Shift in focus from Kings to Sockeye and Silvers has changed “the best time” to visit.

Ivy2As most are aware, our king salmon returns are just not what they once were. Recent years have seen low enough returns to warrant complete closures and seeing this writing on the wall had us looking in alternative directions many years back. It was time to give the kings a break and let them rebuild.  For us, the most obvious and attractive alternative fishery to king salmon is sockeye. First, sockeye are more abundant overall, typically arriving in the hundreds of thousands and not tens of thousands like king salmon. Second, sockeye salmon limits are more liberal than king salmon. We do not have catch and release or slot limits for sockeye. Restrictions are unusual so they are very predictable for planning purposes. Thirdly, sockeye salmon are caught from shore. While kings are bigger, most of the time the fishing is done by back trolling from the boat with the rods in the holders.  With sockeye, you actually get out of the boat and wade into the river. You are actually fishing and doing it all; the fishing, hooking and catching.

As a guide I see first-hand the satisfaction this bestows upon my clients as they know they had a lot to do with a successful day. Sockeye typically have a far more forgiving learning curve as well because with kings, one missed opportunity is likely all you will get in a day. You can lose a few with sockeye and still expect to catch a limit and that’s a nice cushion to have especially if you are totally new to sockeye fishing or even fishing in general. Finally rounding out the list of reasons sockeye have provided a great alternative to king salmon is they are amazing to eat. Their firm red meat holds its quality longer than any other salmon and with a daily limit of three, the amount of fish you can take home really adds up.

bigsilverSilvers have long been a prominent segment of our fishing season with the run often overlapping with the end of the sockeye return in most years. Normally we will start catching decent numbers of silvers while we are still sockeye fishing and we know then it is time to get in the boat and start targeting the fresh silvers with lures. This transition normally occurs in the second week of August.

So back to the million dollar question, one I get asked a lot when people are inquiring about a fishing trip to Alaska. When is the best time to come? The truth: there really is no best time. Run timing, weather, river conditions, luck, all play a huge part in what makes each season unique. The best guidance I can offer is to steer toward typically good times, look back at historical averages. Our salmon runs all seem to return within a somewhat predictable goal post each year so trying to time your trip during the historical peak of the run should serve you well. All that said, we do have several different runs of fish and their peaks, especially for sockeye and silvers, can be well distributed over the course of several days and even weeks. Here’s a list of the most notable runs in our area and their peak times:

Early Run Kasilof Kings: June 5-15: PEAK

Early Run Kasilof Sockeye: June 5-25: PEAK

Early Run Kenai Kings: June 10-25: PEAK

Early Run Kenai Sockeye (Russian River Run): June 5-20: PEAK

Late Run Kasilof Kings: July 15-31: PEAK

Late Run Kasilof Sockeye: July 5-25: PEAK

Late Run Kenai Kings: July 15-25: PEAK

Late Run Kenai Sockeye: July 15-25: PEAK

Early Run Kasilof Silvers: Aug 15-25: PEAK

Early Run Kenai Silvers: Aug 10-25: PEAK

Kenai Pink Salmon (even years only): Aug 5-20: PEAK

Late Run Kenai Silvers: Sept 5-25: PEAK

Southern Kenai Peninsula Steelhead: Sept 15-Oct. 10: PEAK

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Kenai Guides,
33350 Keystone Drive, Soldotna, AK 99669
Phone: (1800) 622-1177
Website: kenai-guides.com
Email: mgfish@gci.net

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