By Lee Leschper
Call it a trickle.
A trickle of early season fish that is, that could turn into a gusher any day.
Most anywhere you’d consider fishing in Southcentral Alaska this week has shown a slowly increasing trickle of arriving salmon. From the Valley, south through Anchorage’s Ship Creek to the Kenai and Peninsula rivers, early season king salmon have been arriving and being caught.
Social media has lit up with grinning anglers with their first king of the season, but there still a lot more fishermen than fish. It’s only a matter of time, if predictions are correct that a cool May delayed runs, that the flood gates could open any time.
So, if you’re fishing this weekend, be realistic that it is early and the best way to ensure success is to put in your time on the water ready to intercept those first fish. We’ve put in a lot of time in Ship Creek the last two weeks and hooked fish most trips, probably averaging one king hookup for every two hours fished. There are some regulars catching kings on every tide, but that is not yet the norm. The good news is that all techniques—soaking salmon eggs, throwing spinners and flipping—are catching fish.
Predictions for a strong run, thanks to excellent king production again from the Hernandez hatchery upriver, could come true just in time for the Slam’n Salm’n Derby that starts June 9. See our events calendar for more details on the Derby.
The Kenai River is enjoying its best early king salmon run in years. Predictions are that the run could far exceed escapement goal. And fewer anglers are fishing, perhaps skeptical that the run will continue and perhaps because kings longer than 34 inches must be released. But the guides fishing for kings, perhaps due to very clear water that helps kings see artificial baits, are doing very well and releasing some big fish.
The Kasilof continues to kick out both wild and hatchery kings with consistency and should continue to do so. The just-announced cost recovery set net fishery south of the Kasilof which opens June 15, ten days earlier than the regular set net fishery, could have an impact on these kings.
The Lagoon on the Homer Spit has seen its first kings as well, although it’s hardly been red hot. That could change just in time for the Kids Fishing Day there Saturday, June 3.
The traditional opening to summer salmon for most Southcentral anglers will be June 11 when the Upper Kenai and Russian open for sockeye salmon as well as trout. The Russian fish counter won’t start counting fish until June 4, so we can’t confirm the armchair predictions that this will be a stronger sockeye run. Recent openers have often been bedeviled by very high river levels, making it difficult to wade and to fish effectively for reds. We’ll give you an update from the river next week.
There are a few exceptions.
Saltwater king fishing has been a bit spotty in both Seward and from Homer to the Kenai. This is a bit surprising given both the excellent winter feeder king season we had and the early arrival of kings in the Peninsula rivers.
The popular Eklutna tailrace king salmon fishery has yet to show its first fish, probably because low water has deterred those fish.
So, Valley anglers are better served to hit the Deshka or Little Su for another week or two for salmon.
Or go piking. Warmer weather now pushing into sunny 70s has also made predatory northern pike more active in Valley lakes, as the big toothy fish move into shallows to spawn. A number of anglers have caught strings of big pike from Big Lake, which is good news for the rainbows and dollies. Remember to keep every pike you catch. Send us your pike recipes if you have a favorite.
If you can forget salmon for another week, and the weather Gods smile, hit the salt for some of the great halibut that charters are catching from Seward, Homer, Deep Creek and all points in between. The leading fish in the Homer and Valdez Halibut Derbies are just in the 100-pound range, and the Seward Derby started June 1, but expect the weights for all leader board to go up quickly.
One other reason to go fishing this week–there are some great deals on trips of all kings, from charters looking to fill boats and dates. Several outfits have said they have more fish than fishermen, and so are offering discounts and special packages. We will try to keep these posted to the Alaska Outdoor Digest website and Facebook page, but there more than we’ve been able to keep up. So a few minutes surfing the internet ddeals and being ready to fish now instead of later could save you big bucks, and get you into the fish now.
Wherever you are fishing, be safe, wear that PFD and remember your manners. On the water and on the road. There will be plenty of summer and plenty of fish, so keep it fun for everybody and get home safe.
And share your fishing photos with us at https://www.facebook.com/akoutdoordigest/.