Thomas and his son Emil, visiting from Austria, try casting a line into Arc Lake on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. King salmon fishing is restricted on all the streams on the western Kenai Peninsula due to weak returns, but lake fishing and early-run sockeye fishing at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers is still available to anglers hungry to fish. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

With limited king fishing, try the Russian, lake angling

Fishing is somewhat limited on the western Kenai Peninsula streams right now, but there are opportunities on lakes and upstream.

The popular sportfishery at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers near Cooper Landing opened Monday, offering anglers their first solid shot at sockeye salmon on the peninsula this year. Though it started off slow, things have picked up, anglers say.

“We’re getting some fish pushing in —we’ve noticed fish the last couple of days,” said Andy Wallace, the manager of Drifter’s Lodge in Cooper Landing. “The first day was great, the second day we had to fish a little longer, work a little further. They just move, which is normal.”

Many of the fish are in the area right around the confluence, called the sanctuary, which is closed this time of year, Wallace said. But there are salmon outside the sanctuary in the fishable area, too.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s weir on Lower Russian Lake started off with small numbers Sunday — only 27 fish — but ramped up to 579 past the weir on Tuesday. The water level has risen to 14.8 inches from 13.5 inches last Wednesday as well.

Other than on the Russian, salmon fishing opportunities are limited on the Kenai Peninsula freshwater streams at present. Low king salmon returns so far prompted complete king salmon fishing closures on the Anchor River, Ninilchik River and Deep Creek effective June 2. Effective Wednesday morning, Fish and Game also restricted king salmon fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, prohibiting retention of wild fish on both rivers and changing the bag and possession limit for hatchery kings 20 inches or longer on the Kasilof River to one.

King salmon fishing in the nearshore marine waters between Bluff Point and the Ninilchik River is also closed.

Fish and Game stocks lakes across the Kenai Peninsula with a variety of species every year. This year, the department stocked catchable Arctic char into Spirit Lake in Kenai and Johnson Lake in Kasilof. The char fishing on Spirit Lake and Island Lake in Nikiski has been reported as very good, according to Fish and Game’s weekly sportfishing report from the northern Kenai Peninsula area. Lake trout fishing has also been reported as good, and Fish and Game recommends trying with dry or wet flies, small spoons, spinners or bait.

Rainbow trout are also stocked into some of the lakes and are now open for fishing on the Kenai River. Anglers can only keep Kenai River rainbow trout shorter than 16 inches, per regulations.

Wallace said the trout habitually follow the salmon and are on the track of the sockeye salmon at present. However, the guides from Drifter’s Lodge have their clients release all the rainbow trout and Dolly Varden they catch, regardless of size, as a conservation practice, he said. Many anglers do the same on the Kenai River.

“(Those two species) are our business partners,” he said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

In this Sunday, June 11, 2017 photo, a sockeye salmon hooked by a lucky angler rests on the bank of the Kenai River downstream of the confluence with the Russian River near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

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