June 11 isn’t a state holiday in Alaska, but it might as well be.
For the majority of Alaska sport fishermen, that opening day on the Upper Kenai and the Russian River is the opening bell to
Sunday’s opener is shaping up to be a good one.
Although the ADF&G fish counter has only marked a few sockeyes, far above the fishing area, people walking the banks below and in the Sanctuary, have reported hundreds of reds school in the clear water, preparing to move up the Russian.
Here’s some great underwater video of the sockeye schooling already in the Russian, courtesy of the folks at Stream Watch: https://www.facebook.com/Stream-Watch-331381080247578/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf
And thanks to cool temperatures, the river has yet to start rising with snow melt. So, low and clear, plus lots of fish, bodes very well. Being a Sunday opener, this is sure to draw big crowds to the river.
So here are a few reminders to make the most of the weekend.
Keep it legal. The daily sockeye limit is three. Only single hooks are legal and fish must be hooked in the mouth. There’s a lot of winking about how close to the mouth a hook must be to be legal. The law is clear. If a fish is hooked in the tail or side, don’t even think about keeping it. And if you are continuously snagging fish, change your approach. A proper flip involves a smooth sweep of the line across stream, not a gigantic jerk.
Keep it safe. Wear a PFD if you’re floating and keep one on the young fishermen all the time. Carry a wading staff to help you negotiable that slick gravel. Most of your tools—hooks, weights, knives—can hurt you, so be aware.
Be hook savvy. Another day we’ll share some epic “hooked in the face” photos. For today, enough to say that both flying hooks and sizzling weights are dangerous. If you’re snagged especially, pull the line by hand instead of jerking on your rod.
Be bear aware. The river and salmon run always draw brown bears. Usually it’s a few days, after the Russian begins to fill with salmon carcasses, before the Yogis show themselves, but they’re not far away even the first day. Keep all your gear and food in a pack you wear—no picnic baskets on the bank. Keep your eyes open—these bears are used to people and will suddenly appear, often very close to fishermen. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. A handgun is a personal choice, but if you carry it, know how and when to use it.
Be clean. When you are filleting fish, chop the carcasses into small pieces and pitch them far out into fast or deep water. Once you’ve seen a big brown bear wading upstream gathering up carcasses, you’ll understand why. Same with your trash. Pack out everything you pack in, including line, weights and food.
Be courteous. Especially when the fish are either running hot or very slow, the competitive demons can get the best of some people. Don’t crowd in on an angler who’s “dialed them in.” Let him or her get their fish and then move out. And the same way, once you’ve got your fish, get out of the way and let others fish.
Drive careful too. The Seward Highway becomes clogged with tired, sunburned, perhaps tipsy drivers. Take your time to get home and don’t be one of those guys that ruins lives with impatience that turns into a head-on collision.
We’ll give you a report Monday on how the run is starting, so if you aren’t able to fish Sunday, there’ll be some good weeks ahead. See you on the river!