Fishing report: Best place to fish is off the beaten path

Tony Weaver
Photo courtesy of Fish Ranger

The fishing report is really a consensus on what I have heard recently, distilled into a somewhat accurate story of what the news on the river, lake or ocean is all about a few days ago.

So a caveat to all who read and use this information: what was good last week might not be what is good this weekend.

For example, last week the sockeye were really running from Jim's Landing to the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers. The anglers I talked to spoke of epic fishing, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game raised the bag limits.

But to the surprise of many who made the trek south last weekend, the fishing seemed a little over-hyped. Most of the sockeye had moved to the upper Russian -- that's why the counts were so high. Anglers willing to walk a little farther not only caught a few more fish, but were probably exposed to some new and wonderful water that maybe they never knew existed.

The fishing is always better off the beaten path. At least that what the people who catch fish say. I have grown a little crotchety in my ways and crowds, especially crowded fishing, bug me.

That's why I am always looking for a new fishing nirvana: a quiet, remote nirvana. Sometimes traveling to a new nirvana can get a bit extreme, especially with all the options available these days -- planes, boats, GPS, helicopters, long-range boats, etc. Nevertheless, most of the better fishing is just a little farther than where the crowd is willing to walk, hike, boat or fly to.

Next weekend take a trip to a new lake, a different river or travel east: the Copper Basin offers many fishing nirvanas. You might even catch me fishing there. Just don't tell anyone.

Now here's this week's fishing report.


The Kenai River is still behind in total fish counts for king salmon with only 1,384 counted as of Wednesday. We are behind the historical norms, with 4,270, and 8,123, and 6,377 recorded in the previous three years. We need to do all we can to preserve this trophy fishery.

The official season for the second run starts Monday with additional restrictions concerning bait and hook. Anglers wishing to partake in the July fishery should be aware of these restrictions, so check the ADFG website for further clarification.

On a brighter note, the Kasilof River is still producing decent catches of kings. Greg Brush called the office Monday and said the king "bite" has been pretty good with his boat averaging two to four kings a day. He said the best fishing has been early and late in the day.

At the Deep Creek, Anchor Point and Ninilchik rivers, offshore fishing for halibut has been good with anglers seeing larger fish moving into the inlet.

The Russian River and upper Kenai still have a six-fish bag limit for sockeye. However, the latest news is the fishing can be spotty. Most of the success is for anglers willing to walk to find fish. The fish are spread throughout the system, with most in the upper Russian River.

The Middle Kenai has been decent for trout, with some trout in the 25-inch category being caught. Water remains high and off-color, but hopefully with all the sun and heat the river should eventually clear.



I spoke with Tom Hilty of Three Rivers Fly and Tackle in Wasilla on Tuesday. Hilty has spent some time fishing for pike during the summer doldrums; he said it's been very good in the Nancy Lake System. I asked about the mosquitoes and he said being on the open water was fine, but the parking lot and shoreline were unbearable.

The lakes in the Mat-Su valley are still fishing well, with numerous hatches coming off. Try the Kepler-Bradley, Memory Lakes and Nancy Lakes areas.

The Parks Highway streams are showing some signs of clearing but are still running high. The majority of the kings are still not in the rivers, though there are some reports of fish at the mouths. The ADFG regulations for the Parks Highway are still in effect -- single hook, no bait, catch and release. Check the ADFG website for details and clarification.

A significant number of kings are passing the weir and showing up in the Deshka River, but fishing has been slow due to the hot weather. Try mornings or evenings for best success.



The offshore fishing outside the bay has been good for halibut, with most of the fish being caught out east towards Montague. The average fish size is increasing and the fish are moving to shallower water. Ellrington, Cape Junken and Montague Straight are producing fish, and the occasional yellow-eye and king salmon are being caught.

I spoke with Andy Mezirow of Crackerjack Sportfishing on Monday. Mezirow just returned from a long trip out west and he mentioned that Pony Cove was hot and heavy with salmon -- pinks, chums and a few silvers. He said the west side was fishing well for all species all the way to Nuka Bay.



The Nick Dudiak is producing some kings, but the fishing is slow so fish the tides. Also, a few kings were reported caught at the entrance of Halibut Cove.

Halibut fishing has been decent in Kachemak Bay all the way to the Barren Islands. I spoke with Diane Caso-Morris of Bob's Trophy Charters on Tuesday and she said they have been seeing lots of tagged fish being caught. Six tagged fish were caught last week. Caso-Morris said the halibut are healthy this year and bigger fish have been showing up recently on her full-day charters.

The current leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is a 197.6-pounder caught aboard the "Mako" by Christopher Johnson.



The Anchorage bowl lakes are still fishing well and most are stocked.

Ship Creek is nearing the peak of its king salmon run. I spoke with Dustin Slinker of the Bait Shack on Tuesday and he said every high tide is bringing in good schools of kings.

He said the best bite has been on the two-hour run up to high tide. Slack tides have been slow but the fish seem to move again on the fall and the fishing starts to pick back up. Slinker recommends fishing the incoming tide, then waiting for the tide drop for the best fishing.

Most of the fish have been caught on bait and size six Vibraxes.



The fishing in Prince William Sound is starting to pick up, according to Capt. Kristen Labrecque of Saltwater Excursions.

Labrecque texted me on Monday to say she had a nice haul of fish with some larger halibut on board. She said the fish are getting bigger, and they are finding them in shallower water.

The sound is also starting to pickup for salmon. Labrecque reported catches of numerous salmon while fishing for rockfish; the boat limited in a short period.


Copper Basin

The Copper River Chitina Subdistrict closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. At 12:01 a.m. Monday, a supplemental harvest of 10 additional sockeye salmon will be allowed for the personal-use dip net salmon fishery in the Chitina Subdistrict.

On Monday of this week, the Chitina Subdistrict personal-use dip net salmon fishery closed to the retention of king salmon. Kings incidentally taken may not be retained and must be released immediately and returned to the water unharmed.

The water level in the river is high but fishing has been productive the last few days. For up-to-date information, consult the Chitina Dipnetters Association website.

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. If actual counts are below the projected counts, fishing time will be reduced. If actual counts are above the projected counts, fishing time will be increased.

Most of the larger lakes in the Copper Basin, which include Lake Louise, Susitna, Tyone, Paxson, Summit and Crosswind lakes, are ice-free. The water in Paxson Lake is still high but lake trout are feeding on out-migrating smolt and the fishing should be productive.

The Klutina sockeye fishing should start to pick up soon, with a few reports of anglers having success.

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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