Anchorage's downtown king salmon derby starts Friday. Dustin Slinker at the Bait Shack called Wednesday to say that derby officials were at the mouth of Ship Creek on Tuesday to mark fish. They netted and released 10 kings, the largest of which was 28 pounds.
Anglers are just starting to catch fish, Slinker said. With the good weather forecast for the next week, he said he expects the fishing to turn on at any time -- literally any moment -- but as of midday Wednesday he knew of just one friend who had landed a jack (immature) king.
"The water is 100 percent better than it was a week ago," Slinker said, "with a few more fishermen showing up every day."
He said there will be fishable tides of about 28 feet, morning and night, this weekend.
He suggests using salmon eggs under a bobber or Spin-N-Glo's with cured eggs. As the water clears, he said, anglers will start seeing fish, and that will be the time to try lures like a chartreuse Vibrax in size 5 or 6.
The Ship Creek Slam'n Salm'n King Salmon Derby runs through June 16. It's a fundraiser for the Downtown Soup Kitchen. For more information, go to shipcreeksalmonderby.com.
South of Anchorage
To check on the Kenai, Kasilof and Deep Creek marine fishery, we called Greg Brush of EZ Limit Guide Service in Soldotna. He said Tuesday that king fishing on the Kasilof has improved considerably in the last three days, with one to four kings per guided boat per day.
"It's been surprisingly good," he said.
He suggests using a Spin-N-Glo with eggs or a K15 Kwikfish in silver, chartreuse or silver and chartreuse.
The Kasilof is under a state emergency order that allows the retention of hatchery fish only. The hatchery fish are the ones with the clipped adipose fin. (The adipose is the fin on the top of the fish, between the dorsal fin and the tail.)
About a quarter of the kings being caught are hatchery fish, Brush said.
The Kenai is still dirty but clearing by the day.
He said another bit of evidence of the late spring -- if one is needed -- is the tremendous number of hooligan in the lower Kenai; that's normally a mid- to late-May fishery, he said, but they're pouring into the river now.
Brush's best report was from Cook Inlet saltwater. Fishing for kings headed to spawning rivers has been good, he said, as has halibut fishing.
Normally, he said, the guides aren't still trolling for kings in early June because the fish have already passed through. But with the runs later than usual, a boatful of clients recently hooked six kings and landed four, the biggest of which was about 32 pounds, and a limit of halibut. A day earlier, they had hooked seven kings.
He said he expects the Inlet king fishing to peter out in the next few days, certainly within the week.
"As the river fishery builds," he said, "the saltwater declines."
From Kachemak Bay, Jim Lavrakas of Skookum Charters reports that the bigger halibut are definitely moving closer to Homer. He said he can go out 25 miles and be pretty confident of a nice catch of 30- to 40-pounders, his favorite size for the dinner table.
The Homer Halibut Derby leader earlier this week was a fish of 142.2 pounds. While there is little chance of a 140-pounder winning, Lavrakas said it's a good sign that a fish that big has been caught so early in the derby.
He said fishing for feeder kings has been steady but not what it was in March and April. He said he boated a 14-pound feeder near the bluffs in the last week
He also mentioned that some fish-friendly improvements have been made to the Fishing Hole on the Spit, which was recently stocked with 130,000 cohos.
"We'll see the results of that next fall, he said, adding that it should be a "return to glory" for the man-made run.
North of Anchorage
Farley Dean at Willow Creek Resort said the Parks Highway streams are still high and muddy. He said his recent water-level measurement on the Willow was 8.5 and needs to fall to between 7.5 and 6.5 to really be fishable. That's likely to take a week or two, he said.
His home creek of Willow was pretty thoroughly "redecorated" by high water last fall, he said, so when they get a chance even regulars may feel like they're fishing a whole new stream.
Lake fishing along the Parks, on the other hand, has been good, he said. He suggested Rolly, X, Y and Kashwitna lakes for trout, or Vera Lake for pike.
The Talkeetna and Susitna rivers are still very high and muddy, reports Rhett Nealis of Phantom Tri River Charters in Talkeetna. He said some rainbows and Dolly Varden are being caught, but overall the fishing is just plain slow. Again, water levels are dropping a little every day.
Nealis said it seems like the kings have been showing up later each year, so he's thinking maybe June 15 this year.
For the latest conditions on the Deshka, check deshkalanding.com.
Prince William Sound
Like everywhere, the halibut fishery out of Whittier is late but has really improved in the last week. Boats are bringing in larger fish, in the 30- to 50-pound range, caught in 250 feet of water, reports Capt. Kristen Labrecque at Saltwater Excursions. Her biggest fish so far is 121 pounds.
She said she’s using Kodiak Custom Fishing Tackle, Blue-Tailed Grubs and circle hooks with pink squid skirts.
Labrecque spotted two silvers during a trip this week and saw another boat dock with silvers on board, so who knows — maybe the silvers will be early.
She added that she pulled a shrimp pot from about 475 feet filled with big spot prawns. She is advising boaters to keep an eye out for the commercial fleet’s sockeye nets.
Andy Mesirow of Crackerjack Charters called from his boat Thursday morning.
People are still catching kings near Calisto and Caines Head by trolling herring, he said.
For halibut, he’s found his best fishing to the east out of Seward around Montague Island and Cape Junken, or to the west by Cape Resurrection. Halibut have been running 20 to 30 pounds, he said, but yesterday he hooked several fish over 100 pounds, with the biggest being 125, near Montague. He said he’s been jigging with bait, then the conversation ended abruptly. “Got a nice one on,” he said. “Got to go.”
He had said earlier that the sockeyes have started running into the Resurrection River. There is a fee wayside and parking off Nash Road; follow the beach access signs. Pay attention to the private property.
And finally, if you haven't already, we recommend you check out the fishing-related apps FishHead and Limit Out, for water levels and sonar counts.
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."