Between the anglers lining the banks and the darkheaded seals bobbing up and down in the water, salmon headed up the Kenai River to spawn have an obstacle course before them.
With sockeye salmon runs are tapering off and king salmon fishing closed on the Kenai River for the year, anglers are turning their attention primarily to silver salmon. From the banks at Kenai’s Cunningham Park at low tide Wednesday afternoon, fishermen weren’t having too much trouble hooking into silver salmon using weights and eggs. Many of the salmon that surfaced were large and bright, having just come into the river from the ocean.
The Kenai Peninsula’s runs of sockeye and king salmon were poor this year, with slow fishing and stop-and-start fishing restrictions that eventually led to closures. The Kenai River particularly saw a much smaller sockeye run than usual, leading to a complete sockeye fishing closure effective Aug. 4.
However, the silver salmon run is shaping up to be a decent one so far. Anglers in the middle and lower river are reporting having decent luck making the bag limit of two silvers per day, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s sportfishing report for the Kenai River reports the silver salmon fishing as good. Down on the lower peninsula, anglers are hitting the fishing lagoon on the Homer Spit for silvers, where snagging is open.
There are pink salmon moving through the river in pulses as well, mixed in with the silvers in the Kenai. Though many anglers aren’t particularly aiming for pinks — they generally don’t fight as hard as silvers and the meat is not considered as good — some anglers do keep them, with a bag limit on the Kenai of 10 per day with 10 in possession for fish shorter than 16 inches and six per day with six in possession for those 16 inches or greater.
Fishermen who are looking for sockeye can still head to the Russian River, where more than 1,000 fish are passing the weir on Lower Russian Lake most days. As of Tuesday, 41,960 sockeye had passed the weir, well ahead of the 28,673 that had passed the weir on the same day in 2017 and well within the escapement goal of 30,000–110,000 late-run sockeye, according to Fish and Game’s online counts.
Sockeye salmon fishing is still open on the Kasilof River as well, where the bag limit has been doubled to six sockeye per day with 12 in possession, only two of which may be coho. As of Tuesday, 394,288 sockeye had passed the sonar on the Kasilof River, with the numbers tapering off since Aug. 7.
As the summer wanes into fall, trout fishing becomes a major attraction as well. Rainbow trout fishing on the Kenai River has been reported as good so far. Anglers often use bead arrangements meant to look like salmon eggs, as trout feed on salmon eggs during spawning season.
Over in Seward, the silver salmon derby continues through Sunday. The current leader, Dallas Cholly of Apple View, California, holds the top spot with a 15.44-pound fish caught in Resurrection Bay. Prizes are awarded each day, with prizes for heaviest fish awarded on Sunday. Tickets are available at the Seward Boat Harbor at the weigh-in station.