With summer officially here, weather and fishing are both improving -- sort of.
It still feels as though our fishing is about two weeks behind the calendar. Anglers have been subjected to planned closures, high water, inclement weather and a flurry of emergency closures.
Of particular concern is an apparently weak run of prized Kenai kings. King fisheries around the peninsula are being managed conservatively, which means a variety of restrictions you won't find in the printed regulations. Fishing has been like gas prices and the economy -- up and down, up and down -- so we anglers are having to get creative to find fish.
Getting creative could be as easy as a short drive to Whittier, which has been one of this week's bright spots.
Kristen Labrecque, owner of Saltwater Excursions, sent me an email last week asking why I didn't report on the great fishing in Whittier. I was pleasantly surprised by her photos of some really nice halibut. Labrecque has been catching a limit on every trip, with some really nice halibut in the 45- to 65-pound derby-slot limit, and a few big ones on every trip.
Labrecque has been venturing to the outer edge of Montague Island and fishing in 80 to 240 feet of water with a small chunk of herring on Kodiak Custom Tackle. She said kings are showing up closer to the terminal fishery near the harbor.
The Whittier Chamber of Commerce Derby is on. It runs through Sept. 15 for halibut and salmon. The halibut derby only accepts fish in the 45- to 65-pound range to protect the larger breeder fish. That's a good idea, and the organizers should be commended.
Anyone who buys a ticket is eligible for monthly prize drawings. All fish entries will be weighed at Fee's Custom Seafood on the Whittier Harbor Triangle, daily between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Derby tickets and regulations are available at businesses around Whittier. For more information go to whittieralaskachamber.org.
The first run of sockeyes has arrived in the Russian. The river is producing limits for anglers willing to prospect. Reports from last weekend said the river was crowded with anglers from the falls to the mouth. Anglers should be cautious of bears; they'll be around, so stay alert and give them plenty of space. A sow with cubs was reported in the area.
Campgrounds and pullouts near the Sportsman's Launch and Russian River are full.
Fishing has been slower below the ferry. Sockeyes are spread throughout the Kenai River but fishing is spotty and sockeyes are difficult to catch outside the Russian River area. By mid-July, sockeyes will be spread in greater numbers throughout the river, making the fishing better. Trout fishing has been fair to good in the upper and middle river.
Just when I thought fishing for kings on the peninsula couldn't get worse, a couple of emergency orders hit my desk earlier this week. Basically, the first run of kings is now closed with further restrictions in effect through the end of July. Refer to the Department of Fish and Game website for details. You can find those links in the fishing section of adn.com.
Success for feeder kings has been fair off the south side of Kachemak Bay, Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi. Reports from last weekend said fishing was fair for halibut. I was also told there was a lot of free-floating kelp in the water. Bullwhip, horsetail, and those large lasagna-shaped fronds were a nuisance to anglers.
Most of the charter boats in Homer have produced a few larger halibut, but the big fish have not arrived in numbers yet. However, with a couple of nice days and boats ranging more widely, things can change rapidly. I hope to have a report from the outer edge of the Barren Islands in next week's report.
Rivers to the east are high and dirty. King fishing on the Gulkana has been slow. The Chitina Sub-District Personal Use Dip Net Salmon Fishery is closed to the retention of king salmon for the remainder of the 2012 season. King salmon and steelhead incidentally taken must be released, unharmed, immediately.
Be sure to check the latest regulations on this fishery. For another source on fishing conditions, river levels and charter drop-offs, call Copper River Charters at 1-907-823-2200.
With the warmer weather, fishing in valley lakes is much improved. I spoke with Tom Hilty at Three Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla on Tuesday. He said some of his lake-fishing clients reported catching fish longer than 24 inches. Flyfishers have been successful with dragonfly, damsel and leech patterns. Concentrate on the Kepler, Big Lake and Memory Lakes areas.
Lakes recently stocked with rainbow trout, include Gate, Mile 180, Kashwitna and Willow lakes. If you want to fish pike, try the Nancy Lake System. Hilty recommended using Rex Spoons in black for pike.
Farley Dean at Willow Island Resort on Willow Creek reported that trout fishing on the Willow has been fair, with water levels and clarity not too bad. Rivers levels were 4.18 on Wednesday, which is about normal. Trout anglers should concentrate on the lower sections of the creek; grayling are present throughout the system.
There are king restrictions for the Susitna System and Parks Highway fisheries. Please call Fish and Game or go online for the latest information on openings and closings. I'm curious to see how many two-year enhancement king salmon return this year from the 200,000 released.
The Deshka has additional king restrictions in effect. No bait, mandatory single hooks and no fishing above the weir are now the rule. Fishing has been spotty with average- to smaller-sized salmon being caught. Sunny midday fishing is especially slow. You'll do better in early morning and late evening. Call or go online for the latest fish and game regs.
Halibut fishing out of Seward has been good. Most boats seem to be fishing out toward Montague Island. The halibut are getting bigger and being caught in shallower water -- 100- to 250-feet deep, instead of the 300-400 of last week.
One bonus has been fewer dogfish. Anglers are also catching some feeder kings in the 10- to 20-pound class. Trolling or power mooching jet divers in sizes 1 to 7 are working well, as are banana weights rigged with flashers and cut herring. Having good electronics is a plus; experiment with different depths until you find fish.
Ship Creek has been high and off-color and fishing slowed with the higher water. Dustin Slinker from the Bait Shack says the fish are now pushing all the way to the dam and anglers are catching kings in the section above the railroad crossing. Low-tide anglers have been catching a few fish by prospecting and walking the creek. Anglers fishing the incoming tides should concentrate on the lower section with floats.
Anglers have been using float setups with eggs or Spin-n-glos in size 2 in pink, pumpkin and watermelon combinations. Slinker suggests using a 4-ounce pyramid sinker on a slider with 5/0 Gamakatsu hook with 24 inches of leader and working the section above the rail crossing.
Campbell Creek is open this weekend for youth-only king salmon fishing. This fishery is open from Dimond Boulevard upstream to the Old Seward Highway on Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Only anglers ages 15 and younger allowed to fish.
Tony Weaver has fished all over Alaska for more than 40 years. He is the host of 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."
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
adn.com/fishing 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.