Claudia Dudat, of Germany, works a hole of deep water near the canoe pull-out for the Swanson River in Captain Cook State Park.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
While the vast majority of salmon fishing may be past its prime, there are a few last bastions of hope for those still looking to land a silver, with the Swanson River being among the most secluded of the semi-road accessible fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula.
"It's a little past it's peak, but fish are still entering the river," said Robert Begich, sportfish area manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Begich said the silvers were entering the river at least as early as the beginning of last month, if not sooner.
"Fish and Game staff went out for the first time around the sixth of August and there were already fish in the lower river," he said, but since silvers continue to return through the month of August and September, Begich said by now, "silvers are all the way up the drainage."
While Fish and Game currently does not count the return of silvers to the Swanson River, weirs set up in the late 1980's recorded more than 20,000 fish returning annually, with a few daily counts of close to 2,000 fish.
With fish spread through the river already this year from it's mouth in Niksiki, to the canoe put-in upstream in Sterling there should still be ample angling opportunities for a few more weeks.
"Fishing's been pretty decent out there," Begich said.
Typically, fishermen will approach the Swanson River by floating down it in canoe for several days, and while the water levels may be a hair on the shallow side at this time of year, the fish should be plentiful for those that know how and when to catch them.
"Generally, there are great numbers after Aug. 20. Upriver, they'll hold in holes and you can see them," Begich said.
While sight fishing for salmon may be exciting, it is also more challenging since the fish can grow spooky in the clear, shallow water. Therefore, anglers may want to make camp along the river and target the fish during low-light times of day.
"Silvers like to move in low-light periods, like dawn and dusk," Begich said.
Upriver, flies may be the lure of choice, with bunny leeches and flash flies working well, although bright colored spinners and spoons can also illicit a bite.
Downriver, from the canoe pull-out in Captain Cook State Park down to the point where the Swanson empties into Cook Inlet, hardware and cured salmon eggs tend to work best.
"Vibrax, spoons, and drifting roe or floating it under a bobber all will work," Begich said.
Unlike further upstream, anglers fishing down low also need to pay attention to the tide cycle if they want success.
"Some tides aren't that conducive to fishing. Higher tides are better near the mouth of the river. They'll move in in groups," Begich said.
While the Swanson River is a good producer for silvers, there are many rivers where these fish can be caught at this time. It typically is the peaceful atmosphere of the Swanson away from powerboats and throngs of people on shore that bring fishermen out.
"It's a quiet place. That's the main reason people go," Begich said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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