As always, July on the Kenai Peninsula has been very busy and filled with great memories and lots of fish. With this being our busiest time, it is always a very tough stretch for us as lack of sleep and long days definitely begin to take their toll. That said, we are always very thankful for all the great people we get to fish and we sincerely hope everyone had a great time while enjoying this angling paradise.
The sockeye salmon return to the Kenai this July can be best described as steady as there have not been any huge pushes of fish but rather the entry pattern has remained in the range is 15,000-50,000 per day. This is the result of higher than anticipated numbers early in July of both king and sockeye and thus the level of commercial fishing has been high since minimal escapement goals for both species are expected to be exceeded. This projection thus gives managers the discretion to fish the commercial set and drift fleet more often and their interception of fish in Cook Inlet has a direct effect on numbers entering the river. Even though we have not experience red hot days and huge numbers, fishing success has still been good. The limit for sockeye salmon was three fish per person until July 21 when the limit was upped to six fish per person. We have had a number of days since then when all of our anglers were able to obtain the six fish limit although we have had a few days when not all have taken their complete limit. Nevertheless, with persistence and time, we have seen very good catches of beautiful ocean bright sockeye and this has translated into lots of fish for our guests to take home. This return should continue to provide steady and consistent action and for those that are looking to retain and take home fish, this remained the most viable option available.
King salmon fishing this year has been both exciting, encouraging and frustrating. We seem to be finally exiting our multi-year period of low abundance but unfortunately with the high level of commercial fishing coupled with the use of bait in-river, numbers of king actually reaching the spawning gravel promises to be barely, if adequate, to provide a realistic rebound. As always we have been doing our part to preserve these genetically unique salmon by highly encouraging our guests that choose to fish for kings to release them, especially the very large ones. Fortunately, there have been a good number of very large kings in the river this July and we have seen several 50, 60 and even 70+ pound fish come to the boat over the last several weeks. Most if not all of these fish have left our hands unharmed to spread their precious genes to future generations. Hopefully this example will spread to more anglers river wide and the philosophy of killing big kings on the Kenai will become less common then it has been during its storied past. King numbers in recent days have slowed somewhat and fishing success has followed suit and again the intersection of kings in the commercial set net fishery is largely to blame for this reduction of new fish entering the system.
Fly out fishing on the west side of Cook Inlet is in the transition from sockeye salmon to silver salmon and is off to a slow but steady start. We have seen a few limit days for silvers on the Kustatan but for the most part it has been half limit fishing and water conditions have been on the low side. For many days we have had sunny bright conditions and this was not a big help to the fishing but recent trips have seen some clouds and rain and this seems to be help with the action somewhat. It is still early for this run so surely the numbers will improve over the next week to ten days and we will see the remarkable silver fishing the west side of Cook Inlet is known for.
Fishing for halibut, lingcod and rockfish has been very consistent although weather and specifically wind has hampered the effort on a few trips. As always all of our captains have made every effort to make the best of each day and this has almost always resulted in big smiles and full fish boxes.
As we head in to the final week of July, we are hoping for a good push of sockeye and kings but this will largely be dependent on the level of commercial activity we see in the Inlet. Soon we will be transitioning into our fall fisheries and silver salmon and pink salmon will be arriving. Please enjoy all the great pictures below, especially the release photos of monster Kenai Kings and the huge limits of Kenai sockeye!
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