Anglers wonder: Where are all the king salmon?

Saltwater and lake fishing is somewhat normal, the weather and everything else is a roll of the dice

FISHING REPORTJuly 11, 2012 

Aleutian King Anglers: Dennis Franco and Lucien Lafond

PHOTO BY TONY WEAVER

I was out in the Aleutians during the last two fishing reports but am now back in the office. I fished for 10 days, 1,000 miles from Anchorage. If it's any consolation to you, the fishing was tough. King fishing was slow even in remote Alaska. I managed to catch a few nice kings and wrangle a few big halibut to the boat, but the kings were just not there.

Statewide low king returns should be a major concern to all of us. This summer has been the perfect storm in terms of weather and fishing. The only thing anglers can figure is: saltwater and lake fishing is somewhat normal, the weather and everything else is a roll of the dice. This week we've had gale warnings for Prince William Sound and most of the Kenai Peninsula.

I've kept my bags packed in case I get a last-minute tip on a hot spot or a break in the weather, and that's pretty much how I've managed to catch a few fish this summer. We are deep into the season and all I can say is: I guess we have to adjust to a "new normal." Let's hope the Kenai River sockeye return in sufficient numbers to turn things around a little bit.

Whittier

On a positive note, my contact in Whittier, Kristen Labrecque with Saltwater Excursions, has been producing some impressive catches of halibut lately. This week Labrecque managed to boat limits of halibut on most trips, including a 168-pounder Monday. Her boat also caught a few rockfish and lingcod on the last trip. Crazy Ray's Adventures boated a 262-pound halibut this weekend too.

Labrecque has been venturing to the outer edge of Montague Island and fishing from 80 to 260 feet of water with jigs and herring. She told me fish are being caught all over Prince William Sound. She said larger halibut have been moving into shallower water. Kings are still milling around the harbor and up to Shotgun Cove. Most anglers are using downriggers to catch kings. Anglers willing to spend a little time prospecting should be able to catch a few salmon by mooching.

Mat-Su

No silvers have shown in the Mat-Su streams yet. Mike Hudson at Three Rivers Bait and Tackle in Wasilla told me the locals have been fishing the Little Susitna and Deshka but haven't reported seeing any silvers caught. He did say he'd heard a few reports of kings being caught in the Eklutna Tailrace.

The bonus to this cooler weather has been the lake fishing. The Kepler Bradley lakes and Big Lake systems are still producing well. Also, Diamond, Little Beaver and Carpenter lakes are producing nice fish. Hudson said trout fishing has been improving on Clear Creek and some of the Parks Highway streams. Water conditions are pretty good. Hudson recommended a Hare-Sculpin (he's got them for sale) for trout. It's basically an olive-and-white sculpin tied on a No. 4 hook.

Seward

Fishing in Seward has been good for halibut, with most boats heading out toward Montague Island, weather permitting. The halibut are getting bigger and are now being caught in shallower water (80 to 250 feet).

Rod Berg of Rod and Real Adventures has been fishing east of Cape Resurrection, weather permitting. He said rockfish and lingcod fishing have been very good. One of his favorite setups is a root beer grub with enough of a jig head to reach bottom but not so heavy that you hang up. Adjust until you get it right and keep working bottom structure for lings; don't stop jigging. Having good electronics is a plus, look for pinnacles and other bottom structure to stay on the rockfish and lingcod.

A few silvers are starting to show at Pony Cove but are behind schedule and fishing has been spotty. Gale warnings were in effect earlier this week so check at adn.com or NOAA for current conditions before heading out.

Kenai Peninsula

The Russian River is producing a few sockeyes but is very spotty. Reports from last weekend said the crowds were down, as was the sockeye fishing. Rainbow fishing has been average with some dry fly action on warmer sunny days; nymphs and mix of flesh and egg patterns were also productive. Anglers should be cautious of bears and give them plenty of space.

Trout fishing has been fair to good in the upper and middle river. Sockeyes are spread throughout the Kenai River but fishing is spotty at most roadside access points. Anglers are catching fish all through the Kenai River, but limits are hard to come by. Anglers have had to really put in the time to limit out.

The first large push of sockeyes has not reached the mouth. I'm told that catches were sparse for early dipnetters this week. Looks like it may be a week or 10 days until we start seeing good numbers.

Homer

Homer has produced some nice halibut lately. The leader in the Homer Jackpot Derby is still Pam Seward of LaMirada, Calif., with a 219.6-pounder. Twenty-five tagged fish have been released so far this year with no derby tickets! Tickets are available at dockside. If you're going to fish for halibut out of Homer, you should buy a ticket.

The best fishing has been outside toward Gore Point, Chugach and Flat islands. Lingcod and rockfish fishing is also good in these areas and inside for chicken halibut has been good. Tagged fish can be anywhere.

Jim Lavrakas of Skookum Charters has been fishing for kings near Pogibshi Point but said the spawner king bite has slowed in the last week or so. Feeder kings are still there. Fishing should pick up again in August.

Copper Basin

The Copper River Chitina Subdistrict is open through 11:59 p.m., Sunday. Starting this past Monday and continuing through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, a supplemental harvest of 10 additional sockeye salmon is allowed. The Chitina Subdistrict Personal Use Dip Net Salmon Fishery is closed to the retention of king salmon for the rest of this year.

The water level in the river is coming down. Fishing was good over the weekend and should continue to be fair. Be sure to check current regulations concerning this fishery. Additional information can be obtained from the adn.com or Fish and Game web sites. Another source for current fishing conditions is the Chitina Dipnetters Association's web site, www.chitinadipnetters.com.

Anchorage

On Saturday, Bird Creek and Ship Creek (downstream of the Chugach Power Plant Dam) will be open to fishing for salmon, except for kings. King salmon may not be targeted and kings caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

See Page 37 of the Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet for details on the Campbell Creek coho (silver) salmon opener. Campbell Creek will remain closed to fishing for all salmon species except for coho.

Expect slow fishing until later in the month when local coho runs begin to build. Campbell and Chester creeks have also been stocked with rainbow trout; stocked-water regulations apply for rainbow trout fishing. No streams in the Anchorage area are stocked with Dolly Varden/Arctic char, so wild fish regulations apply to char fishing in these streams.

Remember to check for stocking updates for lakes and streams in the Anchorage Bowl at adn.com or Fish and Game.

Cordova

I spoke with a close friend and guide in Cordova on Tuesday. He told me the red fishing is still pretty good on the Eyak, generally producing a mixed bag of bright and colored fish. He also mentioned that Dolly Varden fishing off the road system is pretty decent. The Martin River is producing sea-run cutthroats; try small, white Zonker and fry patterns. Pink salmon should start showing up soon.

Cordova is great place to take the kids, an authentic Alaska town with plenty of fishing off the road system. It's just a short ferry ride from Whittier. Drive your car onto the ferry and fish the road system -- the new normal.

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 fishing@adn.com and we'll try to answer it in a future fishing report.

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