|Kenai Report 7-30-14|
The peak of the tourist season is just about to come to a close here on the Kenai, and while some folks are packing up and going home with plenty of salmon for their freezer, others are heading home with coolers a little on the light side. The sockeye/red salmon run for the Kenai River has been very strange this summer. After a very strong start to July and great fishing in the early part of the month, things didn’t pick up as is expected by mid to late July. Fairly consistent counts of fish in the 30,000 per day range have been seen for most of July but we have yet to see the classic huge rush of fish the Kenai River is known for. This is enough fish for some more competent flippers to catch their limits with some work, but not enough to create the insanely easy type of fishing a lot of us are used to seeing for at least a few days in July! It is possible to have another big pulse of sockeye enter the river in early August, but it is more likely that the run is beginning to wind down, and it'll continue to take a lot of work to put some sockeye on the bank.
The Kenai River king salmon return has been very limited as expected, and is now the king salmon fishery is closed on the Kenai. King salmon regulations were fluid as the season moved along, as expected. First, ADF&G enacted an Emergency Order mandating catch and release fishing for king salmon with barbless hooks, and then they closed the season altogether. Fortunately, the water conditions were so prime (temps hovered around 51-52 degrees, and clarity was exceptional) on the lower Kenai during the last week of C&R fishing that fishing was fantastic despite the low escapement numbers, and some extremely nice fish were caught by those willing to let them go. We all hope that Kings return in more favorable numbers next season.
Trout fishing with beads and flesh flies is heating up as well. 8mm fresh beads and 10mm washed out beads have both produced some very nice fish in the middle and lower sections of the Kenai. For those looking forward to the next phase of the season, the pink salmon have already begun to enter the lower Kenai in good numbers. Try stripping & swinging pink streamers in the slow water areas of the river where pinks congregate. There have been reports of a few silvers being caught as well, but expect Silver fishing to go from fair to fast as we transition into August, just expect to weed your way though a lot of pinks in the process!
The Middle River (Skilak Lake to Bings Landing) sockeye fishing has remained consistently inconsistent- with surges of fish coming through in spurts, but generally not lasting too long and not being steady all day. Expect to put in your time out there to get your reds, and focus on your technique to ensure you get your limit. Grab a bank and try simple flies for the best chance at success with the reds. Expect to have the best opportunity to catch sockeye in this section of the river through the first week of August when sockeye slow down a bit and gather into schools as they make their way upstream.
The trout fishing has been fair to good recently, due in large part to the excellent water conditions. Salmon carcasses are abundant in the water and are floating down and getting munched on by hungry rainbows and dollies. Especially near cleaning stations, flesh flies have been a good strategy for anglers. Large leeches, sculpin patterns and dolly llamas are also producing nice fish as well. Going forward, expect the trout to start raiding the banks once the sockeye anglers are gone. Those wily trout tend to shy away from the banks when there are thousands of weights raining down on them from the anglers searching for sockeye! Expect trout fishing to remain good for the next couple weeks, and then get even better as Sockeye and Kings begin to spawn throughout the river in mid/late August and the bead bite turns on.
The Upper Kenai (Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake) sockeye fishing has been slow to very slow with most of the fish starting to turn and the Russian River not seeing a very strong return for 2014. Expect to land several blushed fish before you get a chrome bright sockeye.
Trout fishing on the other hand has been very good- with lots of success on small flesh patterns drifted beneath a strike indicator. Swinging bead head nymphs and smaller leeches has been productive as well through shallow riffles. Try swinging those larger flesh flies as well. Flesh is expected to be the ticket for the next week or so, then a good mix of bead fishing will take over as the spawn starts.
A mix of high sockeye numbers and low King numbers have created a relatively disappointing July on the Kasilof River. The large volume of sockeye has prompted ADF&G to allow the terminal fishery to remain open consistently throughout the month, as well as expanded opportunities for the personal use fishery as well. The best fishing has been early in the morning and in the few hours leading up to each high tide, and the occasional tide has produced decent fishing, but not at the consistent rate that the Kasilof is used to seeing during late July. Reminder: the Kasilof has gone to catch and release for king salmon.
As expected, the Kenai king fishery had another disappointing year with a dismal return. We had hoped and expected a large sockeye return to the Kenai River, but we have not seen the numbers thus far. Meanwhile the Kasilof River sockeye fishery had an outstanding return this year. Pinks will be hitting the Kenai in abundance over the next few weeks, and trout fishing should just pick up more and more as will fishing for silvers. Get your rods and get out there!
Fishing report compiled by Brendyn Shiflea of Pretty Fly For a White Guy with in river action reports and pictures submitted by guides Lee Keuper of Alaska’s Angling Addiction, Mark Wackler of Fishology Alaska, and Kyle Kolodziejski of Keen Eye Anglers. All are current or past board members of the Kenai Chapter of Trout Unlimited.