Photo courtesy Rashah McChesney Anglers race up the river after trolling for king salmon on the Kenai River on Sunday, July 24, 2016 near Kenai, Alaska.

Photo courtesy Rashah McChesney Anglers race up the river after trolling for king salmon on the Kenai River on Sunday, July 24, 2016 near Kenai, Alaska.

Fishing report: Kenai king fishing season approaches end

Anyone looking for a king salmon stamp in Soldotna after last weekend might be hard-pressed to find one.

The three big-box stores in Soldotna — Fred Meyer, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Safeway — were all sold out of the stamps, which allow an angler to target and retain a king salmon, as of Wednesday and awaiting more. Wilderness Way, just across the parking lot from Sportsman’s Warehouse, had just a handful left.

Anglers can still get them from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s office on Kalifornsky Beach Road or online to be printed at home. However, there are only four days left for the Kenai River king salmon season.

With limited time until king salmon retention closes on the Kenai River, anglers are hitting the river however they can. About 15,760 king salmon have passed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s river sonar at river mile 13.7 as of July 25, which the department estimates to be a little more than half the run, based on previous years’ run timing.

Success is variable. So far, sportfishermen have harvested about 5,070 king salmon below Soldotna, according to Fish and Game’s creel surveys. Guided anglers tend to have better luck, based on where the kings are located in the river, but catching a king from the bank or a dock is possible. Average time to catch a king salmon is 20 hours per angler to catch one fish, according to Fish and Game’s weekly sportfishing report for the Central Kenai Peninsula.

Sockeye salmon fishing has remained mostly slow with a peak on Saturday last week, when a plume of 52,410 fish passed Fish and Game’s sonar. The counts have dropped back off to 20,058 fish on Tuesday. Counts are still significantly ahead of what they were last year on the same date — almost exactly 100,000 more sockeye have passed the sonar as of Tuesday in 2016 than in 2015, according to Fish and Game data.

However, fishing success has been spotty. Some anglers have been able to catch their limits, but the dipnet fishery has reportedly stayed slow, and commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet have not seen the harvests that they would expect from a high projected run.

The Russian River late-run sockeye are coming in slightly higher numbers than last year so far, with 12,410 having passed the weir on Lower Russian Lake since July 15. The Kasilof River king salmon fishing has also remained steady, producing about one to two king salmon per trip. The Kasilof kings run slightly later than the Kenai River king salmon, typically peaking in the later half of July, according to the weekly sportfishing report.

On the lower peninsula, coho salmon are beginning to show up, with some being seen in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit. The run typically peaks in late July or early August. Some anglers are reporting success with sockeye fishing in Tutka Bay Lagoon and China Poot Bay, and pink salmon are returning to the lagoon along with sockeye, according to the weekly sportfishing report for Lower Cook Inlet.

Seward’s Silver Salmon Derby is set to begin Aug. 13 and run through Aug. 21, the last big event of the summer. Anglers can enter for a chance to win $10,000 for the biggest fish, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third. Similar to the Homer Halibut Derby, there are also tagged fish worth anywhere from $50,000 to a new car.

“As one of the oldest fishing derbies in the state of Alaska, this event is revered by anglers all over the world,” wrote GeNeil Flaherty, one of the organizers from the Seward Chamber of Commerce, in a news release. “The Seward Chamber of Commerce and the City of Seward are excited for our 61st Silver Salmon Derby and we hope to see you here.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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