The end of August is now in sight and we are entering the final phase of our 2016 fishing season. The early run of silver salmon on the Kenai has mirrored many of the August silver fisheries statewide with relatively modest returns. We primarily targeted sockeye salmon until mid-month as the red run continued to trickle in with good enough numbers to provide limit fishing on most trips. As we transitioned to silver salmon around August 15, we definitely saw some action for both silvers and also the even year return of pink salmon but nowhere near the number we have been accustomed to over the last 2-3 seasons. The silvers have been larger on average than we typically see in the early run but again, overall abundance has been low. This is not to say we did not have not had some great days targeting silvers, we have just need to work extra hard to find fish and get limits. Combined with the aggressive pink salmon, which are also much larger on average the season, we have been able to provide plenty of action and tight lines. August has definitely been a wet one with a great deal of rain keeping the river very high. Water clarity has remained good but flows have been elevated with the wet weather. Silver fishing in the tidal reach of the lower river has been good on some days and then just ok on others but with all the pink salmon there has rarely been a dull moment. In the last week, silver numbers have definitely increased and provided more consistent action. Pink numbers are high but nowhere near the levels we have seen in past returns. We normally see the end of new pinks entering the river by the end of August and this year seems to be the same. Over the next month they will steadily march up river and spawn throughout the system and by late September, early October most will have perished. Soon we will see the first pushes of newly arriving late run silvers in the lower Kenai and this is always a great time to be on the water. Currently we are seeing good fishing for early run silvers in the waters just below Skilak Lake and casting sardine wrapped plugs as well as spinners has been best. With the higher water and the better numbers of silvers arriving in the lower Kenai over the past week, fishing below the lake should stay steady for the remainder of the month when the late run fish arrive in force.
Trout fishing has been good and is only getting better as the king salmon spawn is in full swing. Large red spawning chinook can be seen rolling in all the typical spawning locations and behind them the trout are having a feeding frenzy. Single egg patterns (beads) and also flesh flies are both doing well and a mix of both dolly varden and rainbow trout have been providing some great action. This fishery will only improve throughout the remainder of the fall as the they fatten up on the abundance of food created by spawning and dying sockeye, king and pink salmon runs. As we start to see some colder temperatures, the water will begin to recede and really condense the trout and this always improves the fishing action for big trophy rainbows.
Fly out fishing for silvers on the west side of Cook Inlet is coming to a close in most of the locations we fish such as the Kustatan, Bachatna Creek, Big River Lake and also the Chuit. Runs in this region were merely average this season with the best fishing occurring in the Kustatan and Bachatna Creek. Much like silver fishing across most of southcentral Alaska, silver salmon abundance was down on the west side of Cook Inlet this year. The final fly out location we will frequent will be Crescent Lake and this return typically fishes best in late August through mid-September.
September is definitely a magical time to be here on the Kenai Peninsula and the changing leaves, colder weather and plenty of great fishing opportunities are just around the corner. Huge late run silver salmon, trophy rainbows and also steelhead are all very exciting to pursue and we are looking forward to capping off what has been another remarkable season with many more awesome adventures on the water. There is a good reason why many feel late fall is the best time to fish Alaska and we definitely anticipate lots of excellent fishing over the next couple months. Stay tuned for more reports but meanwhile enjoy the following pictures from the past several weeks:
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