Like so many anglers before them, fishermen braved intermittent rain and chill for the opening weekend of king salmon fishing on three southern peninsula streams. And, like so many before — they had varying degrees of success.
Just after 5 a.m. on Saturday, Aaron Dupuis dropped a line with a green-tinged lure in the low, clear water at Deep Creek and fished for about 10 minutes before landing a 20-pound chinook salmon.
“It took me longer to walk up from the parking lot,” he said.
Paul Twait, of Soldotna, spent about an hour fishing before landing his bright king on a silver-colored lure.
“I wish it was bigger,” he joked as he walked up the muddy banks of the creek.
Several others in the area quickly limited out — currently anglers are limited to one-per-day and one-in-possession — just after high tide. The combined annual limit for all three rivers and the marine waters south of the latitude at the mouth of the Ninilchik River to Bluff Point, is two king salmon 20 inches in size or greater in length.
Success on Deep Creek is a rare sight this time of year.
Typically, anglers target the Ninilchik or Anchor Rivers during the opening weekend of king salmon fishing as Deep Creek waters can be much higher and muddier due to leftover snow melt, said fisheries biologist Mike Booz.
Anglers on Deep Creek and the Ninilchik river said the water conditions are low and clear — making fishing success better when king salmon are running.
An Alaska Department of Fish and Game emergency order limits anglers to one single hook, no-bait and an artificial lure.
Dupuis recommended a lighter lure in the low waters of Deep Creek. He said he was having trouble with his dragging.
“The larger ones are just sinking straight to the bottom and aren’t useful,” he said.
Despite their proximity, anglers on the Ninilchik River didn’t see the same kind of success Saturday morning. Booz said the Ninilchik campground had many more campers than he’d seen in recent years but most of them got up at midnight to fish the opening minutes of the season. But several hours of slow fishing cleared the river out and by 5 a.m. and just a handful of anglers fished the mouth.
Chris Wilson and Brad Ugalino stood near the mouth of the Ninilchik on a small, grassy island in the middle of the river.
Wilson said the two hadn’t had much luck.
“We saw three people hook the same fish,” he said with a grin.
Wilson said his family had been traveling to the southern Kenai Peninsula for years on the opening weekend of king salmon fishing.
“It’s a family tradition for Memorial Day,” he said. “Back in the early 2000s there was really good fishing here. Now it’s kind of slow.”
The Ninilchik, Anchor and Deep Creek will be open for weekend fishing on May 30 through June 1 and again from June 6-8.
Booz suggested fishing the Ninilchik River as a high number of hatchery king salmon are expected to return this year.