Copper River is weekend's fishing bright spot

Tony Weaver
Avid catch-and-release angler Dave Justice of Sterling caught a 49-inch king salmon from the bank of the Kenai River last week. Photo courtesy of Greg Brush

Spring has been slow to arrive. I'd say we're about a week or two behind schedule. Rivers are still cold, and the fish just aren't really here yet. I hope they'll start showing up in better numbers by the time this report hits print.

One bright spot in this weekend's forecast is a monster run of reds that seems to be materializing in the Copper River.

Copper Basin

The Chitina personal-use dipnet fishery opens Thursday and runs through Sunday. From the looks of sonar data, we're heading for a big opener with a heck of a lot of fish.

Salmon are streaming by the sonar counter at Miles Lake, about 70 miles downstream from Chitina, in huge numbers. On May 28, the sonar estimate was 71,645, which was almost 20,000 fish more than the previous one-day record. On the 29th, the sonar estimate jumped to 83,062, setting another one-day record. The cumulative in-river fish count at Miles Lake, near the "Million Dollar Bridge" outside Cordova, stood at 469,895 as of Sunday.

It takes about two weeks for fish at Miles Lake to reach Chitina, but with the run front-loaded, as it seems to be, a storm of fish should hit there soon. Biologist Mark Somerville in Glennallen said he expects the fishing to be phenomenal.

For current info, sonar counts and regulations, check out for direct links. For additional information, call the info line at the local Fish & Game office at (907) 822-3461. For charter and river drop-off info and current reports from the river, try Copper River Charters at (907) 823-2200.


I recently spoke with a few guides in the Valley and they report the fish on the Deshka are running small this year. Anglers are catching some nice 20-pound-plus fish that are probably Upper Susitna, Talkeetna River or Willow Creek fish. We hope the majority of the run is still on its way, including some larger fish. Back-trolling with plugs and bait has been working well.

Valley lake fishing continues to be fair to good, depending on the weather. Try Matanuska, Finger Lakes and the Kepler-Bradley System.

Spin fishermen should rig a clear bobber above a small nymph or other buggy pattern adjusted to the right depth. Fly anglers should try chronomids with an indicator, dragonfly nymphs or woolly buggers in colors that match the bottom. The damselfly hatch materializes about June 10 in a normal year, but with the cool weather it could be a week later this year.


Halibut fishing out east toward Montague Island has been pretty good, according to anglers with whom I spoke.

Anglers have been catching nice halibut in the 30-to-50-pound range, with an occasional larger fish. They are also catching black and yelloweye rockfish. Lingcod fishing remains closed until July 1. A few kings have been caught. Try using a small to medium herring with a flasher. Having a sonar and downrigger gear will increase your odds of hooking into one of these fish.

Traveling outside Resurrection Bay is a weather issue, so check local conditions before heading down. Always best to play it safe; don't intentionally test your seamanship or the seaworthiness of your boat.

Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai River is still producing a few nice kings. I talked with Rod Berg of Rod and Real Charters on Tuesday and he said they had caught a few quality fish in the last couple of days. He said he had a 36- and a 38-pound fish in the boat and was done for the day at noon.

The water is still in great shape with good visibility. Try throwing a Kwikfish in 15x or 16x sizes flat-lined with no planer, or a Spin-n-Glo behind a planer; rotate color combos to see what is producing best that day. Berg mentioned that one of the best lures Tuesday was a T-50 Flatfish in a Lime Chartreuse Tiger combination.

The Kasilof River is still spotty -- producing fish for anglers one day and nothing the next. Greg Brush of E-Z Limit guide service said Tuesday that just a few fish were being caught. He mentioned that the water was a tad lower than normal and colder than average. The fish may be waiting for the water to warm a bit.

Meanwhile, the official stamp is now on what has seemed likely: after a couple of slow weeks of fishing on the Anchor River, king salmon returns are well below historical norms. As a result, Fish & Game issued an emergency order Wednesday closing the Anchor for kings.

The closure order affects the Anchor River from its mouth upstream to the confluence of the North and South forks beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 9, through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, June 30. Escapement in the Anchor through June 5 was 1,107 fish. That's about a third of the 2004-2011 average escapement of 2,799 kings for the date. Check the Fish & Game website for updates on this fishery.

An emergency order is still in effect that prohibits the use of bait, treble hooks or multiple hooks in the Anchor, Deep Creek and Ninilchik during the king fishery. The order took effect June 2. Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure is allowed. "Single hook" means a hook with only one point.

Early-run king salmon are slowing down in saltwater at Anchor Point, Whiskey Gulch and Deep Creek. It has been hit and miss. Anglers willing to put in the time should catch a fish. Popular trolling set-ups for king salmon include herring, hootchies, tube flies and Tee-Spoons. Try using a dodger or flasher for extra attraction.

The Offshore Deep Creek Fishery for halibut has been fairly consistent, but most fish have been on the small side or chickens. Only a few larger fish are being caught. Tides should improve next week.

Success for feeder kings has been fair to good off the south side of Kachemak Bay, Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi. Charters out of Homer have produced a few halibut in the larger class, but not many seem to have moved in yet.


Ship Creek has produced a few more kings on each successive tide. Fishing should pick up soon.

I spoke with Pat Lorentz, an upper Cook Inlet commercial fisherman, who said he caught a nice load of kings on a six-hour opener a few days ago off North Fire Island. Surprisingly, he said, he also had a ton of hooligan dangling in mass off his king gear.

His king haul should bode well for Ship Creek for the next couple of days -- just in time for the Slam'n Salm'n Derby, which begins Friday. Remember to fish early on the incoming tides, and keep an eye on the rising water if you're fishing near the mouth.

Some local lakes have been stocked with hatchery fish and most local lakes should fish well; try Cheney, Beach and Campbell Point lakes. A bobber with a suspended hare's ear nymph or chronomid fly and eggs are catching 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 The fishing report is published Wednesday on and Thursday in print. For the latest and most comprehensive information every day, check the links on 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 and we'll try to answer it in a future fishing report.

Tony Weaver