Silvery shadows are creeping steadily into Southcentral Alaska streams as the coho salmon run picks up in advance of fall.
While July is all about sockeye, August through October belong to coho, the hard-fighting fish with a penchant for gobbling salmon eggs and spinners. And while Resurrection Bay and the Mat-Su typically headline the fall schedule, the Anchorage area is currently one of the best places to get a close-up with one of these late-summer superstars.
“Coho salmon keeps getting better on Ship Creek,” reads the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s most recent fishing report for the Anchorage area.
Ship Creek is now closed to king salmon fishing, but anglers can still keep pinks or silvers.
In addition to the downtown fishery, anglers have been reporting good fishing at Bird Creek south of town, where pink salmon appear to be thinning out. Drifting salmon row or casting spinners with the incoming tide are proven ways to return home with a silver or two — or three, which is the limit — from the Seward Highway stream, which is heavily influenced by the Turnagain Arm tides.
Campbell Creek is also starting to see some fish moving through, the department reports, but that small fishery likely won’t pick up significantly until another round of rain — which is likely to cause fish to move out of Campbell Lake and head upstream, the department said.
Anglers hoping to get a crash course in cohos can attend the department’s “Intro to Coho Salmon Fishing” seminar on Aug. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery. The event is free, but advance registration is required via the department’s Hunting and Fishing Forums page.
Seward Silver Salmon Derby starts Saturday
Farther south, it may still be a bit early for shore-based anglers in Seward, where the 64th annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby kicks off Aug. 10. The derby runs through Aug. 18 and includes a $10,000 prize for first place — plus the fish’s weight in Kaladi Brothers Coffee. Last year’s winner was Stacey Walters of Seward, who caught his winning 16.73-pound silver while fishing aboard a boat at the head of Resurrection Bay.
According to ADFG, the popular fishery is picking up, but the fish remain farther out, near Fox Island and Caines Head. However, while silvers haven’t yet hit the beach, the department reports king salmon can still be caught off the city’s beaches — where snagging is allowed.
Valley anglers have options
In the Mat-Su, coho fishing is reportedly getting better in the Little Susitna River, while the Deshka River has been decent in the mornings near its mouth. Fish and Game believes fishing there will also get better if it begins to rain — which is when silvers typically move upstream.
Unfortunately for Southcentral anglers, rain isn’t expected until at least Tuesday, according to the most recent forecast from the National Weather Service.
Sockeye continue to be caught up in the Mat-Su as well, where Fish Creek will open by emergency order to anglers starting Friday at 5 a.m. The fishery will be open seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Anglers are allowed six fish per day, of which only two can be coho.
The order was made after Fish Creek exceeded its escapement goal of 15,000 to 45,000 sockeye, according to the department. As of Aug. 7, more than 60,000 sockeye had been counted past the department’s weir on Fish Creek.
“After a successful dipnet fishery followed by a great weekend of youth-only fishing, it’ll be nice to finish off the season by creating additional sport fishing opportunity for rod and reel anglers wishing to put up a few more fish for the winter,” wrote ADFG area management biologist Sam Ivey.
Red run still strong on the Kenai — but the kings never showed
As for the Kenai River, the surge of salmon that began hitting the river in mid-July shows no sign of slowing down. As of Aug. 7, 1.5 million sockeye had been counted past the department’s sonar site on the river, which is managed for an escapement of 1 to 1.3 million sockeye. Despite the big numbers, the department said fishing on the upper Kenai and Russian River has been fair — though dedicated anglers can keep up to six sockeye per day.
Coho fishing on the Kenai has reportedly been slow, and anglers are currently restricted from using bait, multiple hooks or scent in the river upstream from its mouth to Skilak Lake. The prohibition was put in place to protect king salmon, which saw an abysmal return this year. Through Aug. 7, just 10,410 kings had been counted by the department, which manages the river for an escapement goal of 13,500 to 27,000 fish. The emergency order banning bait is in effect through Aug. 15.
Anglers with already-filled freezers may want to turn their attention to trout as fall arrives. According to the department, fishing for rainbow trout has been good to excellent on streams from the Parks Highway to the Kenai Peninsula as hungry trout gorge themselves on salmon eggs.
On the Southern Kenai Peninsula, coho salmon fishing in the Nick Dudiak Lagoon in Homer has been good, with anglers reportedly having success on the incoming tide and in the early morning.
Halibut fishing in Homer is also still strong, according to the department, which said larger fish appear to be moving into Kachemak Bay. The annual Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is ongoing, with North Dakota angler Jason Schuler leading the $10,000 derby with a 224.2-pound flatfish caught with captain Daniel Donich.
Anyone who obtained a personal-use permit for Upper Cook Inlet must report their harvest by Aug. 15. Permits can be returned by mail, or participants may report their harvest online. Participants must report their harvest even if they did not fish.
Always check fishing regulations before hitting the water. Regulations can be found on the department’s website, which also includes fishing reports from around the state and a page for anglers to purchase fishing licenses.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story named the wrong leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.