Silvers still to show; sayonara sockeye

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007

Howard Wray of North Kenai knows early fishing for silvers is a lot like playing the lottery. The odds may be one in a million, but almost every week someone defies those odds to win, which is why early Thursday morning he was steadfastly soaking eggs at Cunningham Park.

"I haven't seen anybody get anything, but I'd love to be the first one," he said.

Wray, who wet a hook just after the crack of dawn, had been at it more than an hour on Wednesday along with roughly a dozen other anglers, but he said the situation wasn't looking too promising.

"I haven't seen anybody run for a pole yet," he said.

Instead, like him, they were content to sit back and wait for a bite in the relative comfort of their lawn chairs, as opposed to whipping the water like sockeye fishermen. Wray said this was one of the perks of silver fishing, along with the fact that fewer tourists take part in the fishery with each passing day.

"I've had my fill of them this week," he said in regard to tourists.

Wray explained just days before, he had been sockeye fishing in Soldotna when he saw a fisherman from out of state had snagged a sockeye in the dorsal fin. He informed the man that, by law, foul hooked fish must be released. He said the man responded by hauling the fish several feet onto shore and out of the water, where he knocked it on the head with a rock, removed the hook and then kicked the lifeless fish back into the fast flowing current. When Wray asked the man what the heck he was doing, he said the fisherman replied he had to stun the fish to get the hook out.

"Let me tell you, it made me mad," he said.

After that incident, Wray said he knew it was time to switch to silver fishing, and he immediately felt more at home among the mostly local anglers at Cunningham Park. He said just a day ago, he witnessed a woman fishing for silvers accidentally set the hook on a roughly 40-pound king salmon. Knowing this fishery closed last Tuesday, Wray said the woman quickly brought the fish into the shallow water and released it back to the river.

"I'm sure it wasn't easy for her to turn a fish like that loose, but she knew it was the right thing to do," he said.

By Alaska Department of Fish and Game accounts, the silver return is only just beginning in the Kenai and fishing is expected to improve as the month of August progresses, which is why Wray said he will continue to stick it out.

"Right now they're just starting to come in, but I've been coming to this spot since '84 and it usually produces well," he said.

Wray said he has even shored a few silvers weighing more than 20 pounds over those years.

Fish and Game is forecasting silver fishing also to be fair farther south, on the Kasilof and Anchor rivers and in Deep Creek this weekend, and absolutely boiling the water, white hot in Homer at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

As far as sockeye fishing is concerned, several thousand salmon a day are still entering the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, with 13,125 and 4,113 salmon, respectively, being estimated on Wednesday by Fish and Game. However, the fishing has been fair at best along most stretches of these rivers.

Even the action at the Russian River has dropped off in the last few days, though more than 1,000 fish a day have been passing through the weir located at the outlet of lower Russian Lake since Sunday.

"I've been here since last Saturday and I think there's only one day I didn't get my limit, but it's really slowed down with today being the worst," said Roy Kinney of Washington, on Wednesday.

"It's been hit or miss today, just not very consistent," he added.

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