There is plenty of good ice fishing on the Kenai Peninsula -- once there is good ice. Following recent warm weather, though, sound ice may be hard to find.
"There's still a lot of open water on the larger lakes. I wouldn't encourage people to be out on them," Robin West, manager of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said Wednesday. "Unless it's high elevation, you probably shouldn't be out on it."
Even the high lakes are shaky. On Sunday, wet spots showed through heavy snow on Carter Lake, just south of the junction of the Seward and Sterling highways. Water filled the tracks of skiers by the margins. There was no ice at all on the eastern end of Crescent Lake. Dan Lentz, on the recreation staff for Chugach National Forest in Seward, said those are the lakes he would have recommended.
"It's still kind of early. We haven't had any hard freezes, yet," he said.
West said ice fishers tried Watson and Finger lakes during a short spate of freezing weather earlier this fall. This week, though, rangers said those lakes could be dangerous.
"They would encourage people to wait. The ice has become rotten," West said Wednesday.
Forecasters predicted cooler weather late this week. But even when the cold comes, lakes such as Carter that already are covered with snow, will be insulated, said longtime ice fisher Spencer DeVito.
"We have enough ice on some lakes to hold snow, and we'll never get good ice this year," he said. "You've got to be careful."
That said, there is no shortage of good spots.
Fishing is good for native rainbows in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and there are a number of lakes near the roads that offer excellent fishing for Dolly Varden, stocked rainbows and coho salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers free lists and maps of the stocked lakes.
Access to some stocked lakes can be a challenge. The only access may be along a power line trail or other public utility right of way. The only parking may be on public roads well away from stocked lakes. But access to the ice is always there. The department does not stock any lake that lacks public access.
Ordinarily, once the refuge opens to snowmachine travel after Dec. 1, serious ice anglers want to concentrate on the refuge's lakes where there are fewer people and the fish can be bigger. But this year, there may not be enough snow by Dec. 1 for managers to open the refuge to snowmachines.
"The snow needs to cover most of the vegetation in the areas that are highly used," West said. "It's got to be a couple of feet in total accumulation. It's not inches."
While there already may be sufficient snow in the high country, routes to reach it lack snow, he said.
More adventurous ice fishers can reach remote lakes on skis or snowshoes. Those legging it to a remote lake will find it useful to bring a pulk (a small freight sled) or a cheap child's plastic toboggan-style sled useful for transporting gear and fish.
For those with less time, the fishing close to town is worth exploring. Scout Lake just outside Soldotna is easily accessible by road and offers good fishing for landlocked cohos. Some of the bigger lakes on the refuge, such as Hidden Lake and Skilak Lake, offer good fishing for lake trout. Burbot are available in Juneau Lake.
Pike are available in the Mackey Lakes drainage. Fish and Game personnel have netted pike in the 4- to 5-pound range from Union Lake.
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