Here it is, the first fishing report of 2012. There is good news and bad news.
First, the bad: It looks as though last winter's record snowfall has kept a few rivers colder than usual and off-color. The new regulations for kings and closures will cause confusion, especially on the Susitna fisheries. And who knows what is happening with king returns statewide.
The good news is that the first reports seem to forecast an average or better year for kings, and the halibut and trout fishing has been pretty decent.
Here's a quick roundup by region:
Deshka River anglers have slowly started to see kings show up at the mouth. Early-morning anglers have produced a dozen or so fish on good days. Anglers willing to stake out early in the lower river have been most successful. Best results can be had with eggs, Kwikfish and Wiggle Warts. The water is still low, though levels on the Susitna River are coming up daily.
Valley lakes have been ice-free for a week or so and the fishing is coming to life. Lake fishing will only get better as temps rise.
Some of the more popular lakes in the valley are easily fished using a variety of techniques. Simple bobber or indicator setups with eggs and small nymph flies on spinning rods have produced nice fish. Using a float tube or boat will increase your odds. Fly fishers should try midge patterns, dragonfly nymphs as well as chronomids and leeches in black, green, or brown. Try the Kepler-Bradley Lake system, Finger, Wasilla, Long, Canoe or Irene Lakes. Recently stocked lakes include Kepler/Bradley, Echo, Lynn, Prator and Memory Lake, which are stocked with nice arctic char.
On the Kenai Peninsula, the Anchor River is showing a little better return of kings through the weir, but the water has been a little off-color and fishing has been slow, with only a fish or two reported caught last weekend.
The off-shore Deep Creek and Anchor Point grounds have been producing halibut and a few kings. Captain Drew Hilterbrand with Rod and Real Adventures out of Ninilchik reports catches of a few halibut in the 20- to 50-pound class with a king on most trips last week. Hilterbrand says the king run seems average this year, which is good news. Time will tell. Hilterbrand suggests fishing a combination of trolled herring for kings with a flasher, and fishing the traditional methods for halibut on the incoming and falling tides. Tides should be improving throughout the week.
I've heard of kings being caught in both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The run up both rivers are beginning, so fishing has been slow but should improve through this week.
In Seward, anglers are catching some nice halibut when they can get outside Resurrection Bay. Captain Bobby Savino with Saltwater Safari Company said he had a nice day of fishing in about 300 feet of water east toward Montague Island. His trip last Sunday aboard the Legend produced nice 50- to 100-pound fish for his clients. He says bait was the ticket; none of the fish were caught on jigs.
Anglers fishing in the bay and willing to put in the time should scratch up a king or two. Try trolling with a small- to medium-sized herring with an oversized flasher.
Lingcod fishing remains closed until July 1. Pacific cod are also being caught around the islands at the entrance to the bay.
Cheney Lake has been stocked with nice-sized rainbow trout, larger fish than are usually stocked. Spin anglers should try flies or bait suspended under a bobber.
Dipnetting for hooligan in Southcentral Alaska opened April 1. This is a personal-use fishery and only Alaska residents can participate. Anglers are starting to dip a few hooligan, but it's still early and fairly slow. The presence of seagulls and eagles on the banks or in the sky along Turnagain Arm is a good sign.
Drivers should be aware of posted slow speed zones around Twentymile River on the Seward Highway south of Girdwood. Anglers, please respect the land around this fishery.
Early-season halibut fishing has been spotty and most fish have been small. Catching will improve as more fish move from their deep over-wintering waters in the gulf to their shallower summer feeding grounds.
Trolling success for feeder king salmon has been fair to good off the south side of Kachemak Bay, Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi.
King salmon should start returning to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit soon, but expect fishing to be slow for a while yet.
LATEST REPORTS from Fish and Game:
Soldotna (907) 262-2737
Palmer (907) 746-6300
Anchorage (907) 267-2510
Homer (907) 235-6930
Kodiak (907) 486-5176
Fairbanks (907) 459-7385
Juneau (907) 465-4116
Ketchikan (907) 225-0475
Haines (907) 766-2625
Tony Weaver has fished all over Alaska for more than 40 years. He is the host Wolf Outdoors, which airs on FM-96.3 Saturday mornings. He worked as chief technical editor for Fish Alaska and has written for Fish and Fly, Flyfisher and Flyfisherman magazines. He is a photographer and author of "Topwater: Fly Fishing the Last Frontier Alaska."
The fishing report is published Wednesday on adn.com and Thursday in print. For the latest and most comprehensive information every day, check the links on adn.com/fishing. In addition to reports from Fish and Game biologists across the state, you'll find lots of fishing photos in our Nice Catch galleries, links to current weather, river and stream flows, tide charts, fish counts, salmon run timing, fishing derbies across the state and how-to videos. You can also buy a fishing license online, check the regulations, read a blog with the latest fishery closures and emergency orders, and sign up for our fishing newsletter email.
Do you have a question about fishing in Alaska -- places, techniques, gear? Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll try to answer it in a future fishing report.