Lake fishing picks up just after the ice goes out.

Lake fishing picks up just after the ice goes out.

Tight Lines: Early spring means fishing options abound

The early spring weather, likely a symptom of climate change, has me, on the one hand, worried. As a homeowner it has me dreading another early fire season. As a fisherman it has me worried about warming stream temperatures and issues like ocean acidification, which may have dire effects upon our fisheries for generations.

On the other hand, the unseasonable spring weather has me excited about gearing up for fishing. I’m ready for lake fishing, and far earlier than normal. I’m also excited about hitting the Kenai River for trout before the river closes in May, and contemplating getting out on the saltwater sooner rather than later. Oh, the many options.

When I think of spring, my thoughts always jump to lake fishing. I began long ago making note of when the ice melted from our lower elevation lakes, like the pond behind my house and the lakes along Swanson River Road. For nearly 20 years, like clockwork, the ice went off on or around May 13. The last five years or so, it’s been a little earlier. Last year, in fact, the lakes were clear nearly a month early, allowing me to take a canoe trip into the Swan Lake system the first week in May, and this year the lakes have opened up even earlier.

Typically some of the best lake fishing occurs soon after ice-out, so making the best of it, I am getting my ultralight spinning gear and 3-weight fly rod ready for action. What’s nice about lake fishing is that just about any small variety of spinner or spoon (1/8 to 1/4 ounce) will do the trick. Those using spinning gear should also not be bashful about trying a large weighted fly, such as an egg-sucking leech, over weed beds. The best method for this is to attach a float or bobber far enough above the fly so that it sits just above the weeds. In most cases all that is required to entice a nice trout is the slightest movement, a mere twitch of the rod tip.

Fly fishers, along with a floating line and 10 foot leader, may also want to carry a sink-tip or full sinking line. These heavier lines are typically fished with a shorter leader of approximately 4 feet. Keep a large assortment of flies handy. Fish the surface with mayflies, midges and caddis, or dip below with your favorite streamer, Woolly Bugger, or leech.

With this warm weather it’s always tempting to get out on the Kenai and try for some trout. What I especially like this time of year is the variety of flies rainbow trout are likely to take. The warm weather will often induce a hatch of stone or caddis flies, and fishing with nymphs, either drifting them along the bottom or suspended in the water column, and even on a rare occasion using a dry fly on the surface, can be productive. If there isn’t any insect life stirring, there’s always the go-to: flesh flies mimicking last year’s salmon. As the water rises it reconstitutes last year’s carcasses and flesh becomes a major food source long before the latest generation of salmon show up. I also like taking a break from “dead drifting” flesh and egg patterns by swinging a leech through some of the deeper holes with a sinking line.

When I bought a saltwater boat several years ago, a guide friend of mine who fishes both the salt and fresh water asked if I was crazy. The way he described it was that being out on a river or a lake was 95 percent relaxing and 5 percent stressful, and being out on the salt was the other way around. He’s probably right, but I think that ratio would swing much more to the non-stressful column if I was simply out more. If I lived in Homer or Seward, for example, and had the boat in the harbor, the worry factor would be significantly less simply by virtue of being on the water so much more often. Half the stress comes from only being able to go out occasionally, thus having to remember everything — all the tools, the fishing gear, every safety device. It also comes from having to tow the boat long distances and dealing with launching at an often crowded harbor. I actually contemplated selling the boat and had it briefly listed, but then spent a couple nights just outside of Resurrection Bay fishing for silver salmon and rockfish.

Humpback whales were swimming around us all night. We could hear them rise and take a breath right next to us, then feel the slight sway of the boat on anchor, rolling in their gentle wake; all the while the northern lights painted the night sky in broad strokes of green and crimson. It was truly magical and reminded me of something basic, a power primordial and raw that one only experiences at sea, among the windswept cliffs of the outer coast. In this case, the payoff was definitely worth all the trouble.

Needless to say, after that I knew I had to keep the boat. It is just a matter of getting out more. But there’s the rub. With all the fishing available, from lakes to streams to open ocean, and with only a limited matter of time, how does one ever decide which option to take?

Dave Atcheson’s latest book is “Dead Reckoning, Navigating a Life on the Last Frontier, Courting Tragedy on its High Seas.” He is also the author of the guidebook “Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula,” and National Geographic’s “Hidden Alaska, Bristol Bay and Beyond.” For more info: www.daveatcheson.com.

■ ■ ■

Tight Lines is a regular feature of the Peninsula Clarion. It will return on a weekly basis starting May 26 with fishing reports and other information.

Have a favorite fishing photo, tale or recipe? Share it with our readers. Email tightlines@peninsulaclarion.com.

An early spring has anglers itching to be out on the water. (Photo courtesy Dave Atcheson)

An early spring has anglers itching to be out on the water. (Photo courtesy Dave Atcheson)

Some anglers opt to fish the salwater early in the season. (Photo courtesy Dave Atcheson)

Some anglers opt to fish the salwater early in the season. (Photo courtesy Dave Atcheson)

More in Life

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Unhinged Alaska: Bones

Just as we approached Ninilchik, we remembered that the Salmonfest would be in high gear

File
Minister’s Message: What a Friend we have in Jesus

Can Jesus really be your friend? Jesus said so Himself.

The procedure for this quick kimchi is much less labor-intensive than the traditional whole head method, and takes less time to ferment, making it ideal for first time kimchi-makers. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Garden fail — but kitchen win nonetheless

This quick kimchi technique is less labor-intensive than the traditional method

Kate Lochridge stands by one of her paintings for a pop-up show of her work on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by MIchael Armstrong/Homer News)
Pop-up exhibit shows culmination of art-science residency

The exhibit by Kate Lochridge came about after her internship this summer as a National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Ernest S. Hollings Scholar and Artist in Residence

File
Minister’s Message: The power of small beginnings

Tiny accomplishments lead to mighty successes in all areas of life

A copy of “Once Upon the Kenai: Stories from the People” rests against a desk inside the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Hidden history

‘Once Upon the Kenai’ tells the story behind the peninsula’s landmarks and people

Artwork by Graham Dale hangs at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. These pieces are part of the “Sites Unseen” exhibition. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Apart and together

‘Sites Unseen’ combines the work of husband and wife pair Graham Dane and Linda Infante Lyons

Homemade garlic naan is served with a meal of palak tofu, butter chicken, basmati rice and cucumber salad. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Naan for a crowd

When it comes to feeding a group, planning is key

P.F. “Frenchy” Vian poses with a cigar and some reading material, probably circa 1920, in an unspecified location. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 6

The many vital chapters in the story of Frenchy fell into place

File
Jesus, God of miracles, provides

When you are fishing or eating them, remember how Jesus of Nazareth used fish in some of his miracles

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Blooming sugar cookies

These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance