The late run of silver salmon is beginning to trickle into the Kenai River and is expected to peak during the next week. But some of the best fishing on the river has been above Skilak Lake, where anglers are catching the rainbow trout and Dolly Varden of their dreams.
"We're seeing some beautiful fish -- (the Alaska Department of) Fish and Game has taken care of our river," said Cheryl Rice at Alaska Troutfitters in Cooper Landing. "A gentleman caught a 29-inch Dolly the other day -- he thought he had a red on. The fishing has just been unbelievable."
Rice said her outfit specializes in rainbows and Dollies, but added that there are some silvers to be had as well.
"There's a lot of fly fishing going on," Rice said. "The reds are pretty much spawned out, so flesh patterns are starting to work.
"My guides are telling me that things are slowing down. There's still plenty of fish -- you're just going to have to work for them."
Rice said that during an eight-hour drift boat trip, clients had been landing upwards of 150 rainbows and Dolly Varden.
"And we don't count sockeyes," Rice joked. "I tell my clients that if they bring one of those in the boat, they have to kiss it."
Tackle on the upper Kenai River is restricted to single-hook, artificial lures, and bait is prohibited. Rainbows are a catch-and-release species on the upper Kenai, while the bag limit for Dolly Varden is two per day, with restrictions on the length of fish that can be kept.
Fish and Game reports fishing for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden downstream from Skilak Lake as good to excellent for anglers who can sort through the tangle of spawning pink and silver salmon.
The run of silver salmon on the Kasilof River has slowed, and as of Sept. 1, bait and treble hooks are prohibited downstream of the Sterling Highway bridge to protect the run of steelhead trout. Steelhead trout must be released without removing the fish from the water. Similar restrictions apply to the Anchor River, the Ninilchik River, Deep Creek and Stariski Creek to preserve the steelhead runs in those streams.
Anglers hoping to land a Cook Inlet halibut are running out of time. The tractors at the Deep Creek boat launch in Ninilchik will be operating through Sunday, but weather and water conditions are severely limiting operations.
"We've been blown out the past couple of days," said Tom Redmond at Ninilchik Saltwater Charters. "We did have a boat get out two days ago, and he came back with two 130-pounders, two 90-pounders, a 75- and a 50-pounder, so there's still some pretty good fish.
"We're looking forward to a good year next year -- that's about the point we're at now."
Halibut fishing out of Homer also is tapering off as the fish are migrating to deeper water to spawn and weather becomes more and more of a factor.
"At this point, about half of the halibut charters are open and about half have closed up for the season," said Jeanne Limoseth, visitor center director for the Homer Chamber of Commerce. "Some will be closing down anywhere from the middle to the end of the month, and some will stay open on call."
Limoseth said that while some end-of-season specials might be available, charter prices usually won't drop more than $10 or $20 from summer rates.
"Their prices go down a little bit, but not a whole lot," Limoseth said.
Silver salmon fishing on Resurrection Bay has tapered off, but halibut fishing is still good.
"They're in shallower -- they're after fish carcasses," said Eric Clock at Semaka Charters in Seward.
Clock said most of the charter operators that live outside of Seward have closed up for the season, but local charter operators will take clients out fishing, weather permitting, into October.
"I went out fishing the other day. The weather was pretty bumpy, but we went fishing," Clock said. "I'll go 'til the first week of October, then it'll be too rough for me."
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