This is my last fishing report of the season, and a strange fishing season it has been. The weather has been unseasonable all summer, and lots of fish were late, while others never showed at all. The only bright spot was the reliable return of sockeye salmon to our beloved Kenai River. In 40-plus of years of fishing in Alaska, I've never seen such unpredictability about where and when to fish.
The silver lining in our plight is this: we live here; the fishing is in our backyard. We can choose to recreate when the weather is a little better and the runs a little stronger; we can fish the rivers that are producing. Our summer visitors aren't so fortunate; they're usually locked into a schedule.
We live in the epicenter of the greatest fishing show on the planet. In just a few hours we can be fishing somewhere anglers elsewhere can only dream of. Remind yourself of that when you're gutting out another January, longing for the first sign of open water.
If you haven't wet a line yet this season, you still have a couple of weeks of late-season fishing available. Trout fishing is just heating up in lots of places and late-run silvers are still making their way home. Offshore fishing is still possible -- when the weather permits.
Here's a roundup of Southcentral fishing:
Silver fishing has slowed on the Kenai. Most of the first-run fish are spread out from the lower to the middle river. I spoke briefly Tuesday morning with Greg Brush of E-Z limit guide service, who said he was scratching for a few silvers that morning. Brush described the silver fishing as a couple fish here and a couple of fish there. The late run of silvers hasn't hit the river yet.
The Crescent Lake fishery for silvers is still good, according to Brush.
The middle river has been good for trout but slow for silvers, according to guides and recreational fishermen. Anglers are picking up some larger rainbows as they start moving from Skilak Lake into the river.
Bill Coulliette from Troutfitters in Cooper Landing called Tuesday and said the middle river was fishing decent and he was picking up trout with 8 mm beads in light pink. He reported that pinks were spawning heavily and those areas were producing trout. Coulliette had to hang up during our call because a client had just hooked a nice trout. He called back to report that they had landed a 27-inch-plus trout.
From what I hear, it's apparent that the salmon spawn is on in full force, which is making the trout a little more difficult to catch. With so much food in the river, it will probably take a week or more for fish to get hungry again.
The Upper Kenai has also been productive for trout. Anglers willing to spend some time on the water are getting fish. Finding areas where the fish are spawning helps, as does adjusting bead selections and flies for particular stretches of water.
I spoke briefly with Dennis Randa of Randa's Guide Service at a local fly shop earlier in the week and he said the dolly fishing has been good but the rainbow fishing has been tough. Randa believes the rainbows are really tucked in tight with the sockeyes and are tough to catch now. Rainbow fishing should improve as the salmon start to die off.
Saltwater fishing in the Lower Peninsula has been slow for the last couple of days, with bad weather mainly to blame. I spoke with Dianne Dubuc with Alaska Saltwater Charters in Homer as she waited out the weather and got ready to move her boat, the Florette C, to Seward for the winter king fishery. Dubuc said king fishing has been good.
Steve Babinec of Saltwater Safari Company says the weather has been bad all week and he has been in port the last couple of days. Babinec said he caught a few nice halibut inside Resurrection Bay recently when he couldn't get outside the bay to fish. He said some operators in Seward plan to run charters into October, and he has a couple of trips scheduled before he closes down for the year.
Fishing in Prince William Sound near Montague is still good, but the salmon fishing has slowed. The silvers apparently never made it near the popular spots in town. Kristen Labrecque of Saltwater Adventures said she is shutting down for the season soon. She said her crew caught a 175-pound halibut last Wednesday and a mixed bag of halibut, ling cod and a salmon the next day -- but she was sitting in port when we spoke Tuesday.
With all the high water recently, fishing has been tough along the Parks Highway and adjacent streams. Montana Creek and Willow were both high this week although fishable. Both should fish well for trout until freeze-up. The Kashwitna, Little Willow and Sheep Creek were out of shape earlier in the week.
The Talkeetna and Clear Creek were high and fishing is tough. I talked to Rhett Nealis of Phantom Salmon Charters on Tuesday. He said he was having a hard time finding salmon and was contemplating canceling the rest of the week because of high water.
The lakes in the valley are still consistently producing fish. Bug hatches are slowing and most fish are feeding in mid-water. The Big Lake area and Kepler-Bradley lake systems should be good. As an alternative, the Knik-Goose Bay Road area also has productive lakes. Check the ADFG website for maps, stocking and access information.
The Bristol Bay watershed is just starting to get good for trout. Anglers are starting to catch fat, strong rainbows on the Naknek and Kvichak rivers. Noted guide Nanci Morris-Lyon, in King Salmon on Wednesday, said all the rivers are starting to heat up. The Naknek still has a few silvers, but fishing for them is not good. Morris mentioned that she has caught of couple of rainbows in the high 20s, but the big fish have not dropped down from the lake yet.
The Becharof and Ugashik rivers are also starting to produce some nice char. Morris was south of King Salmon last week fishing both river systems, which she said were just starting to turn on.
The Kulik and Brooks rivers are also improving, with the Brooks the better of the two. Morris mentioned that the Brooks has been fishing well most of the summer, while the Kulik is just now starting to get good. The trout are in the stream now are smaller; the larger rainbows are still to come.
Fishing for silver salmon in Ship Creek is spotty. Crowds are way down and few fish are still riding in on the tides. Anglers wanting a late-season coho will need to be patient.
Silvers are starting to move out of Campbell Lake and into Campbell Creek. You may have to hunt a bit to find bright fish, but a few are there.
Silver fishing in Twentymile, Portage and the Placer is still improving. These wild salmon fisheries have a reduced bag limit, so check Anchorage area regulations starting on page 36 of the Southcentral Sport Fish Regulations Summary booklet.
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."