One word can be used to best describe the early 2016 season we have experienced thus far: Normal! After consecutive years of poor king salmon returns and accompanying restrictions, this year looks very positive. We have seen exceptional numbers of king salmon on both the Kasilof and yes the Kenai River as well. The Kenai began the season with a complete closure but due to strong numbers of early run king salmon returning to the Kenai and also surrounding rivers, the department of fish and game issued an emergency order on June 4 opening the Kenai from the mouth to Skilak Lake to catch and release fishing. More on the Kenai later in this report.
The Kasilof River has seen outstanding action for early run king salmon beginning in mid May and is still seeing good numbers even up to the date of this post. The run has been comprised of both hatchery and naturally produced kings with the ration tilting toward more hatchery than wild kings. Fishing with both spin n glows and kwik-fish, our boats have been seeing multiple opportunities at ocean bright kings on each trip with an average of 2-5 fish coming to the net. Increased releases of hatchery smolt into Crooked Creek in recent years seems to be building this once robust fishery back to the strength of decades prior when fishing for king in May and June was outstanding. The predominance of 2-ocean hatchery fish points to next year being an outstanding early run king year on the Kasilof. Hopes are high but only time will tell. Meanwhile we continue to enjoy steady action for kings on this drift boat only river and in recent days, good waves of newly arriving sockeye salmon have been seen surging upriver. Soon we will make the transition from king to sockeye and begin fishing the upper river below Tustamena Lake for these silver bullets.
On the Kenai, we were able to get out and fish for kings a few times in the last week and fishing action was outstanding. Our boats saw double digit numbers of wild Kenai kings come to the net and all were gently released to continue their journey. Through Friday June 10, over 4600 fish had been counted by sonar, more than double what we have seen by this day in the two previous seasons! These numbers are definitely evident in the fishing action as all the regular holes seem to be teeming with fish and rods are going down on a regular basis. After not fishing the Kenai for kings for several seasons in June, this semblance of “normal” has been odd but rewarding. After what we saw in the last several seasons, with record low numbers of kings and subsequent restrictions, this recent uptick is not to be taken for granted. We will still be highly discouraging any harvest of Kenai kings if catch and release restrictions are listed as this fragile fishery must be given a chance to rebuild to what was once the most prolific returns of large wild Chinook in the entire Pacific Northwest. It should also be noted that our early spring and above average temperatures have resulted in much higher water levels for this date in June and this could also account for an early return of kings and not necessarily an indicator of an above average run. We will know more in the next week to ten days as we reach the historical peak of this fishery but for now we will enjoy the good fishing and the ability to once again catch these incredible fish!
Salt water fishing for halibut this year has been excellent. Limits have been the rule and there have been a great number of very large fish caught by our guests including several surpassing 100 lbs! There have also been many in the 40 – 80 LB class that means lots of highly coveted halibut meat headed home with our guests. Look for this amazing fishery to continue to produce well into late summer.
Trout fishing opened this week and we will soon be running trips for this trophy resident species. Typically it is a mix of both rainbows and dolly varden and we look forward to revisiting this amazing fishery where every cast can result in a true world class trophy.
Please enjoy the many pictures below as well as all the smiles and happy faces from all the great people we have fished over the last several weeks. Thanks to all of you that have visited us in May and early June and we look forward to all that will be arriving soon!
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