Jerry Bixby of Soldotna holds up a 16.19-pound silver salmon caught just before the close of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby Sunday. The fish was good for first place in the derby standings, making Bixby a two-time winner. (Photo courtesy Seward Chamber of Commerce)

Silver fishing picks up; Soldotna angler claims Seward derby title

A silver salmon season that started a little slow has picked up in recent days.

Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said manager were initially thinking this year might see a smaller silver salmon run on the Kenai River before things picked up over the past weekend. With the increase in catches since then, Pawluk said it could be more a case of a late run.

Pawluk said the rush of silvers into the river coincided with the area’s first heavy rainfall in a couple of weeks, and the drop in baromteric pressure likely contributed to pushing the salmon into the river.

Pawluk had some tips for anglers hoping to hook a silver — get out early in the morning, and fish the lower portion of the Kenai River.

“Early dawn to late morning seems to be most productive,” Pawluk said, citing details from guide log books. “Your best bet, and it’s typically what we say, to catch a silver is early in the morning.”

In a somewhat unusual development, anglers are still finding success fishing for sockeye, particularly along stretches of the middle river where the silvers haven’t yet arrived.

“Normally, we wouldn’t talk much about sockeye fishing any more, but fishing personally this weekend, I’ve never observed so many sockeye in the lower Kenai River this time of year.”

While sockeye sonar counts are starting to tail off, Pawluk said they are still higher than usual for this point in the season.

Anglers targeting sockeye should note that the Russian River and upper Kenai closes to sockeye fishing at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

In other fishing news, Kenai Peninsula anglers fared well in the Seward Silver Salmon Derby, which closed Sunday.

Jerry Bixby of Soldotna claimed the top prize with a 16.19-pound fish caught just hours before the derby closed to become just the second two-time winner — the other is his brother, Bill.

“Good things come to those who wait the longest,” said Bixby or his derby success.

Bixby said that perseverance was certainly part of his success in this year’s derby, during which he said many of the fish he caught seemed small.

“We fish a bunch, in the river for trout and silvers, and I keep my boat in Homer,” Bixby said. “We’re constantly trying different lures, testing a few things … but mostly, our lines are probably in the water earlier and longer than most people.”

Getting on the water early paid off for Bixby’s wife Loretta, who won the prize for the first fish of the derby, as well as the prize for the 49th-heaviest fish.

Bixby said now that he and his brother are two-time winners, it’s Loretta’s turn to get her second win — she was the first in the family to claim a derby title.

Bixby said he and Loretta are thinking about using the prize money on a trip to Hawaii with their grandchildren.

Second place in the derby went to Kelly Landry of Kenai with a 14.92-pound fish, and Raymond Ansel of Soldotna claimed third place with a 14.39-pound silver.

According to Fish and Game, anglers are reporting good catches of silver salmon out of Seward around Caines Head and Pony Cove by trolling or mooching near schools of bait balls.

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