Anchorage — The fishing is finally getting back to a predictable timeline. We are still on a two-week minimum delay due to a late spring breakup, so think mid-May for timing.
The nice, warm days are burning off the snow pack and stalling the fishing in some areas, but otherwise we should start seeing more fish moving into the rivers as soon as the runoff settles down.
Normally, the Deshka, Kenai and Kasilof are starting to pick up and most of the valley lakes are in full fishing mode this time of year, but not this year. The northern streams off the Parks Highway and the Deshka were unfishable as of Wednesday.
Fishing is buying a lottery ticket -- you purchase a ticket and hopefully you draw a winner. Of course the odds can be better if you buy a bunch of tickets or you study the odds and buy the ticket that may pay off (think Nenana Ice Classic).
So you could just go fishing a bunch and put in your time to increase your odds. But the best thing is to do your research and go when the fish are there. Visit the Alaska Department of Fish & Game website for run-timing, check out the sonar counts to verify, go to noaa.gov for marine and river conditions, or download a new fishing app like www.limitoutak.com, which has most of the aforementioned information in one collection point.
Here's the latest report from the field.
The rivers up north are still in breakup, and the latest news is the Susitna River is high with lots of floating debris making boating down to the Deshka River dicey. Visit deshkalanding.com for more information.
The Deshka is slow for kings, with no reports of fish caught or through the weir as of Wednesday.
I spoke with Israel Mahay from Mahay's yesterday. He said the Susitna River is really ripping, loaded with green ice (submerged ice that is hard to see) and dangerous. The river came up from 45,000 to 80,000 cfs in less than two hours Tuesday, he said. Mahay said he was thinking of pulling his boats to higher ground due to high water.
Needless to say the fishing up north is non-existent.
The Willow and the Parks Hwy streams were running high and very muddy the last couple of days, so the trout fishing should be difficult at best.
The lakes in the Valley are starting to pick up. The Kepler-Bradley system and Echo and Loberg lakes are producing fish. Try fishing with dragonfly nymphs or wooly buggers in olive, black or a combination of those colors.
Mike Hudson from Three Rivers Fly and Tackle said the "Thin Mint" fly has been producing well; he's got them in the shop. The lakes in the Nancy Lake system are still in thaw mode, but another couple of warm days should improve the fishing.
The Kenai River is still slow with about a 232 kings through the sonar as of Monday. The sonar counts have been non-existent the last couple of days, so check to see if a push of fish has hit the river before making the trip south.
The river is still low but rising and water clarity is still off. A 40-pound king was caught Saturday, according to Greg Brush, who witnessed the catch, but the fishing is slow.
The Kasilof is also slow. Brush and four clients boated one fish Tuesday, an 18-pounder.
The offshore fishery at Deep Creek has been consistent with anglers catching kings. Most of the fish have been caught on trolled herring and spoons. Anglers have been catching limits, but most of the fish have been feeders with a few larger fish mixed in.
The Anchor was off last weekend the water was high and dirty, with no fish through the weir. With warm weather this week, it's looking like more of the same. The later weekends of this fishery will probably be the time to head down.
The halibut fishing has been good for some boats and slow for others. It seems as though some spots are hot and some cold.
Andy Mesirow of Crackerjack Charters had a couple of nice fish on board Saturday -- a 138-pounder and a 76-pounder -- and lots of nice smaller fish up to 40 pounds. He said the usual spots east from Barwell to Montague Island have been producing fish, as well as out west from Granite to Black Bay. Mesirow was fishing deep at about 300 feet and soaking bait on circle hooks.
The king fishing is still good, with anglers picking up fish at the entrance of the bay and Agnes and Pony coves.
The sockeye have started to show in the bay, but there have been a very few reds caught in the snag fishery off the mouth of Resurrection River/Salmon Creek at the north end of the bay. Boaters are seeing lots of free jumpers and marking fish at the head of bay.
These fish should be closer in by the weekend. Pay attention to the private property at these terminal fisheries, as most of the adjacent land is private. There is a fee wayside and parking off Nash Road; follow the signs to beach access.
Fishing in Homer has been steady. The halibut are not chalky and seem to be making a comeback. Bob's Trophy Charters captain Diane Caso-Morris said most fish have been in the 10- to 25-pound range but mentioned that a few days ago they had some 40- to 70-pound halibut on board. The half-day charters are producing smaller fish but the full-day trips are producing bigger ones.
The king fishing has been steady with some boats reporting limits. The usual areas Point Pogibshi and the Bluffs are fishing well.
The Nick Dudiak lagoon was dredged recently and should be better for fishing this year, because a better flush of tidal water should improve the fishing. Fishing at the lagoon is not in full gear yet but should be in a week or two.
Anchorage Bowl lakes are finally ice-free and the stocking program is up and running; most lakes should be stocked soon. Check The ADFG website for more information
Ship Creek is running a high and dirty with no fish caught yet, according to Dustin Slinker of the Bait Shack. Slinker said a young angler hooked a nice large fish of about 30 pounds in front of his shop on Sunday but lost it. The fishing should start picking up soon as soon if the water drops; call The Bait Shack for a current fishing report.
Hooligan fishing at the end of Turnagain Arm was slow last weekend. Starting Saturday, you can only dipnet for hooligan in fresh water, so all anglers must be fishing in the Twentymile River or other fresh water to be legal.
This is a personal-use fishery, and only Alaska residents can participate. No permit is required, but you do need an Alaska resident fishing license or ADF&G permanent ID card with you while dipnetting. Open season for hooligan in salt waters is April 1-May 31; in fresh waters, it's April 1-June 15. There is no bag or possession limit for personal-use smelt and no permit is required.
Whittier fishing has been improving, thanks to last weekend's nice weather. Captain Kristen Labrecque with Saltwater Excursions called Tuesday from her boat and said she has been catching halibut and black rockfish outside near Montague Island with most of halibut in the 10- to 20-pound range. Labrecque said the bigger fish should be here soon with the warming water.
The fishing in Valdez is starting to pick up for halibut. A 158-pound halibut leads the derby.
Most of best fishing has been near Strawberry Channel, Hinchinbrook Entrance and Montague Straight.
Angling for rockfish also has been good with most of fish being caught near herring spawning sites.
The Chitina Subdistrict will remain closed to personal use salmon fishing through at least 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 9.
Late breakup on the Copper River has allowed deployment of only the Miles Lake sonar along the north bank of the Copper River. The late breakup may also delay upstream migration of salmon.
From May 20-26, there were 26 salmon counted past the Miles Lake sonar. The preseason projection for this period was 78,071 salmon, which results in a deficit of 78,045 salmon. Copper River sockeye salmon migratory timing and the previous five-year average harvest and participation rates indicate insufficient numbers of salmon available to justify fishing in the Chitina Subdistrict through June 9. Check ADFG for additional information.
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."