Fishing report: Expert anglers have eye for detail, nuance

Tony Weaver
Tony Weaver

With all the conversations I've had over the years about fishing, it always surprises me when I hear a different spin on something I know. It may be how changes in sunlight affect salmon fishing from Capt. Steve Babinec, soft plastic techniques from Capt. Andy Mesirow, Greg Brush's new silver salmon rigging technique or Mike Brown's swinging mini crystal shrimp flies for sockeye. Angling is full of nuance.

Nuance is something all great maestros are good at. It is the attention to detail that differentiates them from the rest of the field. All of the expert anglers are immersed in nuance.

The only way to understand nuance is to study, practice and ask questions. Then implement some of the tips you learn and go fishing. Nothing replaces time on the water.

One of the benefits of my job is I get to talk and fish with some of the best, and I get a lot of details from them -- captains, anglers and biologists.

Keep your mind open and pay attention to the experts; they are out every day exploring new areas and more effective techniques to catch fish. And finally, read the fishing report -- there's always a nuanced tip or gem buried in our weekly report.

Now here's the latest from the field.


Kenai Peninsula

The king salmon fishing at both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers is slow. Run strength has been very marginal this year with only 1,365 fish counted as of Wednesday.

The official season for Kenai kings began July 1. There are additional restrictions for the second run with single hook, no bait being the main restriction, as well as area restrictions. Check the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website for further clarification.

The fishing for second-run sockeye is building every day with a few anglers getting in front of schools of fish. The sockeye run should be stronger next week, according to historical averages. Look for days when 30,000 to 40,000 fish have passed the sonar.

Sockeye salmon fishing at the Russian River and confluence area of the Russian River and Kenai River is slow right now, with only a few early-run sockeye salmon trickling in.

Recent fishing reports indicate the first run is near its end and fishing is slow at this time.

The water level of the Russian River has returned to normal, but the Upper Kenai River remains higher than normal.

The offshore halibut fishery at the Deep Creek area has been good. The fish size is getting bigger with anglers catching fish in the 40- to 90-pound range. Tides should be good this weekend.

Trout fishing has been slow in the middle and upper river.



The fishing in Homer has been building all summer, with larger and healthier halibut being caught. I spoke with Capt. Diane Caso-Morris on Tuesday and she said anglers are seeing some nice halibut coming to the dock.

The lingcod fishing has been good near Gore Point and out east.

Capt. Jim Lavrakas called Wednesday and said the salmon fishing has been decent. Lavrakas said he caught three different species Tuesday. There were also reports of a few silvers being caught on the spit.

The Nick Dudiak Lagoon is fishing better this year with anglers catching a few fish on the tides.



The Parks Highway streams are fishing fair for trout. In the next couple of weeks we should see more chums in the creeks and trout fishing should pick up with their arrival.

I spoke with Tom Hilty of Three Rivers Fly and Tackle and he said lake fishing has been very consistent. Hilty recommended Lucille, Finger and Matanuska lakes for the kids and the Kepler-Bradley and Nancy Lakes areas for float tubers or anglers with boat access.

He said pike fishing has been very good in the Nancy Lakes area. Try some soft plastics for a change in bronze and lizard colors.

King salmon fishing on the Deshka River has been good and should be fair to good through the end of the season. As of Monday, the department has recorded 17,847 kings through the weir. Boaters should beware of shallow riffles and rocks upstream of about river Mile 3 because water levels are low for this time of the year.

King fishing at the Little Susitna is slowing down.

Catch-and-release for kings is allowed through Friday. Harvest is allowed Saturday, the final day of the season. Water conditions are good. A few chum are now entering the river.

Fishing at Lake Creek remains fair to good for kings. Catch-and-release only is allowed through Thursday, then harvest is allowed the last two days of the season, Friday and Saturday.

It's still early for coho salmon in Susitna area streams. Some pinks are just beginning to show on the Deshka River and the first two coho salmon have been reported caught.

A few early sockeye may arrive this week at Jim Creek.



Bird Creek opens to fishing Sunday. Fishing for king salmon on Bird Creek is not allowed.

All waters in the Anchorage Management Area are closed to king salmon fishing, and it remains a bit early for pinks, chums, and silvers.

Campbell Creek and Chester Creek have both been stocked with rainbows.

Symphony Lake is now open to grayling fishing. Fly fishermen have been doing well.

All Anchorage area stocked lakes have been stocked with their second round of rainbow trout.


Copper Basin

The personal-use Copper River Chitina Subdistrict is open until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 21.

Through 11:59 p.m. this Sunday, a supplemental harvest of 10 additional sockeye salmon will be allowed for the personal-use dip net salmon fishery in the Chitina Subdistrict during this period. From 12:01 a.m. Monday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 21 a supplemental harvest of 10 additional sockeye salmon will be allowed for the personal-use dip net salmon fishery in the Chitina Subdistrict during this period.

The Chitina Subdistrict personal-use dip net salmon fishery is closed to the retention of king salmon.

Sockeye fishing in the Klutina River was the hot spot last weekend, with anglers quickly catching limits. I spoke with Rick Grove of Grove's Campground on Tuesday and he said the sockeye fishing has been very good. He said weekends have been busy with anglers but weekdays have been manageable.

King salmon fishing in the Klutina River was reported to be fair last weekend even with the water high and off colored.

Fishing in the Gulkana River has started to pick up. The daily bag and possession limit of sockeye has been increased from three fish to six for the remainder of the season at the Copper River drainage.

Grayling fishing around Glennallen and Sourdough has slowed as they move into smaller tributaries to spawn. Small flies either wet or dry are worth a try.

Many of the small lakes on the Lake Louise and Nabesna roads contain grayling populations. Long Lake and Jack Lake are good bets for grayling and they should be in Mendeltna Creek too. Larger rivers like the Gulkana and Little Nelchina also contain grayling.



The fishing for salmon in Seward is building. With bad weather behind us and a good forecast for this weekend, fishing should be good.

I spoke Capt. Andy Mesirow of Crackerjack Sportfishing on Wednesday and he said the usual spots are producing silvers. Pony Cove and Cheval Island have been good as have the Barwell Island to Montague areas.

He said lingcod fishing has been fair to good.

Mesirow also mentioned that he has been bringing in some 100-pound halibut on long-range trips. Client David Law landed a 211-pound last week to win the $10,000 first-place prize in the Seward Halibut tournament, marking the second time a Mesirow client has won the tournament.

I spoke with Steve Babinec on the Legacy on Tuesday and he also said the salmon bite has been good. Babinec said changing sunlight affects fishing and the best bites have been during changes in the early morning or late evening. His theory is baitfish are silhouetted better during those changes.



I fished with Saltwater Excursions and Capt. Kristen Labrecque and mate Clay Finnegan on Monday and the fishing was great. The weather and seas were cooperative. We fished her normal halibut spots and limited the boat with halibut in about 45 minutes.

I was fishing with the Ferris family from Denver. We pulled the anchor after limiting on halibut then headed towards the end of Montague Straights in search of lingcod and rockfish.

We caught limits of rockfish and a silver in about an hour in a little bit of groundswell, and then we moved inside the sound to calmer waters and finished off the day with nice yelloweye fishing in about 250 feet of water.

A few kings are being caught in the bay. A 25-pounder was caught just outside the jetty harbor Monday afternoon.

The fishing in the sound has been consistent with salmon showing up in better numbers. The commercial nets are still in the water so boaters should be aware of gear in the water and give lots of leeway to commercial fishing boats.


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."



Daily News correspondent