Kenai River sockeye salmon help end the summer's blues

Tony Weaver

After so many gloom-and-doom fishing reports -- especially after all the king closures -- I was starting to get a little negative. And then just like clockwork the Kenai sockeye show us why we live here: great fishing.

The reds have returned to our beloved Kenai River to save the summer. The latest counts point to a pretty darn good run.

Anglers have even had a peek at that unfamiliar orange orb in the sky this week. So I promise to try to be more positive.

With the salmon season and weather in such disarray this summer, it's probably time for a road trip. Here's a quick look around Southcentral Alaska:

Kenai Peninsula

I called Greg Brush of EZ Limit guide service Tuesday. He confirmed that the sockeyes are indeed in the Kenai. Brush said the fishing was a little better Monday; he had to work harder for the fish Tuesday, but fish were steadily streaming by his place on the river.

Downstream from the outlet of Skilak Lake, the middle and lower Kenai are also promising, with anglers saying fishing was good, even producing a few reds in the 10-pound class.

Brush said his clients were also getting a few silvers on the Kustatan River across the inlet. He said his lure of choice for silvers is a pink-and-silver or silver-and-flame No. 4 or 5 Vibrax. The Kustatan is a short fly-out from North Kenai.

The Anchor Point and Deep Creek offshore is also producing some nice halibut in the 50-pound range, with most anglers limiting out. Many of the fish have been found between 220 and 350 feet, although tides coming this weekend will be pretty high. By Wednesday, we will be in a better tide cycle.

All of the Kenai River, Kasilof and lower rivers of the Peninsula are closed to fishing for kings, as well as the offshore fishery north of Bluff Point. Check the ADFG website or the Fishing Blog on for emergency orders.


The weather turned bad last week and a number of boats canceled trips and waited it out. When the weather settled a bit toward the end of the weekend, I heard from Kristen Labrecque. She said she's still knocking down some really nice halibut. She sent a picture of three bruisers, approaching triple digits, caught on her last trip.

She mentioned that Prince William Sound is producing halibut from all locales, with Montague being the most consistent. She has been fishing Kodiak Custom Jigs and doing well on large halibut. Silvers are starting to show farther out, but have not been caught close to Passage Canal yet.


Anglers are starting to see a few silvers in local streams. The Little Susitna and Deshka are producing some fish but the run is still about two weeks away. Clear Creek has provided pretty consistent trout fishing; anglers should get out and walk the stream to locate fish.

The Parks Highway streams have not seen much in the way of salmon recently. The king runs were practically non-existent, as was the usual abundance of trout feeding behind them. We can hope that pinks and chums will fill the void and the fishing will pick up. Grayling fishing has been average. Water levels are pretty good.


The fishing out of Seward has been good for halibut, with most boats heading out toward Montague Island if the weather permits. Boaters could also explore out west. Harris and Aialik are both good spots to prospect.

Keep an eye on the weather; the forecast calls for change this weekend.

Most of the halibut are getting bigger and being caught in shallower water, shallower meaning 80 to 250 feet. Silvers are starting to show at Pony Cove and are spread all the way to Caines Head. Most anglers are catching silvers by mooching or trolling.

Capt. Andy Mezirow, owner of Crackerjack Sportfishing, called on his satellite phone Wednesday and said he limited the boat on silvers in an hour, before noon, at Pony Cove and was heading out to look for halibut.


Homer has been producing some nice halibut as well. At press time, the leader in the Jackpot Derby was still Pam Seward of LaMirada, Calif., with a 219.6-pounder. A few fish close to that had been turned in by mid-week, but none bigger. There were also reports of a released 300-pounder aboard the Tomahawk II earlier last week.

Capt. Pete Wedin of Pete's Alaska Charters says the "fishing is steady and improving and the bigger fish appear to be running late." Wedin said he has been finding decent fish out near the "sand waves" in central Cook Inlet.

Last week Anchorage resident Gordy Heinin (who had no derby ticket) released a 150-pounder. The week before, Homer angler Tom Youngblood (who had a derby ticket and is in the released-fish drawing for the month) released a fish close to 100 pounds while fishing Wedin's boat, the Julia Lynn. Lingcod and rockfish fishing is also decent outside toward Gore Point, and Chugach and Flat islands.

Copper Basin

The Copper River Chitina Subdistrict is open through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 29 , for personal use (dipnetting). There is a supplemental catch of 10 additional sockeyes allowed the week of July 16 and another 10 the week of July 23. The Chitina Subdistrict Personal Use Dip Net Salmon Fishery is closed to the retention of king salmon for the remainder of 2012.

The river is the lowest it has been all season. Fishing was good last week and was reported to be good through the weekend. It should continue to be good to excellent.

Up-to-date information can be found on the Chitina Dipnetters Association web site, The catch limit is based on projected daily sonar counts at the Miles Lake sonar, and is subject to change based on actual salmon escapement. If counts are below the projected numbers, fishing time will be reduced. If actual counts are above the projections, fishing time will be increased.

Sockeye fishing in the Klutina River continued to be productive last week and through the weekend, with fishermen still getting limits of sockeye. The water has returned to its normal level and color.

Sockeye are in the Gulkana River. The water level is the lowest of the season and visibility is good in the upper river at this time. The lower river is a little off color. Expect fishing to get better in the next few weeks because of the recent pulse of fish passing the Miles Lake sonar.

King salmon fishing in the Klutina opened July 1. The water level and color are back to normal. Fishing in the upper part of the river has been fair. There have been no reports of kings being caught from the Tonsina River.

On July 19, the Gulkana closes, as does the Klutina above mile marker 19.5. The Tonsina River above the Alyeska pipeline bridge also closes on the 19th.

King counts from the upper Gulkana tower are lagging far behind any previous year's counts. The Gulkana water level has come down and is currently at its lowest this season. Visibility is good in the upper river at this time, but recent rain caused the lower portion of the river to muddy up slightly.


A few silvers are starting to show in Ship Creek. Dustin Slinker at the Bait Shack said anglers fishing the high tide lower on the creek have been catching silvers with hardware, the most effective lure being a Vibrax. Slinker mentioned the fishing is also decent for anglers willing to walk the creek during low tides. Slinker estimates the heart of the run is still 10 to 14 days away.

Bird Creek opened July 14. Silver fishing was slow during the opener. A report of a chum or two in the creel was all I heard from a friend who fished the creek for a few hours on opening day. With the higher tides coming this weekend, the salmon should start pushing soon. Still, the better fishing is probably a week or so away.

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 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