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More bad news: stream levels are high, additional king restrictions

Tony Weaver

Wish we had better news for the fishing report. The nice weather has increased the snowmelt, which is raising stream levels, and that's no benefit to anglers. Reds are showing up, but not in good numbers yet. King fishing is being restricted even further.

Here's what the roundup looks like:

Kenai Peninsula

The story of the upper Kenai and Russian rivers this week is high and rising water levels. Cooper Landing has had some rain, but the high water is the result of a heavy snowpack in the mountains combined with several days of hot, sunny weather. The upper Kenai rose from Tuesday to Wednesday. (Links to check water levels on popular fishing streams, including the Kenai at Cooper Landing, are available at adn.com/fishing.)

Fishing for sockeyes in the Kenai has been slow; there aren't large numbers of reds and they seem moved around by the high water. By mid-July, expect better fishing as sockeyes spread in greater numbers throughout the river.

Sockeye fishing in the Russian has been fair; the water level there is also high. Anglers who hook up need to be prepared to fight fish in fast currents, where they can be very hard to hold on to.

Fishermen, whether in boats and wading, would be wise to be particularly safety conscious this week. In the current water conditions, it doesn't take a big mistake to find yourself in real danger. Boaters, take life jackets and wear them.

Campgrounds and pullouts near the Sportsman's Launch and Russian River are running full.

Bears are around, so be cautious and give them plenty of room. A sow with cubs has been reported in the area.

Trout fishing in the Kenai has been fair to slow. With the higher water, look for rainbows to hold in places you wouldn't ordinarily expect to find them. Especially in these conditions, they'll sometimes hold very close to shore, so resist the temptation to wade right in on top of them.

Nymphs should be effective patterns, along with leeches and sculpins. In the right spots, dry flies should pick up fish on both the Kenai and Russian.

Elsewhere on the peninsula:

To meet minimum king spawning goals in the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers and the king egg-take goal in the Ninilchik River, these restrictions have been announced:

• The Anchor and Ninilchik rivers will close to sport fishing beginning at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 1, and will remain closed through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 15. Anglers may not target kings. Kings caught while fishing for other species must be released immediately.

• The use of bait and multiple hooks will be prohibited in the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers beginning at 12:01 a.m., Monday, July 16, through 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, July 31. Anglers may not target kings. Any kings caught while fishing for other species must be released immediately.

• The use of bait and multiple hooks will be prohibited in Deep and Stariski creeks beginning at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 1, through 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, July 31. Anglers may not target kings. Any kings caught while fishing for other species must be released immediately.

• King fishing is catch-and-release only within one mile of shore in the saltwaters of Cook Inlet south of the latitude of the mouth of the Ninilchik River to the latitude of Bluff Point. The closure begins at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 1, and will continue through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 15. Any king caught cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

Homer

Derby halibut are getting larger, so apparently bigger fish are moving in. As of earlier this week, the largest fish was just over 200 pounds.

Fishing has been better in the Flat Island area and beyond. Jim Lavrakas with Skookum Charters said Monday he was having a good day fishing in 30- to 40-feet of water, and had two salmon in the boat and was working a third when his cellphone rang.

He reported that the Seldovia side was fishing better for kings and fishing had been steady. He caught a 28-pound white king a few days ago with a couple of nice eight- and nine-pounder feeder kings. He recommended trolling a herring with a white flasher.

Whittier

We reported last week that kings have been showing up closer to the terminal fishery near the harbor.

Charter operators seem to be picking up halibut pretty consistently. Chamber of Commerce derbies for halibut and kings run through Sept. 15. The halibut derby only accepts fish in the 45- to 65-pound range to protect the larger breeding females, a conservation measure that other halibut derbies would do well to consider.

Anyone with a derby ticket is eligible for a monthly prize drawing. All fish entries are weighed at the weigh-in station at Fee's Custom Seafood on the Harbor Triangle, daily between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets and regulations are available at businesses around Whittier. For more information go to whittieralaskachamber.org.

Mat- Su and north

The area-wide king closure is causing plenty of pain to the north. Would-be king fishermen are not showing up, which means local businesses are missing customers and guides are refunding deposits.

Even though king fishing is completely closed, anglers looking for trout in the "king zones" of the Parks Highway streams can only fish Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In general, the king zones are the portions of the creeks downstream from the highway (check with Fish and Game for exact boundaries).

Above the highway, trout fishing is allowed, although the streams are running high and somewhat off-color. The farther north you go from Willow Creek, the better the water conditions.

Lake fishing remains good. Temperatures have remained low and fish are active. Depending on which lake you choose, you can find both stocked and wild fish. You will definitely do better with some kind of watercraft -- a raft, canoe, float tube -- than fishing from shore. The Kepler-Bradley system is always a good bet, and you should be able to rent a boat.

Stillwater anglers are catching fish with dragonfly, damsel and leech patterns. Consider Big Lake and the Memory Lakes areas. Lakes recently stocked with rainbow trout include Gate, Mile 180, Kashwitna and Willow.

Anglers are finding plenty of pike in the Nancy Lake recreation area. If you go, you might want a canoe to explore the portage trail system. You're likely to catch a lot of smaller fish, with a few better ones around five or six pounds. Try Rex Spoons in black for pike.

The Little Su and Deshka rivers are closed to kings but open for other fish, including other salmon, once they show up.

Farther north, toward Glennallen, the Gulkana River remains high and out of shape. The Gulkana will go to catch and release for king salmon at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Only unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures may be used for all fishing on the Gulkana. The annual bag limit will be reduced from four to one. Any king salmon kept before June 30 will count toward the annual bag limit of one king salmon. Someone who has already kept a king salmon from the Gulkana cannot keep another from any drainage in the upper Copper River starting June 30.

There are some reds moving through the Klutina River, where water levels seem to be coming down. And fishing for lake trout at Lake Louise has been good.

Our thanks to the guys at Three Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla for contributing to this report.

Seward

Steve Babinec at Saltwater Safari out of Seward said he has been fishing half-days, closer to town, and picking up smaller halibut. This week he fished in about 240 feet of water with rubber tail jigs and herring. He said a series of weak tides is responsible for the presence of way too many dogfish interfering with his halibut fishing.

Boats farther out toward Montague Island, fishing in 90 to 180 feet of water, have been catching more halibut and avoiding a lot of the dogfish.

Anglers are also catching some nice feeder kings from 10 to 20 pounds. Trolling or power mooching Jet divers in sizes 1 to 7 are working well, as are banana weights rigged with flashers and cut herring. Having good electronics is a plus; experiment with different depths until you find fish.

Anchorage

Ship Creek has been high and off color and the fishing has been slow. Dustin Slinker from the Bait Shack says anglers are seeing plenty of fish activity, but not much catching.

But he's optimistic. He said the water is dropping and clearing. He said he's seen a few 25- to 35-pound fish landed and "we were getting a lot of bites (Wednesday) during high tide." He predicted good conditions for this weekend -- "the best water of the summer so far" -- and a strong turnout of fishermen.

Copper Basin

The Chitina Sub-District Personal Use Dip Net Salmon Fishery, according to a Wednesday morning update on chitinadipnetters.com: "The Copper River is starting to settle down, but it's a slow process. Fishing is still very poor. Charters are hoping to reopen on Monday, July 2. (Look for a) much more detailed report Saturday with a definite answer and a fishing prediction for the 4th of July week." For updates, check the chitinadipnetters.com website.

Nushagak-Mulchatna drainage

The bag limits for kings 20 inches longer in the Nushagak-Mulchatna rivers drainage are being reduced from two a day, only one of which is more than 28 inches long, to one a day. In addition, the annual limit of kings more than 20 inches from the Nushagak-Mulchatna drainage is cut from four fish to two. The regulation took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Bushkin River on Kodiak

The bag limit for sockeye salmon 20 inches or longer is being increased to five fish in the Buskin River drainage. The escapement goal for sockeyes in the Buskin drainage is 5,000 to 8,000 fish. As of June 24, the weir count for sockeyes into Buskin Lake was more than 5,600. The department projects that the number of spawners will exceed 8,000 even with the higher bag limit. For more information, contact the Division of Sport Fish office in Kodiak at 907-486-1880.

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." Daily News editor Pat Dougherty contributed to this report.

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 adn.com/fishing 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.


Tony Weaver
FISHING REPORT