A lot has happened in the two weeks since our last report in late June. We turned the corner into July and a big slug of Kenai sockeye and king salmon we right there waiting for us! The Kenai normally does not see peak numbers of late run sockeye until the second and third week of July but in the first week to ten days of July more sockeye salmon have been recorded by the sonar counter than any other year since recording began. Through July 8, over 175,000 sockeyes had been enumerated via the sockeye salmon DIDSON sonar located at Kenai River mile 19. The lowest count was 11,000 on July 1 and the peak count so far was on July 5 when over 35,000 fish passed the sonar. Let’s hope the run is not just early but actually very strong and that these great numbers sustain themselves over the remainder of the month. Fishing success has mirrored the sonar numbers and we have seen very good sockeye salmon fishing success in the last week to ten days on the Kenai River. Limit catches have been the rule and the fish are large, bright and in very good shape. For those that want to have predictable success and really want to take some great salmon meat home with the, the sockeye option is definitely the best bet.
King salmon fishing on the Kenai has also been outstanding. Sonar counts indicate a strong return so far with well over 3,200 kings recorded so far as of July 10. This is nearly double the number of fish we have seen by this date in the previous three seasons. Fishing has also been much improved so far this July compared to recent years although the fishery did open conservatively with no bait. Fishing success without bait was still quite high indicating a good number of kings were present throughout the system. Above Slikok Creek (just below the Soldotna Bridge) the slot limit remains in effect through July 14 and all kings between 42-55 inches must be released. Moreover, on July 8 the Kenai was opened to the use of bait below Slikok Creek and king salmon retention of any size is now allowed. Above Slikok Creek, no bait is allowed and again the slot limit remains in effect through July 14. Reports of above average success for kings was reported on the first day bait was allowed. This is typically the case when bait is introduced for the first time of the season but after the first day, this uptick will usually taper off and a more normal or average success rates will ensue as fish adjust to the scent in the water and increased participation in the fishery. Above the bridge without bait, fishing remains very good with far less boats and although the slot limit remains in effect, opportunity to harvest some of the smaller kings and release the more genetically valuable fish makes this section of the river a good choice. As always, especially given the period of low king salmon abundance we have experience in the last several season, we are HIGHLY ENCOURAGING our king salmon anglers to release the larger kings. These fish mean far more to the river and the future of this unique fishery than they do in someone’s fish box. We understand the desire to take fish home and with the abundant sockeye, halibut and even the smaller kings, this should not be an issue. If you have a trip scheduled for the next several weeks, please seriously consider providing an example to your fellow anglers and future generations by not viewing the more precious larger Kenai kings as a source of meat but rather as a vital fish toward rebuilding this once amazing fishery.
Halibut fishing as well as lingcod and rockfish has also been very good in early July. Lots of great eating sized halibut have been filling the fish boxes and even a few extremely large halibut and lingcod have been catch recently. As always this fishery continues to provide very consistent action and table fare for our guests and we greatly appreciate the efforts of all our hard working captains that brave the ocean water daily in search of these excellent eating fish!
Fly out fishing to the west side of Cook Inlet remains strong with lots of Big River Lake sockeye still present. Bear viewing has also remained very consistent with a good number of brown bears fishing the mouth of Wolverine Creek and providing anglers some amazing photo opportunities. This unique trip gives guests a great chance to see bears up close in their natural environment, all from the safety of the boat. The fishing is also a great bonus as the clear water gives anglers a great chance to see the masses of sockeye as they school up in the lake and prepare to make the journey up the creek and on to their spawning grounds. Another added bonus to this fly out trip to Big River Lake is the return flight over the glaciers and the west forelands. Seeing the massive ice fields and spotting bears and moose on the way home is an incredible way to cap off this very memorable excursion. Silver salmon have yet to make their first showing to rivers like the Kustatan and Bachatna Creek but this should occur in the next week to ten days and at that point we will begin to transition from the sockeye and start to target these always exciting and aggressive Coho salmon.
As we enter the busiest portion of our summer fishing season, we first would like to thank everyone that has fished with us so far and we hope you had a great time here in Alaska! We especially appreciate all those that released their trophy kings to travel on and make it to the spawning grounds from which they emerged. We look forward to some great fishing to come and as always myself and all my guide with do all we can to make sure your trip exceeds your expectations! Enjoy the many new pictures and be on the lookout for the next report just as soon as we get another opportunity to post.
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