The longest day of the summer is just a week away and somehow it still feels like May.
Fish are slow in coming, with the king runs looking dismal. Recent runoffs and high water is common in most rivers and streams and the run-timing is a little strange.
Beginning Friday, king fishing on the Kenai River will be restricted to catch-and-release and trophy fishing only, the Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday. The restrictions were made to help meet the early-run king minimum escapement minimums.
Additionally, Fish and Game announced restrictions on the Kasilof River and some Cook Inlet salt waters to help boost the Kenai's king run.
On the Kasilof, retention of naturally produced kings will be prohibited until 11:59 p.m. Saturday, June 30.
And at 12:01 a.m. Friday, sport fishing for any species will be prohibited within one mile of shore in the salt waters of Cook Inlet south of the latitude of the Ninilchik River mouth to the latitude of Bluff Point.
On a positive note, I did hear of some nice fishing out west on the Kvichak and Naknek Rivers during the trout opener, with a half-dozen or so rainbows over 30 inches caught on the Naknek. The Upper Kenai, which is now open, has some decent sockeye and trout fishing.
The rivers out east have come up significantly since last week. And the timing could not have been worse for the Chitina opener.
Dipnetters were out in force last weekend only to be faced with difficult conditions. I spoke with biologist Mark Somerville in Glenallen this week and it seems more of the same for the river levels this week.
The supplemental dipnet extended limit is still in effect. As of Tuesday, no kings had passed across the sonar in the upper Gulkana. Being this late in the season, Somerville is concerned and a restriction on dipnetting for kings on the Copper Drainage is in effect. The Chitina Subdistrict Personal Use Dip Net Salmon Fishery is closed to the retention of king salmon for the remainder of the 2012 season. King salmon and steelhead incidentally taken may not be retained and must be released immediately and returned to the water unharmed.
Be sure to check current regulations concerning this fishery. Additional information can be obtained at adn.com or the ADFG website or call Copper River Charters (907-823-2200) for current fishing conditions, river levels and charter drop-offs.
Paxson, Louise and Summit lakes should be good for lake trout fishing. Try Paxson Lake near the outlet with silver spoons or smolt patterns for lake trout feeding on out-migrating smolt. Lake trout that have been captive under the ice for eight months and are on a hunger binge and the fishing should be productive.
Whitefish and grayling and burbot are a staple for larger fish. Spoons like a Luhr Jensen ¾-ounce crocodiles in blue and silver and rainbow trout patterns work well cast from a boat or from shore. Fish near good-looking structure and drop-offs.
The fishing reports from the valley have been more of the same, with small kings being caught on the Deshka mixed in with a few larger fish.
At 6 a.m. Friday, the Little Su will close for king fishing, including catch-and-release, and will remain closed for the remainder of the king salmon sport fishing season, the Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday.
The high water is flooding the lower Deshka, backing up some big upriver Susitna fish at the mouth. A sixty-pound fish was landed a few days ago and a number of 50-pounders.
The kings are spread throughout the Deshka all the way to Neil Lake. The Susitna River is running hard with more than 8.5 feet of rising water reported in one day last week. The boat tie-off spit at the Deshka Landing is now in jeopardy.
Lake Creek is starting to get kings into the river, with anglers catching a few fish with plugs and waiting it out. The fishing should pick up in the next week or so.
I spoke with Mike Hudson at Three Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla and he says the bright spot has been the lake fishing. The lower temperatures has prolonged the spring "bite." Hudson said the Memory lakes, Big Lake area, and Kepler Bradley Systems have been producing some nice fish.
Productive flies for the valley lakes have been dragonfly nymphs in brown and olive and lake leeches or wooly buggers in black and brown. If fishing with kids, sometimes a bobber with night crawlers or eggs will produce fish. Having a watercraft for the lakes will greatly increase your success.
Seward has been productive for halibut when the boating has been safe enough to travel out toward Montague Island.
Steve Babinec from Saltwater Safari Company said they have had some marginal weather recently but are catching fish on the front porch of Montague Island when they can get out - the front porch being near San Juan Island and just south of the Montague Straight.
Babinec said the fish have been picky with the lower water temperatures and most of halibut have mud on their bellies, an indicator of stationary resident fish. He said the bigger migratory halibut are not in the shallow water yet. Most of his fishing has been in the 300- to 400-foot range.
Some anglers are catching kings setting on the hook fishing for halibut and chunking herring at intervals and keeping a few mooch rods over the side, he said. Anglers should fish like it was still early May as the weather and the fish have been finicky with the colder water, Babinec said.
Mike Brown from Mossy's fly shop in Anchorage said that clients having been catching a few nice trout in the upper and middle sections of Kenai River. And he reported that the reds are in the Russian River. The water is a little high but anglers willing to spend a little time prospecting should catch a few salmon. He says that a mini krystal shrimp fly in a size six are working really well.
Capt. Drew Hilterbrand of Rod and Real Charters out of Ninilchik reported catching a nice 120-pound halibut on his last charter and a few 40-pounders a few days ago. He has been fishing in about 180 to 200 feet of water, using herring. The king fishing has slowed a bit on Cook Inlet however.
The Anchor is still closed for fishing. The Ninilchik and Deep Creek fisheries closed for king fishing on Monday. Deep Creek is closed to kings for the remainder of the year, while the Ninilchik reopens for hatchery kings only on July 1.
Success for feeder king salmon has been fair off the south side of Kachemak Bay, Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi. Charters in Homer have been producing a few halibut in the larger class but the big fish have still not moved in numbers yet.
Ship Creek has been producing a few more kings on each tide. Dustin Slinker from the Bait Shack said they are averaging about a dozen or more fish on each tide.
Bait with a bobber seems to be the hot ticket. The horseshoe bend near the mouth has been the most productive stretch recently during the lower tides. Fish the incoming tide, slack and a little during the fall.
The higher tides next week will push fish further up past C Street bridge opening up more fishing spots. The fishing should pick up soon with the higher tides.
Some local lakes have been stocked with hatchery fish and most local lakes should fish well - try Cheney, Beach and Campbell Point. These are recently stocked lakes. Bobbers with suspended nymphs, chronomids and eggs are producing 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."
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.
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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