Silvers: The bite is half the fun

Silver salmon are now bending the rods of local anglers who were anticipating their arrival among an abundant early run of pink salmon.

For weeks it was difficult to hook silver salmon, also called coho salmon, with the pink salmon flooding the Kenai River, said assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Jason Pawluk.

Silver salmon can be identified by their greenish-blue colored backs and silvery sides. Small black spots are found on their dorsal fin and usually on the upper lobe of the tail only. They have a black mouth and white gums that start at the base of their lower jaw.

Now the aggressive species is filling the two-per-day bag limit of fishermen perched on the banks of the Kenai River and anglers downstream, Pawluk said.

The most success is being had near the mouth of the Kenai River, said co-owner of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing, Scott Miller. Throughout the last two or three days it has really been picking up.

“There are so many different ways to fish for silver salmon,” Miller said.

Environmental factors are contributing to the gear being purchased for fishing silver salmon this season, Miller said. Dark, murky water has inspired the purchasing of orange or chartreuse colored spinners for spinner fishing, he said. Once the water clears up, anglers will go back to buying pink colored spinners.

Bobbers are the favorite method for fisherman targeting silver salmon, which is likely because the visual aspect makes it more exciting, Miller said.

In the area around Soldotna bridge people are plunking off the bank, where a weight anchors the line holding the hook to the river bottom, Miller said.

The silver salmon being reeled in range around 10-12 pounds right now, Miller said.

“Part of the charm of silvers is that they are very aggressive fighters,” Miller said.

Unlike king salmon, where anglers take very specific, tested approaches to catching the large species, silvers go after bait and hooks more aggressively and will respond well to a wider variety, Pawluk said.

Right now the silver salmon coming in are either at the beginning or within the first pulse that enters the Kenai River usually every August, Pawluk said. The second pulse, which is not as concentrated as the first, can be expected in September.

Fish and Game does not have any directed assessment to enumerate the abundance of silver salmon, Pawluk said. But sonar sites targeting other species, as well as reports from the commercial fishing industry, driftnet fleet and local guides, are all suggesting the salmon run is progressing.

For now the lower part of the Kenai River will yield the most success for anglers until the schools move further upstream, Pawluk said.

The pink salmon are getting old and not biting as hard, Miller said. They are making it easier to target the influx of silver salmon now.


Kelly Sullivan can be reached at

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