weir counter located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake only 424 salmon passed by the same day for a cumulative total of 4,084 fish.
With an average of 30,000 sockeye entering the river daily this past week, there may be some productive fishing over the weekend.
"The fish are in the river now, so the upper river should pick up anytime with the big numbers that have been coming in," Miller said.
"We might still get another big push at least that's what I'm hoping and it won't be long until we start seeing silver entering the river too," he added.
Fish and Game has also liberalized the bag limit for sockeye, as projections indicate they will reach their escapement goal on the Kenai River.
An Emergency Order raised the bag and possession limit for sockeye from three per day to six per day and six in possession in all portions of the Kenai except in the Russian River and the Kenai River "fly-fishing-only waters."
Also, the personal-use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River is now open 24 hours per day through July 31, when the fishery closes.
In flat fish news, the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby has broken into three-bill territory. Jim Corliss of Corvallis, Ore., is currently in first place with a 310.4-pound halibut caught on July 16 while fishing with Central Charters' Capt. Todd Jackson on the "Liahona".
The derby continues through September.
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