Less than stellar fishing season continues in Southcentral

Pat Dougherty

In addition to all those missing kings, fishing around Southcentral Alaska seems to be a bit in the doldrums -- although there are exceptions. High water in many streams is down to fishable or better levels. The first run of reds on the Kenai remains a disappointment. In saltwater, we're not seeing a lot of bigger halibut or the arrival of any significant number of silvers.

Here's what the roundup looks like:


The water level in the upper Kenai has dropped 20 to 25 percent in the last week or so, down to about 8,100 cubic feet per second. That's still high for this time of year -- 6,500 would be more typical -- but that's a lot better than the 10,400 we saw a week ago. (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 pretty slow; there aren't large numbers of reds, and the recent high water has made it tough to fish for them.

Red fishing in the Russian has been fair to good; the water level there has also moderated. Experienced anglers who work at it should still be able catch limits.

Bears are around, so be cautious and give them plenty of room.

Trout fishing in the Kenai has been slow to fair, but should improve with the lower water levels. Nymphs -- think caddis and stoneflies -- should be effective, 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 remain in effect or will shortly take effect:

• The English Bay River drainage and Port Graham Subdistrict closed to sport fishing for sockeye salmon at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, July 4, through 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

• The Anchor and Ninilchik rivers closed to sport fishing beginning at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 1. They 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 was prohibited in Deep and Stariski creeks beginning at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 1. The restrictions will continue 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 closed 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 king closure began at 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 1, and will continue through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 15. Fishing in that area for species other than king salmon is open.


Salmon fishing in Resurrection Bay was painfully slow last weekend, but that ought to start improving. Boats are bringing in halibut, but a lot of them are chickens in the 10- to 15-pound range. The season for ling cod opened Sunday, with some nice fish being caught. The hottest fishing seemed to be black bass and rockfish. Those may not be the glamor fish, but don't underestimate their eating quality.


As of Monday, the $10,000 jackpot leader in the Homer Halibut Derby was Pam Seward of La Mirada, Calif., with a 210.6-pound flatfish caught on Capt. Mike Manns' "Arctic Addiction." (Links to all Alaska fishing derbies can be found on the fishing page at and.com.)

Jim Lavrakas of Skookum Charters in Homer was out on a non-working fishing trip earlier this week. He prefers eating ling cod (the "barracuda of the north") to halibut, so he was happy that ling cod season opened July 1. He and a group of friends, fishing off Pearl Island south of the peninsula, boated five cod over 42 inches and two halibut over 60 pounds in five hours of fishing.


Charter operators seem to be picking up halibut pretty consistently. Chamber of Commerce derbies for halibut and kings will run through Sept. 15. The halibut derby only accepts fish in the 45- to 65-pound range to protect the larger breeding females. For more information go to whittieralaskachamber.org.


Even though king fishing is closed, anglers looking for trout in the "king zones" of the Parks Highway streams (Willow, Montana, Sheep, etc.) 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. Water levels in these streams have also improved a lot, so they are clear and fishable. Try streamers and nymphs for rainbows and the occasional grayling.

Valley lake fishing remains good. Temperatures have remained relatively 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.

Reflections Lake in the Palmer Hayflats area will be stocked with 500 catchable rainbow trout Friday, July 6, according to Fish and Game. Bag limits will be five trout a day and five in possession, with only one a day longer than 20 inches. The annual limit for rainbow trout greater than 20 inches in stocked lakes is 10.

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 species of salmon, once they show up.

Farther north, toward Glennallen, the Gulkana River went to catch and release for king salmon at 12:01 a.m. last Saturday. Only unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures may be used for all fishing on the Gulkana. The annual bag limit has been 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. The river is still running high.

The Klutina River still has pretty good numbers of reds, and the water levels have come down.

Thanks to Mike Hudson at Three Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla for contributing to this report.


Ship Creek is closed to kings and it's too early for silvers. The creek is still high and too turbid to tell what kind of king run we're having, according to Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh.

Downstream of the dam (the salmon fishing section), the creek is closed to all fishing -- not just king salmon -- through July 13.


The Chitina Subdistrict Personal Use Dip Net Salmon Fishery will open from 12:01 a.m., Monday, July 9 through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 15, according to an announcement by the Department of Fish and Game. In addition, a supplemental harvest of 10 additional sockeye salmon will be allowed for the sockeye fishery during the period. Check the Fish and Game website for the many other regulations governing this fishery.

According to a Monday morning update on chitinadipnetters.com: "Charter customers who stuck it out today finished a solid 8-10 on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the best). I believe this trend will continue most, if not all this week. I'll be updating this every night now with daily catches, or more often if things take a turn for the worse. There are a lot of fish in the river now, so slow times aren't as slow and excellent times are closer together, but you still need to be prepared to put your time in. The weather is cool and overcast." For further updates, check the chitinadipnetters.com website.

Pat Dougherty is editor of the Daily News.

Anchorage Daily News