A friend called last week to ask if I could recommend gear and flies for trout in Montana. He told me all about some phenomenal river he planned to fish.
Naturally I had to ask why he was leaving Alaska to go fishing now. It wasn't a family or business trip with fishing thrown in. No, he was leaving to fish, during some of our best trout fishing. Not that I have any gripes with Montana fishing ... but leaving Alaska during the Superbowl of trout fishing to watch Pop Warner?
He called from down there this week to thank me for my advice. I asked him how the fishing was. He told me he had landed one 16-inch brown trout and broke off another 20-incher. Wow, a 20-incher, I thought; a good fisherman in Alaska can catch those by the dozens. And we catch rainbows, not brown trout. Actually, 20-inch rainbows can get in the way when we're chasing really big trout on the Kenai, Naknek or Kvichak rivers.
He also mentioned it was really hot there and every bend was crawling with anglers. I asked him if he would fish that area again. He said probably not, although he was thinking of getting a replica mount of the 16-inch brown.
You probably want to try your luck a little closer to home, so here's a roundup of recent fishing around Southcentral Alaska.
Weather for the last couple of days has made offshore fishing in Prince William Sound marginal. I spoke with Kristen Labrecque on Tuesday, who said most of the charter fleet has been sitting in port. She said she had to cancel three trips in the last week. She did mention that she'd had a stellar day last Saturday, putting 21 silvers in the boat.
I fished with her crew last Friday and had a nice day taking in the scenery and wildlife. We fished baits in 220 feet of water near Montague Island on the incoming tide. Our group managed a half-dozen or so halibut and some huge Pacific cod. The tides were working against the wind where we were fishing, so staying on top of the fish was sometimes a challenge. We finished with some nice rockfish from one of Labrecque's regular spots.
Silver fishing is starting to slow, according to Steve Babinecat of Saltwater Safari Co. Steve said he has been picking up a few silvers near Safety Cove. There are fish in the bay and jumpers around, according to Karl Hughes of Aurora Charters, but they aren't biting. Hughes said he's concentrating on halibut and has quit silver fishing for the season.
Babinec said the usual spots are still producing nice catches of small- and medium-sized halibut. Larger halibut are still there and private boats willing to wait it out are catching a few triple-digit fish. The usual areas near Ellrington, Junket and Montague Island offshore are doing well -- weather permitting.
The Parks Highway creeks have been high and dirty the last couple of days as a result of recent rain in the foothills. They were not fishing well as of Tuesday.
I talked to Farleigh Dean at Willow Island resort earlier in the week. He said the trout fishing had been good up until the high water. Most of the best fishing has been above the highway. Fewer chums are in the lower river now; most have moved into the upper river.
The trout are apparently there with them. The best fishing has been with 8 mm beads. As the salmon start to die off, streamers and other carcass flies should start to produce. Keep an eye on water conditions. The creek was dropping and should be in shape by this weekend -- weather permitting
Silver salmon returns have been erratic on most valley streams, with some areas producing fish but other runs very weak. Willow Creek has a few silvers mixed with pinks in the area below the bridge, but they aren't there in any numbers.
Montana Creek had some large schools of fish arrive recently, which accounted for anglers doing well. The Little Susitna is closed for silvers, as is Jim Creek.
The Talkeetna drainage has been high and fishing tough, according to Brett Nealis with Phantom Salmon Charters in Talkeetna. Nealis said because of the high water he was scrambling Tuesday to find spots to fish silvers.
Clear Creek is still fishing well, with anglers catching trout in the upper sections. High sun and clear water on smaller streams can make for tough days. Early evenings, with shade and low light, have been best for trout. Look for fish in the deeper holding water and under cover during midday sunny weather. Beads in light roe colors in 6mm and 8mm sizes have been working well.
The Deshka has been slow for silvers, with occasional reports of a few lucky anglers being in the right spot at the right time. Other anglers are coming home empty-handed. The last significant push of coho salmon through the weir was 718 fish on Aug. 21.
Valley lakes continue to fish well, although warmer weather has slowed the catch on some. The Kepler-Bradley lakes and Big Lake systems should start to pick up soon as nighttime temps cool. The usual staple of dragonfly nymphs and leech patterns should work.
I spoke with Paul Tornow of Alaska Angling Addiction on Tuesday and he said the bite is on and his clients have been catching good numbers of trout in the Kenai. The upper Kenai is fishing well for trout, as is the middle river below Skilak Lake.
Tornow mentioned that kings are spawning as well as reds and spots where the big fish are dropping eggs are fishing well. Just keep in mind that where you catch fish today probably will not be where you catch them tomorrow. Keep moving until you find fish.
Tornow said he did manage to land a nice middle-river rainbow last week that he taped at 28 inches long and 19 inches around.
Silvers are also starting to show in the middle Kenai. Most are first-run fish and anglers have been successful catching a limit if they are willing to search. The larger silvers of the late run are probably still a few weeks away.
The lower Kenai was slow the last couple of days because of off-color water conditions. Greg Brush with E-Z Limit guide service was fishing when I called Tuesday. He said he was having a tough day finding silvers. He mentioned that he was still seeing good numbers of pinks, though most were past their prime.
Brush also said the Kustatan and Big River lakes west side fly-out fisheries are tapering off fast.
The Crescent Lake outlet fishery is now starting to heat up for silvers and dollies. This is great trip for bear viewing and spectacular scenery.
The saltwater fishery off Deep Creek and Anchor River has been spotty because of weather. Expect 20-foot-plus tides through the weekend that should make for difficult fishing.
Silver fishing in the Twentymile, Portage and Placer rivers are all picking up. These wild salmon fisheries have a reduced bag limit, so look at the Anchorage Area regulations starting on page 36 of the Southcentral Sport Fish Regulations Summary booklet.
Bird Creek silver fishing continues to be slow, as the pinks and chums are getting closer to spawning.
Dustin Slinker at the Bait Shack on Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage told me Tuesday morning that the creek hadn't been red-hot but a few anglers were leaving with silvers. Late that afternoon he called back and told me to get down to the creek, the silver bite was red-hot right in front of his business. Apparently a couple of large schools of fish had moved in. He called during the flood tide, about an hour before peak. Recent tides have been more than 27 feet.
Campbell Creek silvers have moved out of Campbell Lake and are dispersed throughout the creek. The fish are a mix of bright and colored. Anglers willing to prospect are catching a few bright ones.
Anglers trolling for feeder kings have had limited success throughout Kachemak Bay. Fish have been caught from Bluff Point, Bear Cove and Point Pogibshi.
Trolling for silvers has been slow off Bluff Point, Point Pogibshi and the south side of the bay. Some chums being caught in the Seldovia area.
Silver fishing has been improving at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Spit and ranges from fair to good. Fishing has been best on incoming tides.
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."
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