The fishing season may be here, but there is more on a fisherman’s to-do list than grab a pole and hit the water this early in the season.
A summer of hard fishing followed by an Alaskan winter can quickly fatigue the wide array of equipment used on the waters of the Kenai Peninsula. Luckily, the peninsula is also home to guides who have spent many of their springs getting ready for the non-stop action that comes with summer on the Kenai.
“People tend to go out in the early season and, sometimes, they can have some issues,” Mike Fenton of Fenton Bros. Guided Sportfishing Alaska in Soldtona said. “Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of people out on the water in the early season to help you in the worst-case scenario.”
So, to avoid the worst-case scenario, Fenton recommends a few housekeeping items to take care of before the season gets into full swing.
“One thing to remember is to make sure all your battery terminals and connections are good,” Fenton said. “Just some good general boat maintenance is fairly important.”
Randy Berg, of Rod N’ Real Charters in Soldotna, echoed Fenton, highlighting that a good fuel check is also important.
“Check your fuel and see that you haven’t got water in it because of the condensation over the winter,” Berg said. “And check that you have up to date flares and good life jackets. Your life jackets should be dry and in workable condition, and everybody going on your boat should know how to put one on in case they have to abandon ship.”
Berg also recommends checking the charge on your battery, having a good paddle handy and a radio on board.
“In case you get in trouble, you need some sort of communication,” Berg said. “And make sure you have a good first aid kit before going out.”
Both Berg and Fenton highlighted the importance of boat maintenance before hitting the water, especially if gear wasn’t put away properly.
“In regard to general boating, some people tend to neglect their motors and boats,” Fenton said. “They’re in a rush in the fall to put their stuff away without maintenance… so before you go out just have some general boat maintenance.”
It’s also important to maintain fishing equipment — no one wants to lose the big one over a faulty reel.
“Go through your gear, checking your rods and reels is important,” Fenton said. “Make sure all of the gears on your reels are clean of dirt, sand and oil and make sure your drags are all good.”
Time and winter weather don’t just affect gear — they can also impact the fishing conditions.
“This year, it seems like we’ve had a fairly cold spring, so the water levels are quite low compared to normal for this time of year,” Fenton said. “We seem to be a week to 10 days behind schedule so be very wary of the water levels and rocks and what not.”
Fenton also said the water is more clear this year than in past years and the early season is a good time to hone fishing skills, before the river and banks are filled to the brim.
“You might want to adjust your fishing strategy accordingly, maybe use some smaller presentations and go out in the morning or evening,” Fenton said. “A lot of times the fish get a little bit spooked in the middle of the day, with the sun, when the water is super clear.”
But, the clear water gives anglers a chance to see what kinds of mistakes they’ve made in the past and adjust accordingly.
“It’s interesting running around the river and going over spots where you normally can’t see the bottom,” Fenton said. “With the water being so clear, you can see why you snagged up there.”
Acccording to Fenton, the most important tip to the early season on the Kenai Peninsula is to enjoy it.
“It’s really pretty being out here this time of year,” he said. “It’s so quiet. It’s amazing how it’s 180 degrees different than what it is in July… a lot of people don’t get to realize how great and beautiful things can be this time of year.”
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.