This is the last fishing report of the year, and it always puts me in a melancholy mood. Fall and winter are fast approaching and we are in the final innings of the fishing season here in Alaska.
It was a great summer for fishing. It was hot and the rivers were high for a long time, then low and hot. I had some great days, some really memorable days -- my daughter's first fish, taking newbies out for an adventure on a river, catching my biggest king on a remote river, sweating in my waders in June and July and swatting mosquitoes.
We never got our kings on the Kenai River and the return was weak. But overall, we had pretty decent fishing statewide. Our reds showed up on the Kenai, but their timing was off and on. The halibut fishing was great with all the calm, warm days we had. And the silvers finally made a nice push in the late innings of the season with nice returns on some rivers.
Although we have a month or so left for the diehards, many are thinking of winter. Studded tires need to be dragged out of basement and gardens need the last bit of care before they're put to sleep for the winter. And all that summer camping, fishing and RV stuff needs to go to storage.
Keep in mind the really good trout and steelhead fishing is just starting, but for most Alaskans, late August and early September is a time to get back to the regular job schedule and some serious work.
The rain and termination dust are signs of cooler weather, and the shorter days signify it's transition time mentally for winter.
Yes, I'm bummed. Summer's on her last sprint toward the cold and dark, but I'll be fishing this year for trout and steelhead with ice in my guides, standing in a frozen river at last light, wanting it to never end.
Although the Kenai River has been dropping, the river has remained slightly off color with all the silt that has accumulated in the lakes during the summer. It looks as though we have a couple of weeks before really good water clarity sets in.
The silver fishing remains fair to good in the lower river for second-run fish.
Trout fishing in the middle and upper Kenai River has been fair to good depending on timing. Some areas that produced fish last week or yesterday might not produce tomorrow. Try fishing near spawning salmon for better rainbow fishing.
The offshore Deep Creek and Anchor Marine fisheries are still producing catches of halibut. The usual chicken spots have been productive, with an occasional bigger halibut being caught, weather permitting. Most charters will end soon. Normally by the second week of September, most of the best offshore fishing and weather is done for the season.
The fishing for halibut in Homer has remained good, with most boats still returning to dock with limit catches.
The weather kept most of fleet off the water Monday. I spoke with Capt. David Morris of Bob's Trophy Charters on Tuesday and he said the silver bite has dropped but his clients are still catching a few silvers.
He said the king fishing has been good -- anglers are catching mainly feeder kings trolling herring.
Lingcod fishing in the Chugach has also been productive, with better fishing near the Barren Islands and Gore Point locations, weather permitting.
With little more than a week to go, Gene Jones of Bellevue, Wash., still leads the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby with a 236.2-pound fish. There are still tagged fish out there, and anyone who catches on is entered into a drawing for prizes. The derby ends Sunday, Sept. 15, at 9 a.m.
The Kvichak River has been very good for rainbows. I got this report from a guide fishing out of Sportsman's Lodge.
"Huge trout flying everywhere clients landed some monster trout. The last few days have been insane. Hooking fish from 26 to 30 inches all day long."
Other notable rivers are also fishing well; I received this email from a friend who just completed a float out west on the Kisaralik.
"The water was average height I'd guess. It was slow going the first 10 miles but from then on the fishing was exceptional. Lots of surface opportunities we fished mice, poppers, leeches and wogs the entire length. It was great ... no beading! Pink mouse a hot fly for trout ... crazy."
The latest reports from Valdez tell me the silver fishing remains good. Low fog made fishing tough last week for boaters on the water, but shore anglers did well fishing from the harbor to Allison Point.
The season-long Valdez Fishing Derbies wrapped up with Valdez angler Michael Freerksen claiming the $15,000 first-place prize for the 16.92-pound silver he caught Friday aboard the Crista June. Freerksen's fish bumped Vernon Carlson of Fairbanks to second place with a 16.72-pound fish that paid $5,000. Third-place Stacey Mitchell of Valdez collected $2,000 for her 16.58-pounder.
In the halibut derby, James Cully of Fairbanks took home $15,000 for A 325-pound flatfish caught aboard the Dan Orion on July 21. Jeff Johnson of North Pole earned $5,000 for second place with a 208.6-pounder, and Beth Reagin of Fairbanks reeled in $2,000 for third place with a 178.8-pound fish.
The Parks Highway streams are still a little off color. A few days of dry weather would improve the trout fishing, so hopefully the rain lets off and the rivers clear.
Trout fishing should be productive above and below the Parks Highway bridges as the trout fall back into their autumn migration to the main stem of the Susitna River. Most of the trout are gorging on eggs and flesh. Try beads, flesh flies or sculpins fished near spawning or dead salmon.
The Talkeetna River and Clear Creek are good for silver salmon. Trout fishing in Clear Creek has been fair to good for anglers willing to walk.
The lake fishing in the valley should continue to fish well. Jim Creek and the Eklutna tailrace is fair for silvers. The Knik silver run is a little later than most of valley streams, so fishing could be fair for a couple of weeks.
I fished with Capt. Kristen Labrecque out of Whittier on Sunday. The morning was flat and calm but turned ugly by the end of the day. The tides weren't in our favor but we managed a half-dozen halibut with four keepers.
We fished the sound in some new spots and caught plenty of large cod in conjunction with the halibut. The fishing for silvers has definitely slowed, with the usual spots hit and miss. Here's Labrecque's report from Tuesday.
"Friday the fishing was fabulous, lots of nice thick halibut, big rockfish and a few lings. Saturday I took off and Sunday the fishing was slow. I am sending you the report early this week because we canceled today (Monday) and tomorrow for weather and don't know what Wednesday or Thursday will bring but the weather might get us there too. Sorry, wish I had better news. The tides will be picking up next week, so it's anybody's guess what the fishing will do."
Ship Creek continues to be fair for silver salmon. The falling tides and the low incoming tides both are producing, with anglers having success with a variety of techniques -- eggs and bobbers, flies and vibraxes. The majority of the fish are staying in the creek instead of flushing out with the tides.
Bird Creek is fair for silvers; anglers are catching a few on every tide. Being on the right tide cycle pays dividends. Early-morning incoming tides are fishing better.
Campbell Creek is a good place to scout for silvers. The recent rains have likely brought some fish into the creek.
Streams at the head of Turnagain Arm could be a good location for silver salmon fishing. These silvers have a later season return. This is road fishing, so pay attention to traffic and park well off the highway. There are also restrictions of where you can fish and bag limits. Check the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website for details on these and all current regulations.
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."
By TONY WEAVER
Daily News correspondent