Anglers may have felt the frustration of not being able to wet a hook on the Kenai River last week when thousands of unimpeded sockeye were literally leaping out of the water during a fishing closure, but this weekend may make up for it.
“The river finally opened to sockeye again and it opened with a lot of fish in the system,” said Brian Miller of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna.
While the Kenai River is not getting daily counts of 100,000 fish, as can be typical at this time of year, it has been getting no less than 48,000 fish a day since opening to sportfishing again Monday. And, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recording a cumulative 748,773 fish as of Wednesday, there are numerous harvest opportunities for sockeye.
“People are picking up fish in all the usual places on the lower Kenai,” Miller said.
Dipnetting is open until Thursday at the mouth of the river, and sportfishing limits have been increased to six salmon 16 inches or greater with six in possession (not including kings) in the lower river below river mile 19. Two of those salmon may be silvers.
These hot spots include Centennial Campground, under the David Douthit Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, Swiftwater Campground and up to Bing’s Landing, to name a few.
“A lot of people are getting their limits, and a lot are getting one or two sockeye, but getting a silver too,” Miller said.
The lower Kenai River isn’t the only place that should be seeing red this weekend. The glut of fish that began entering the river late last month have started to boil the water on the upper Kenai River and at the Russian River.
On Monday, the weir at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake recorded 1,613 sockeye passing by a jump of 1,339 fish from the day before. On Tuesday, that daily counted surged again to 5,192 fish for a cumulative 16,251 so far in the late run.
The Kasilof River also continues to see a strong return of sockeye. This return which was at a cumulative 284,084 fish on Tuesday has already exceeded the upper end of the biological escapement goal, which is 150,000-250,000 fish.
As a result, Fish and Game issued an emergency order Thursday that increased the rod-and-reel sport limit for sockeye on the Kasilof from three per day and three in possession to six per day and 12 in possession.
Anglers are reminded that no more than two salmon per day and two in possession may be silver salmon, and fishing for king salmon closed Tuesday.
While fishing for sockeyes is expected to remain strong through the weekend, they’re not the only salmon biting.
“Silver fishing in the (Kenai) river is starting to get good and trolling for them in the salt has been great,” Miller said.
A few pink salmon have also started to show up in the lower Kenai River around the Cunningham Park area, according to Miller. The river is still a week or two away from the typical hordes of pinks so thick anglers can barely keep them off their hooks.
Silvers have also started to arrive in the Kasilof River, Deep Creek and the Anchor River. They’re said to be hitting hard in Homer as well, which should be good news for young anglers participating in this weekend’s youth-only fishing day sponsored by Fish and Game.
“Fishing has been hot at the lagoon, so we’re expecting some good silver fishing this weekend,” Carol Kerkvliet, Homer assistant area management biologist with Fish and Game.
On Saturday, a portion of the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon will only be open to youths 15 and younger from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Fish and Game will have its Mobile Aquatic Classroom set up and staff will be present to give demonstrations and assist children from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Kids aren’t the only ones who have something to look forward to. This weekend the Homer Chamber of Commerce will resurrect a derby that’s been dormant since 1999.
The Homer Silver Salmon Spitacular will run from Saturday through Aug. 13 with angling at the lagoon and in all salt water south of the U.S. Coast Guard marker in Anchor Point, according to Linda Winters, an event organizer with the Homer Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ll pay out a cash prize for the first through fifth place anglers and merchandise prizes for the sixth through tenth place anglers,” Winters said.
Daily and kids prizes will also be awarded.
Proceeds from the derby will be used to support the stocking program for the lagoon and next year’s silver salmon derby, according to Winters.
“We want to make it an annual event,” she said.
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