Well, here it is, the first fishing report of 2013. I spent the last two weeks bouncing up and down the Kenai Peninsula looking for open water -- that is, when I wasn't reading this year's regulations, trying to figure out where, when and how I can fish.
I'm pretty sure the complexity of the regulations and overlap of "emergency order" management perplexes a lot of Alaska anglers. I may need an attorney to figure it out. If you haven't looked at the 2013 regulations, be forewarned, they can be confusing.
Spring has been late this year. I started to wonder if we'd actually see open water on any major roadside fishery before Memorial Day. Reminds me of last year's long, cold breakup. But let's be positive: a few fish are being caught offshore, and winter will soon be a faint memory.
I spoke with Rhett Nealis at Phantom and Tri-river Charters on Monday. He said most of the rivers off the Parks Highway are still inaccessible.
He winched his boat Sunday to the main flow of the Talkeetna River. The public access boat ramp is still high and dry. Nealis said after a dicey day dodging ice and skinny water and almost getting stranded upriver, he was lucky to get back.
We're another 10 days or two weeks away from rivers in shape for boat access. Early trout fishing should be fair to good as soon as the rivers come down and clear up.
Deshka Landing broke free of ice Wednesday, and the Skwentna is also finally flowing. Deshka Landing now has a web cam at http://www.deshkalanding.com/. Check it before heading north.
We're hoping for a fair return of kings to the Deshka this year. There are new regulations concerning all king fisheries statewide, so make the time to check them.
Saltwater fishing has been fair this week, with catches of halibut and mixed reports of slow to good king fishing in the Deep Creek/Anchor Point marine fishery. It seems that one day every boat will have one to three feeder kings, and then the next day all the kings seem to have disappeared.
Wally Martin, with Wally's Guide Service, has been out once and limited out on 15- to 25-pound halibut, but didn't hook a king.
Rod Van Saun, with Van Saun's Charters, said he fished three days this past week and brought in daily limits of halibut from 10 to 30 pounds, and had some fair king fishing. So far, his boat has produced six kings for 11 anglers, a good catch rate for this marine troll fishery.
I called Mike Fenton of Fenton Bros. Charters on Monday morning. He had fished the incoming tide off Deep Creek for halibut. He said the halibut bite was slow and he was just starting to troll for kings, but had no fish in the boat. The water seemed in pretty good shape, he said, without a lot of runoff stain.
The water temperature was 41.7 degrees. We should start seeing the bigger spawner kings as water temperatures start to rise.
The Kasilof River has produced some good catches of steelhead, although water conditions are quite low and cold. Boat access is non-existent. The state park launch is iced in and no boat takeouts are yet open.
King fishing is reportedly slow, although that should improve daily, especially because bait will be allowed starting Thursday. A Fish and Game emergency order restricts the catch to hatchery fish only. The fishery is open seven days a week with a daily bag limit of one hatchery fish. A wild king salmon with an adipose fin attached or steelhead must be released and cannot be removed from the water.
Kenai River king fishing has been very slow this week. Water conditions are low, cold and murky, but should improve soon.
Seward anglers are catching halibut when they can get outside Resurrection Bay. Saltwater Safari Co. and Aurora Charters were out for their first trips last week and reported good catches of halibut, with fish mostly between 15 and 25 pounds. Carl Hughes with Aurora said he has been limiting out the boat and the bite has been slow and steady. He said he has been fishing east of Cape Resurrection, in 175 to 200 feet.
King fishing has also been consistent. The majority of fish are being caught with deep-trolled baits in the Cheval Island, Pony Cove and Agnes Cove areas. Good downrigger setups are essential.
Dianne Dubuc with Alaska Saltwater Charters said she has been catching some feeders with the occasional fish over 20 pounds. She said she's seen plenty of bait in the bay, mainly Capelin about four inches long.
Lincod fishing remains closed until July 1.
Most Anchorage lakes are still frozen. Normally we are ice free in May, but not this year. Try fishing the ice-free edges of Jewel, Sand and Campbell Point lakes.
Dipnetting for hooligan in Southcentral Alaska opened on the first of April, but dipnetters will likely find fishing slow until the runs build around mid- to late-May. I've noticed more dipnet fishermen on the west edge of the highway, down from Twentymile River mouth. For your safety, and the safety of others, please park well off the highway, don't trespass on the railroad tracks or railroad right-of-way, and pack all your trash with you.
This is a personal-use fishery, so only Alaska residents can participate. No permit is required, but you do need an Alaska resident fishing license or Fish and Game Permanent ID card with you.
Hooligan fishing should improve throughout the week. Hooligan travel on the high flood, so fish the incoming tides. Open season for hooligan in saltwater is April 1 to May 31; in fresh water, it is April 1 to June 15. There is no bag or possession limit for personal use smelt, and no permit is required. Hooligan may be taken by dipnet in any fresh- or saltwater.
The Anchor River will open this weekend for king salmon. The river was high and very muddy last Sunday, so expect a slow opener.
Early-season halibut fishing in Kachemak Bay is decent. I spoke with Jim Lavrakas on Wednesday and he said the fishing has been pretty strong, with some larger halibut landed.
He said the "chicken" halibut spots have been good, with fish about 150 feet deep. Most of the charter fleet has been fishing in close to shore. Chugach and Barren Island fishing has quiet, but that should change when the lingcod season opens July 1.
Feeder king fishing has been good around Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi. Catching will improve as more fish move from their deep overwintering waters in the gulf to their shallower summer feeding grounds.
By TONY WEAVER