With a robust five month season, deciding when to visit requires more than just a crystal ball…
Perhaps the most common question I get when helping anglers plan their dream vacation to Alaska is “when is the best time to come…?”
Most people that visit Alaska are understandably unfamiliar with the timing of our various salmon runs or even the life cycle of a salmon in general. They also are unaware of the differences in weather and temperatures that go along with our rapidly changing summer. Moreover they know very little about the impact of commercial fisheries, yet another huge influence on run strength and timing.
Another huge factor to consider is the number of other people on the river. Of course the peak times are always going to attract more anglers. Certain fisheries also tend to produce more congested conditions. For instance if you plan to visit during the peak times for both the early and late runs of Kenai King salmon, you will not be alone. These are two of the most popular times to fish the river, not only for folks from the lower forty-eight, but for resident Alaskans as well. Thus you may be here at the peak of the salmon run, but so are many others. You will almost certainly get your turn, but you may need to watch a few others catch their fish before your opportunity knocks.
Indeed when one takes into account all the factors that influence any particular salmon run and then combine that with trying to predict the best weather… you’ve essentially embarked on mission impossible.
So, if nothing else, take your planning with a huge grain of salt and plan on having some okay days and also having some great days. So much with fishing depends on the undependable and thus the allure. The Kenai is one of the most unique and beautiful rivers in all of Alaska if not the world. It produces some of the largest and most sought after game fish anywhere on the planet and year after year its ideal salmon rearing habitat continues to provide robust returns. It is also the most popular sport fishing river in the entire state and despite obvious pressure, it is managed and manages itself, with amazing resiliency. Fishing its waters puts you in the esteemed company of many millions before you, the Kenai is a fishing icon.
Despite it’s infamy, the Kenai is just as unpredictable as any salmon bearing river. Not even the most focused crystal ball will be able to predict the exact timing or ensuing strength of pending returns. When attempting to select vacation dates, keep in mind an educated guess is the best you can hope for. After twenty years of being on the Kenai essentially every day of the season, I can tell you there have been countless outstanding days of fishing that occurred well outside “peak” dates. Salmon do not wear watches or look at a calendar. Pick some dates when the fish are known to be running, put in your time, and sooner or later, it will all come together.