It's amazing how a few sunny days can flip what was looking like a bleak fishing forecast. After last week's snow and unseasonable cold, I was starting to think spring was still a month away. But in Alaska, one blue sky day can completely change your perspective.
Anglers, like farmers, depend on the weather, although in our case, even if fishing isn't great, a gorgeous day outdoors can do wonders for your attitude. Those days are a big reason we live here.
From some of what I'm hearing this week, fishing is definitely getting better. Fish are moving inshore, rivers and lakes are shedding their ice and it looks like the weather will hold through the weekend. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
So here's what I've heard:
I called Bruce Knowles up at the Deshka Landing. He said the Big Su is still loaded with ice. He took his four-wheeler up the south bluff of the landing Tuesday and the river was ice from bank to bank. Sounds like another week before boaters have access to the main stem of Susitna River and Deshka. Check the webcams at www.deshkalanding.com for up-to-date information. Knowles did say anglers were fishing the mouth of Willow Creek and catching a few trout.
Farther north, I'm told the Talkeetna is fishable and some anglers are catching occasional trout and grayling. The water is still low up but coming up daily.
On Tuesday, Tom Hilty of Three Rivers Fly and Tackle said some of the valley lakes are thawing. Finger Lake, Lucille and Kepler-Bradley Lakes are fishable and pretty much ice-free. Hilty said he went over to Kepler-Bradley recently with his kids. He managed to catch a fish but said fishing was still slow.
Steve Babinec with Saltwater Safari Company has been getting limits of halibut, although many of fish are chickens with very few larger fish. Babinec has been fishing east of Cape Resurrection, mostly, he said, in 200 feet and deeper. I was surprised to hear him say the Pacific cod that are normally prolific seem more scarce.
I called Carl Hughes of Aurora Charters on Tuesday. He said Captain John Lester on the Orion limited his boat on a half-day charter Monday, including one 100-pound fish. Lester was fishing fairly close, near Horsehead and Cape Junket, in 200 feet of water.
Trolling for feeder kings is still relatively slow, with most of them caught at the entrance of the bay.
Fishing is starting to turn on. Captain Diane Caso-Morris with Bob's Trophy Charters said the fish aren't chalky and look really healthy. She also mentioned that there is lots of bait this year. She said killer whales are showing up, which should be a sign of better fishing. Morris said most fishing has been 20 to 40 miles out. If you go, remember to buy a derby ticket.
Morris also said fishing for feeder kings has been good, with some fish up to 20 pounds. Catches have been better near Bluff Point and Point Pogibshi.
The Anchor River opener was a bust last week. No fish were reported through the weir as of Sunday. Keep an eye on weir counts at adfg.alaska.gov. My last report was from Larry Keller in Homer, a regular, who reported that the river was over its banks and flooding the parking lot below the bridge a few days ago.
The good news is that the offshore fishing has been good out of the Anchor Point and Deep Creek marine launches. Anglers are catching a few nice kings. Bill Coe of O'Fish'ial charters in Anchor Point had some nice catches this week. Coe had a good bite on kings on the 20th with six fish from seven to 30 pounds landed. Halibut have been small, with few of them over 20 pounds.
Digging for razor clams on Ninilchik beaches has been poor. The next good tides will be May 23-29. Expect to find many small clams and very few large ones. Littleneck (steamer) and butter clams can be found in gravel beaches on the south side of Kachemak Bay from Seldovia to Chugach Island.
Good numbers of butter clams are found on the islands in China Poot Bay. Butter clams can be found up to two feet. Littleneck clams can be found in a variety of habitats from Jakolof Bay to Bear Cove. Try exploring new beaches for success. Typically, littleneck clams are found shallower in the substrate, up to eight inches deep. All shrimp and crab fisheries in Kachemak Bay are closed.
The Kasilof River has produced some good catches of steelhead, although water conditions are still low and cold. King fishing is slow, although I expect that to improve daily, especially because bait was allowed starting May 16. There is still an ADF&G Emergency Order in place on the Kasilof restricting harvest to hatchery fish only. This fishery is open seven days a week, with a daily bag limit of one hatchery fish. Any wild king or steelhead must be released and cannot be removed from the water. Check the regs for how to identify hatchery fish.
Kenai River king fishing has been slow this week, but a few kings have been caught. Water conditions are low, cold and a bit murky but should improve soon. This is a single hook, no bait fishery with an Emergency Order in effect that requires the release of any king caught.
Ship Creek has been low, cold and clear, but a couple of warm days should get the creek and fish moving. Dustin Slinker of the Bait Shack said a few brave anglers have been fishing near the mouth, but he has heard of no fish caught yet. With the big tides this week, a few fish could move into the creek, temperature permitting.
Jewel Lake, Delong Lake, Cheney Lake and others should be stocked this week with some nice rainbow trout. Try fishing for Arctic char in the open ice leads around the shoreline on Jewel, Sand and Campbell Point lakes.
Hooligan fishing is starting to pick up. With the bigger tides this week, we should see more of the little fish at Twenty Mile River. Dipnetting seasons for hooligan in Southcentral Alaska opened the first of April. This is a personal-use fishery and only Alaska residents can participate. No permit required, but you do need an Alaska resident fishing license or ADF&G Permanent ID card with you while dipnetting.
Dipnetters using the shoulder west of the river should park well off the roadway, avoid trespassing on the railroad right-of-way and pack out trash. Drivers should watch for fishermen on the shoulder and highway. Speed limits are reduced to 45 mph on this section of the Seward Highway.
Labrecque of Saltwater Excursions said her first trip this week was Wednesday. The weather has kept most the fleet in harbor.
The Strawberry Channel, Hinchinbrook Entrance and Montague Straits should be good for halibut and rockfish. Fishing should be good near herring spawning sites and rock piles or structure. Lingcod season remains closed till July 1.
King salmon should start showing up any day now at Cove Creek. Fish on the front of the flood tide. Try a slow retrieve when spin fishing for king salmon or suspend a small herring under a bobber
I got a nice report from Valdez this week. Several feet of snow still stand on the lawns and gardens of Valdez, but that didn't deter anglers in the Valdez Halibut Derby. The derbies are in full swing in Valdez with a 97-pound fish and a 70-pound fish landed last weekend aboard Dan Orion Charters. For more information on the fishing and derbies go to www.valdezfishderbies.com.
Tony Weaver has fished all over Alaska for more than 40 years. He is the host 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." firstname.lastname@example.org