Angler Karl Paulsen from Wyoming poses with his 234.2-pound halibut he caught fishing near Seward on Sunday. His catch puts him in the top spot in the Seward Halibut Derby. (Submitted photo)

Angler Karl Paulsen from Wyoming poses with his 234.2-pound halibut he caught fishing near Seward on Sunday. His catch puts him in the top spot in the Seward Halibut Derby. (Submitted photo)

Fishing report: Sockeye move up Kenai, Kasilof rivers

Sockeye fishing on the upper Kenai and Russian rivers was reported as fair this past weekend, but Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers are expecting things to pick up as more fish move upriver.

Fish and Game Assistant Management Biologist Jason Pawluk said he had been on a foot survey along the upper Kenai and Russian rivers on Wednesday. He said fishing was better than when it opened last week, and expects it to improve in the coming week, based on what biologists are seeing on the king salmon sonar counter in the lower river.

“Things are looking good. The water level in Russian River is great, fish won’t hesitate to move through the clear water,” Pawluk said.

Counts at the Russian River weir, located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake, jumped to 1,705 fish on Monday and 1,990 fish on Tuesday, up from the 600-fish range over the weekend.

Anglers should be aware that the Chugach National Forest managers are keeping an eye on the Stetson Creek fire near the Russian Lakes, which is suspected to have been caused by a lightning strike Tuesday evening. No closures had been ordered as of Wednesday afternoon, but people visiting the area can check the Chugach website,, or its social media feed,, and for updates.

Likewise, Alaska State Parks had not instituted any closures in the Kenai River Special Management Area, but Area Superintendent Jack Blackwell urged anglers to use common sense. He also asked that people stay out of the way of fire crews working on the river.

Sockeye fishing also is picking up on the Kasilof River. Pawluk said that the Kasilof generally sees two pulses of sockeyes, with the first one typically hitting the river right about now. Fish and Game’s sonar counter on the Kasilof picked up 15,900 fish in the first two days of counts on Monday and Tuesday.

“This might be the best time for fishing for sockeye on the Kasilof until mid-July,” Pawluk said.

While salmon fishing is picking up across the Kenai Peninsula, reports of big halibut being caught also have been surfacing.

On Sunday, Karl Paulsen of Wyoming, fishing aboard Tim Berg’s Grande Slam with Capt. Jacob “Elf” Elfrink out of Seward, landed a 234.2-pound halibut. According to an email from Berg, Paulsen was fishing for less than 5 minutes when he hooked the fish, but what followed was 40-minute fight to land the halibut. Even after being harpooned, the fish made one last to the bottom, pulling the harpoon buoy with it.

“Never have I had a day of fishing like that,” Paulsen told the derby weigh-in officials.

That wasn’t the last battle of the day for the group of six fishing buddies. According to Berg, as soon as the first fish was secured, Dominic Stull had another barn door nearly rip the rod from his hands. That fish weighed in at a “mere” 215 pounds — though Paulsen was nervous watching the scale to see which one was bigger. All six anglers boated 100-pound-plus fish.

The Seward Halibut Tournament runs through June 30. Prizes will be awarded for the heaviest fish. Daily prizes also are awarded, as are tagged fish. Tickets are $10 per day or $25 for a three-day weekend entry. Check with the Seward Chamber of Commerce or call 907-224-8051 for more information.

Anglers fishing on Resurrection Bay also are reporting catching of king and sockeye salmon.

At the other end of the peninsula, first place in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is currently held by Michael Simonsen of Easton, Maryland, who caught a 137.2-pound halibut while fishing with North Country Charters with Captain Richard Baltzer on the Obsession.

The Homer derby runs through Sept. 15. More information is available from the Homer Chamber of Commerce at or 907-235-7740. Tickets are $10.

Halibut fishing out of Homer is reported to be improving as more fish move into shallower summer feeding areas. Fish and Game is reporting some “mushy” halibut being caught. The incidence of mushy halibut can be high in certain areas, and Fish and Game recommends that if fish with flabby flesh are caught, they should be released and fishermen should consider moving to another area.

Have a fishing photo to share? A story about the one that got away? Email

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