While the closure of the Kenai River to sockeye fishing is undeniably a blow to fishermen, die-hard anglers need only turn their attention to king salmon for a solution to this year’s piscatorial problems.
“Kings should definitely be worth going for this weekend,” said Brain Miller of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna.
Since July 15, no fewer than 1,000 kings a day had passed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar station, located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river.
Persistent rains muddied the mighty Kenai earlier this week, and the chocolate-colored water slowed the bite a bit, but it certainly didn’t stop it.
Daily count numbers dropped slightly to 933 kings last Sunday, followed by 630 on Monday, 958 on Tuesday and 874 on Wednesday for a cumulative 23,901 so far in the late run.
“Fish were still being caught while it was mud-dy,” Miller said, but added the king bite should pick up more as the water of the Kenai River clears up with the clear skies predicted today, Saturday and Sunday.
“This weekend should be as good, if not better, than it should be for this time of year,” Miller said.
He said the end of July is not only the peak of king fishing, but also a time when many big fish are caught. This year appears to no exception as Miller said many 70 and 80 pound fish have been caught.
While the majority of the Kenai River is closed to sockeye fishing, anglers determined to catch a red can still wet a hook in the fly fishing-only waters of the upper Kenai and the Russian rivers, where the daily bag limit remains at three fish per day.
Sockeye numbers from the weir at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake dipped to 176 fish last Sunday, but climbed back up on Monday to 1,783, followed by 575 on Tuesday and 902 on Wednesday for a cumulative 7,539 so far in the late run.
“Fishing’s been slow up there, but it should be building soon too,” Miller said, citing the large numbers of sockeye entering the the lower Kenai River, which take roughly seven to 10 days to make their way up river.
On Sunday, Fish and Game recorded 33,363 sockeye entering the Kenai River, followed by 43, 695 on Tuesday and 49,799 on Wednesday for a cumulative 270,990 sockeye so far in the late run.
However, this is still well below Fish and Game’s minimum goal of 650,000 sockeye for the Kenai River.
“Hopefully they’ll get their quota soon and open it back up,” said John Connors of Soldotna, who found himself fishing for silver salmon at Cunningham Park in Kenai on Thursday instead of fishing for reds.
With heavy weight to off-set the fast-flowing outgoing tide, Connors was soaking salmon eggs on the river bottom while a dozen other anglers did the same or flipped spoons and pixies in the hopes of catching a silver or pink.
“So far, there’s been nothing. I haven’t caught any fish and I haven’t seen anyone else catch any either,” Connor said after roughly 30 minutes of fishing.
Connors said he fished the night before and noted the same results.
WHile the bite was next to nill, large numbers of sockeye salmon could be seeing jumping out of the water on Thursday morning as they fought their way upriver against the outgoing tide.
“I don’t mind it,” Connors said in regard to the flying fish. “I enjoying seeing them jump and seeing an occasional seal or two come up, and every so often seeing a guide boat come down with a big king on. It breaks it up.”
While the silver fishing may still be a few days to weeks from it’s peak on the Kenai River, further to the south the water is already boiling.
The early run of silvers have started to arrive at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon in Homer. Fish and Game reports that drifting salmon eggs in the inlet channel of the lagoon during the flooding and ebbing tides is bringing the best success.
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