Despite temperatures hovering near freezing, intermittent bouts of icy cold rain and the powerful gusts of wind that would challenge the casting ability of even the most experienced anglers, a small but dedicated group endured the inclement weather to test their skills against one of Alaska most sought after fish the steelhead trout.
"The bite has definitely been on," said Joe Jackson of Homer.
Of all the anglers flogging the water on Saturday morning, he was the most exuberant with the fishing conditions.
"There are a lot of fish in the river right now, with some really nice steelies holding up in some of the deep buckets."
Fall is when the Anchor River gets the biggest return of steelhead trout. They spend part of their lives at sea but move up the river this time of year to spawn. However, steelhead aren't the only fish in the river, to which Jackson could easily attest.
"The Dolly Varden are really thick right now, too," he said. "I would bet I'll probably hook up at least 50 by the end of the day."
Most anglers on the water over the weekend were catching at least a few fish for there trouble, but not everyone thought the conditions were as good as Jackson.
"Compared to years past, I'd say this season was a little slow," said Wayne Cowan of Sterling, despite the fact he landed several steelheads in the 8- to 10-pound range.
"I'm not sure why it's slow. Maybe it's due to river bottom being different from all the rain last year. I don't know. I just know I've only been catching six to eight fish a day, not the usual 20 to 30 a day."
Beautiful Dolly Varden, such at this ornate colored male, were also in abundance this past weekend. Many anglers couldn't keep them of their hooks despite targeting for steelhead.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
John DeCarlo made the four-hour drive from Anchorage and, like Cowan, felt a little jaded.
"I'm used to catching double digits of steelies on this river and that just hasn't been the case this year. There's still some nice fish in there, though. I'm still getting a few 8-pounders a day, but it's slower than usual."
Fred Lind and his grandson Devon Lind also were down from Anchorage and believed the fishing conditions were a little sluggish.
"Not many steelhead," the senior Lind said. "There's a lot of dollies though lots. I've hooked up a few gorgeous males that were 20 to 22 inches and probably weighed 3 or 4 pounds."
Although the fishing wasn't as fast and furious as many would have liked, some anglers were more optimistic than others.
Justin Carideo from Eagle River had numb fingers and a cold, runny nose, yet he thought the freezing rain wasn't as bad as the weather could have been.
"I've fished here for many years and have seen it so cold around this time that my line would freeze and my reel would barely crank, it was so clogged with ice, so this isn't too bad," Carideo said.
His fishing buddy, who wanted to remain anonymous, said despite the mediocre reports from many anglers on the river, fishing conditions were likely better than what they reported.
"The fishing has been pretty good," he said. "It's just no one wants to say it because they don't want more people coming here than there already are."
The man's words might have rung true, since throughout the day many people landed fish. Those interviewed complained it was "way too crowded" during the weekend, although there were rarely more than 15 to 20 anglers on the water at any given time.
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