Klutina, Gulkana rivers are nice alternatives to the Kenai

Tony Weaver

The Seward Highway can be a mess this time of year, but the debacle Friday was special. I had to wonder if fishing the Kenai was really worth the effort. I left Anchorage at noon expecting to beat the traffic. I should have taken the road closure warning more seriously, but I thought: it's probably just another construction stop. Then I watched three helicopters, five or six unmarked cop cars and a whole bunch of regular patrol cars pass me.

This can't be good, I thought.

Sure enough, depending who you talked to at the Tesoro station, there was an armed fugitive in a stolen car, a kidnapper with a hostage, or a sniper on a rampage.

At any rate, I didn't reach the river and start fishing until 8 p.m. My out-of-town guests did catch a limit of really nice reds, though, so I guess it was worthwhile in the end.

I hope the fugitive-kidnapper-sniper that ruined my fishing plans gets his. Apparently he's still missing. My bet is he's dipnetting.

Here's a look at fishing around Southcentral Alaska.

Copper Basin and Valdez

Most anglers are focused on the Kenai and catching reds. For a change of pace and fewer fishermen, the Klutina and Gulkana are nice alternatives. I took a road trip Sunday to the Klutina, where we had a heck of great day king fishing. I fished with Grove's Klutina King Salmon Charters. My group hooked 24 fish and landed three kings in about four hours. The largest fish was just less than 50 pounds. Rivers across the state are hurting for kings, and the Klutina will go to catch and release soon because of low returns. Nevertheless, we saw a lot of fish and the catching was good. Check ADFG's website (links are on adn.com) for current regulations and closures. The Klutina is also pumping out a strong run of reds. For anglers who want to try new water, the drive east is practically traffic-free and the weather is usually better.

I spoke with Joe Prax of Prospector Outfitters in Valdez on Tuesday. He said most of their silvers are still offshore. He said the pink run seems a little down. The best fishing has been from shore around Allison Point.

The current Valdez Derby leader is a 187.7-pound halibut reeled in July 19 by Pat Wing, fishing aboard the Tango.

Prax also mentioned that the Women's Silver Salmon Derby is coming up Aug. 4-11. Last year there were more than 700 entrants. Check out www.valdezfishderbies.com for more information.


A few chum and coho salmon have been reported caught in the lower Little Susitna River, but it's still early for the silver run. Some chums and pinks have been sighted at the mouths of Willow and Little Willow creeks, so there's a possibility of catching a silver. Look for improvement in the next week or so. Silver fishing on the Deshka has been very slow.

Sockeye salmon should begin to show up at Jim Creek in small numbers this week. On the west side of Cook Inlet, silvers should begin entering the Chuit and Theodore rivers soon. Once anglers take a limit of coho salmon in these waters, they must stop fishing for the day.

The lakes in the valley are still fishing well. Check on current stocking and maps on the ADFG website to plan a lake trip.


When the weather permits, saltwater fishing out of Whittier has been pretty consistently good. Saturday the fishing was excellent, with limit catches for most boats out near Montague, but Sunday the weather turned and charter boats sat in port. Most of the silver fishing is still outside the bay.

Eshamy and Coghill bays are seeing good returns of reds this week, with increased bag limits taking effect for the Coghill. Check the ADFG website for current information.

Kristen Labrecque with Saltwater Excursions told me there was a "slow bite" Tuesday. Her clients had caught and released a few small halibut, and had two silvers on board, but overall fishing was slow. One client hooked a nice fish while we were talking and she had to hang up. She attributed her recent success with halibut to a white or glo scampi (grub) with a blue tail rigged with the right weight or a Kodiak Custom Tackle Jig. She said one client landed a 141-pound halibut and most of her clients had limits of salmon.

There are still hatchery kings milling around the Flemming Spit and the Whittier boat harbor.


Fishing in Seward is really starting to pick up. Silvers are spread from Pony Cove to Caines Head, with the better fishing at Pony. Lingcod and halibut fishing have also been hot.

I called Andy Mezirow with Crackerjack Sport Fishing on his satellite phone Tuesday. He said he was having a great day of silver fishing. He had numerous fish on during our chat and finally had to hang up to get back to his clients. He mentioned that he was mostly done for the day with silver limits and so was heading out to his lingcod spots. Mezirow said he was fishing Berkely Gulp Minnows in blue and silver rigged with a mooch setup with 2 to 4 oz. of lead. He said the minnows saved bait and were a great alternative to constantly changing herring when the action was furious. Mesirow was fishing near Cheval Narrows. He also said he was seeing an uptick in halibut size.


Trolling success for feeder kings has been poor to fair in Kachemak Bay. However some pinks and chums are being caught near Seldovia. Pinks have been reported in Tutka Bay Lagoon, and a few silvers are starting to arrive at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Spit.

I got a call from Jim Lavrakas of Skookum Charters, who was fishing China Poot Bay this week. He reported having a great day fishing for sockeyes. Halibut fishing has been fair to good in much of the bay, though most fish have been small. ADFG has been sampling halibut at the dock, and the fish harvested the past week averaged just less than 14 pounds. That said, the most productive areas outside the bay were not fished much because of the lousy weather. Maybe that explains the smaller fish.


Sockeye fishing in the upper Kenai is improving as fish make their way toward Kenai Lake and the Russian River. Expect the fishing to improve over the next two weeks. The upper river is also fair to average for trout and Dolly Varden. Water levels are about normal for this time of year.

The lower Kenai is good in spots but devoid of sockeyes in others.

Remember, the Russian River weir is upstream of the fishery so weir counts may not reflect the actual number of fish in the Russian and at the Kenai-Russian confluence. If you choose to butcher your sockeyes streamside, please chop the carcass into smaller pieces and toss them into fast water.


The silver count is finally starting to build at Ship Creek. Anglers are catching most fish above the train trestle. Dustin Slinker from the Bait Shack said the water has been dirty, but was clearing as we spoke Tuesday. Most anglers are catching their silvers on spinners -- a Vibrax being the lure of choice. Fish have been caught from the area marker below the dam to the first bridge. On low tides, anglers walking the river at the start of the incoming tide have been catching fish, as have anglers fishing the flood tides near the bridge. Most of the good fishing tides this week are midday.

A few silvers can be found in Campbell Creek for those willing to prospect. Bird Creek is slow for silvers, but pinks and chums are starting to show up on the incoming tides. It's still early in the season for most of the silvers headed to the streams at the east end of Turnagain Arm, although pink runs are building in most of those streams.

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. Do you have a question about fishing in Alaska -- places, techniques, gear? Send your question to fishing@adn.com and we'll try to answer it in a future fishing report.

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Tony Weaver