Silvers warming, Dolly Varden red hot

Coho salmon fishing on the Kenai River is slow going, but steadily improving.

Water levels are below average for this time of year and that can have a signifcant effect salmon typically known for its wreckless pursuit of bait.

“We’ve had really unusually warm water temperatures,” said Sportfishing Area Management Biologist Robert Begich. “I suspect there are probably more coho in the river than people realize, but they’re just not biting. Bright, sunny days are not conducive to coho salmon fishing, they get lockjaw and aren’t real active.”

Despite the unseasonable heat, Begich said anglers are still catching coho upriver at Skilak Lake, just not yet in any sizeable numbers.

“Probably it’s going to take a change in the weather. We need a few rainy days to cool everything down,” Begich said.

In the marine waters, fishing for coho is reportedly flourishing. the Kachemak Bay Coho salmon gillnet fishery opens August 7. The fishery closes when 1-2,000 coho salmon are harvested — permits are available at the Homer Fish and Game office.

Begich said it’s only a matter of time before the coho moving through the marine waters south of Anchor Point make it up to the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers.

For non-salmon fishing, rainbow trout have been enjoying the same water conditions that drive the silver fishing down.

“It’s low and visibility is great. It’s nice water conditions for rainbows,” Begich said. “Rainbows prefer warmer waters.”

Fishing for Dolly Varden is also improving.

On Quartz Creek, a tributary of the Kenai River that flows parallel to the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing, Dolly Varden have been moving well. This time of year, a fly fisherman can park at one of the many pullouts scattered along the highway for a few hours of fantastic fishing.

Begich said fly fishing with beads in Quartz Creek is effective. While there are rainbows in the area, Begich said the fishery was much more effective for Dolly Varden – a type of char.

“I think it’s a thermal barrier. Quartz Creek has very cold water that comes down out of Crescent Lake, we just don’t see the rainbow numbers up there,” he said. “Dolly are a cold water species, so that’s what you find up there. For there Quartz Creek char fishery, there’s a pretty significant catch of char up there that are caught and released in early August.”

On the lower Kenai Peninsula, the Anchor and Ninilchik Rivers, and Deep and Stariski Creeks opened to fishing for Dolly Varden and rainbow trout fishing on Aug. 1.

In Seward, the annual Silver Salmon Derby is in its last week, it runs through Aug. 16. Tickets are available at the derby headquarters across from the B-dock fish cleaning station. Daily tickets are $10, tickets for the full event are $50.


Reach Rashah McChesney at or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens

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