Fishing report: Kenai kings rule record book

Tony Weaver

I was recently reading the latest edition of the IGFA record book and was curious about records for chinook salmon. Not the obvious Les Anderson record, the 97-pound, 4-ounce behemoth caught on the Kenai River on May 17, 1985. I was interested in the line-class records.

To my surprise, seven of the 14 records in the all-tackle (not fly fishing) categories came from the Kenai River.

Some of the anglers I know. Like Mike Fenton, who caught a 67-pound, 4-ounce fish on 12-pound test July 31, 1985.

That's one of the older records for kings.

The most recent record is a 72-pound, 3-ounce fish caught July 31, 2004.

Of all the places in the world to fish, our Kenai kings are legendary.

This year we will see some Kenai River chinook return to their homeland, but numbers are scary low -- they have me concerned.

As of Tuesday, only 643 fish have passed through the sonar. Hopefully, the waters will subside and warm, the kings will return, not only on the Kenai, but throughout Alaska.

The projection for kings is low statewide, but let's keep our fingers crossed that we have at least minimum escapements.

Here is the latest fishing report from the field.



The kings are finally starting to show on the Deshka, with anglers catching a few at the mouth. On June 10, 382 kings went through the weir, so fishing should start to improve by the weekend. Most of the successful anglers are catching kings during the early morning hours.

I spoke with Mike Hudson of Three Rivers Fly and Tackle and a few other guides on Tuesday, and they said the run is just starting to build. Anglers are catching kings on Mag-Warts and hardware. Hudson mentioned the Blue Pirate Mag-Wart is producing fish.

The Little Susitna is off color and slow for fishing but a few anglers are catching kings. The road to the Burma Launch has been repaired, so access is improved.

Fishermen willing to put in the time at the Eklutna Tailrace fishery have seen a few kings. Try fishing early in day or late evening for better angling.

The Parks Highway streams are all running high and dirty, making fishing difficult. There are special emergency regulations for all streams in the Susitna drainage, so anglers should be aware of the restrictions for kings. Visit the ADFG for details.

The bright spot for the Mat-Su has been the lakes, which are fishing well with cool water temperatures.

Anglers should try lake leeches in green and shades of brown. The damsel fly hatch should be starting soon, so fly anglers should see the action pick up when the fish start to key in on these insects.

The Nancy Lakes area should also be good for pike, as most of the lakes in this region can provide outstanding fishing for anglers looking for an alternate to salmon and trout.



The lower Kenai River has been off color most of the week with water temperatures still in the low 40s. I spent three days on the river last week and never touched a fish.

Greg Brush of EZ Limit Guide Service boated a nice king Tuesday. Brush said that on his last pass of the day, one of his clients landed a 47-inch by 30-inch fish estimated at 52-plus pounds. Brush mentioned that he did not see any other fish caught on Tuesday.

The hooligan are thick in the Kenai. One of the old-timers mentioned this is one of largest runs he has seen since the 1960s. Visit for a short video of this phenomenon. I witnessed an 18-inch pipeline of hooligan stretching downriver as far as I could see.

The Kenai trout opener earlier this week had both parking lots full at the Bing Brown's and Lower Skilak launches.

The fishing was decent, according to Lee Kuepper of Alaska's Angling Addiction. His clients landed about 20 trout ranging from 12-to-25 inches. Kuepper mentioned most of his fish were caught swinging leeches and sculpin patterns.

The first run of reds is starting to show in the upper river. The run should be fishable soon, depending on the timing. I fished the lower river last week and noticed the occasional red splashing.

The Kasilof has been fishing well all week, with anglers catching two to four fish per boat. Some tides fish better than others, but overall, from the reports I am getting, the fishing has been consistent.

The offshore Deep Creek fishery for kings has slowed this week. Probably most of the run is north of the Kenai or heading for the rivers. I spoke with Cpt. Drew Hildebrand with Rod and Reel Charters, and he says the halibut bite has been consistent with limit catches, but he warned the king bite has started to slow.



I talked with Cpt. Bob Candopoulos, owner of the Saltwater Safari Company, on Tuesday, and he said the fishing in Seward has been very good, with limit catches of halibut and rockfish. Candopoulos also mentioned they have been getting some really nice kings out in Montague Straight while fishing for halibut.

Candopoulos mentioned the fishing has been good in 80 to 90 feet of water in some areas to as deep as 400 feet in others. Canadopolous said he likes the bigger tide cycles and that his boats do better with more water moving the bait. Most of the spots from Cape Junken to Montague Island have been fishing well.



The fishing in Whittier is picking up, Cpt. Kristen Labrecque with Saltwater Excursions called me Tuesday evening with a full report from the last couple of days. Labrecque said she limited the boat on Friday with six halibut from 30-55 pounds and six chickens. Monday she said she had one shooter and the rest of the halibut averaged 15-25 pounds. Tuesday she had a limit of rockfish and nine chicken halibut. Most of her fishing was done at the 150-250 foot range with Kodiak Custom tackle, circle hooks with pink squid skirts and herring and squid. Labrecque has been fishing out near Montague and lower island areas. Boaters should be on the lookout for gear and nets in this area. The commercial fleet is active. Avoid areas where there are commercial vessels working.



I spoke with Diane Caso-Morris of Bob's Trophy Charters on Tuesday, and she said the fishing is still very good in Homer. The fish are healthy, and anglers are catching their limits of halibut. Some whales are still milling around Kachemak Bay. This year has seen an increase in bait in the bay, and the whales are feeding. Anglers wanting to see whales and catch a halibut should take a full day trip out of Homer.

The king fishing is slowing with fish still being caught at Point Pogibshi and Bluff Point.

The Nick Dudnick lagoon is still slow for kings, with a few being caught on the high tides.



The lake fishing in the Anchorage Bowl has been good. Most of the lakes have been stocked recently, and anglers are catching fish at the most popular spots. Try Cheney and Jewell Lake. I drove by Jewel Lake on Monday and saw fish rising everywhere.

Ship Creek continues to flow high and muddy. King salmon are in the creek, but fishing remains difficult.

The Ship Creek Slam'n Salm'n Derby continues through Sunday. Be sure to buy your derby ticket before you fish.


Copper Basin

Most the rivers out east are still running high and dirty.

The first opening for the Copper River Chitina subdistrict for personal started Monday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

The water level in the river is high at this time. Do not expect a significant number of fish, but it could pick up. The preliminary season schedule is based on the projected daily sonar counts at the Miles Lake sonar and is subject to change based on actual salmon escapement. Check the ADFG website for current information.

Due to a late breakup followed by high water in the Copper River, sockeye are not expected to reach Klutina River before June 15th.

The Gulkana River is high and the water is muddy right now. The king salmon forecast is low for 2013. Anglers should expect in-season restrictions.

Most of the larger lakes, including Lake Louise, Susitna, Tyone, Paxson, and Crosswind lakes are still not free of ice and have very little open water around the shoreline. Lake trout and grayling fishing should improve as soon as these lakes are free of ice. We are still probably 10 days to two weeks from seeing ice-free conditions.



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