Area Sport Fishing Reports
Don't forget your sport fishing license expires at the end of the day on December 31. Remember to purchase next year’s sport fishing license through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game online store, at local ADF&G offices, or vendors. A sport fishing license and king stamp make a great gift that keeps on giving all year long. Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklets are good until the following years booklet is issued. Look for new Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklets between March and May. You can pick up a copy of the Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet at your local ADF&G offices, vendors, or view it online.
To protect spawning rainbow trout many flowing waters are closed to trout fishing, and may be closed to all fishing. Check the Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet for specific regulations or call the Soldotna ADF&G office at (907) 262-9368
The Upper Kenai and Russian rivers are closed to fishing from May 1 through June 10.
Just want to try out that new fishing rod? Parts of Kenai Lake, Skilak Lake, and all stocked lakes remain open to fishing for rainbow trout the entire year. The Kasilof River is open to fishing for rainbow/Steelhead trout the entire year. The Kasilof River is catch-and-release only for rainbow/steelhead trout and fish may not be removed from the water.
Although river conditions in May can be highly variable, generally water levels are extremely low in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. If it has been an unusually warm spring, water levels may rise closer to normal. Lake ice begins to recede and is normally gone by Memorial Day weekend, except on higher-elevation lakes.
Chinook salmon represent the only Northern Kenai Peninsula freshwater salmon fishing opportunity for the month of May. In the Kasilof River, small numbers of Chinook salmon are usually available beginning mid-May, with the run building through the month into June. Through May 15, only single-hook, unbaited, artificial lures are allowed below the Sterling Highway Bridge. After May 15, bait and multiple hooks are allowed. Crooked Creek, a tributary to the Kasilof River, is closed to fishing for Chinook salmon year-round. Be sure to check the ADF&G website for any emergency orders that may affect this sport fishery.
Small numbers of Chinook salmon begin to enter the Kenai River in early to mid-May, with increasing numbers through the end of May. The Division of Sport Fish operates a Chinook salmon sonar site on the mainstem near river mile 14, which generate daily estimates of Chinook salmon passage. These counts are available on the ADF&G fish counts webpage and generally begin being posted around May 20 each year. Waters of the Kenai River downstream of Skilak Lake are open to Chinook salmon fishing in May. There are some closed areas of the river, special tackle restrictions, length restrictions, annual limits, and specific bag and possession limits for early-run Chinook salmon. Please check the Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet carefully as well as current emergency orders that may affect the sport fishery.
Kenai River shore anglers may find success fishing the flooding tide from Cunningham Park in Kenai, or near the Warren Ames Bridge. Upriver in Soldotna, shore anglers cast from the boardwalks at the Soldotna Visitor's Center, Soldotna Creek Park, or from the City of Soldotna's Centennial or Swiftwater campgrounds. Another opportunity for spring fishing is surf casting into the saltwaters of Cook Inlet. The City of Kenai parking area on the north shore, off Spruce Drive in Kenai provides beach access to Cook Inlet and the mouth of the Kenai River. Bait and treble/multiple hooks may be used in saltwater year-round. In freshwaters of the Kenai River, bait is prohibited until July 1, and treble/multiple hooks are not allowed until August 1. Be sure to check current emergency orders affecting Kenai River salmon sport fisheries as regulations are often amended. The Southcentral Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet also contains maps of public fishing locations.
The Chinook salmon early-run usually peaks in early June. Popular freshwater lures include single-hook Spin-N-Glos™, Pixees™, and Vibrax™. Popular plugs for fishing from boats include Kwikfish™ and Wiggle Warts™. A single hook has only one point (with or without a barb). Whichever lure you choose, be sure it's heavy enough to reach the deeper channels, where Chinook salmon prefer to swim. The average size of a Kenai River early-run Chinook is about 30-45 pounds. Occasionally, Chinook salmon up to 75 pounds are caught. 35lb. monofilament line is the minimum line strength recommended and should be paired with a stout mid to heavy weight rod when targeting Chinook salmon on the Kenai River
Kenai River early-run Chinook salmon are managed under the terms of the "Kenai River and Kasilof River Early-Run King Salmon Management Plan" (5 AAC 57.160). The optimal escapement goal range is 3,900 – 6,600 large Chinook salmon (> 34 inches in length) as estimated at the RM 14 sonar. Other assessment tools include angler creel surveys and in-river test gillnetting.
Shore anglers wishing to target early-run Chinook salmon on the Kasilof River will head to the Alaska State Parks Crooked Creek State Recreation Site, off North Cohoe Loop Road. Anglers may also fish the Kasilof River from drift boats launching at the Sterling Highway Bridge with boat retrieval occurring in the lower stretches of the river that are tidally influenced. Many guide services are available for both the Kasilof and Kenai rivers. Anglers should check the ADF&G webpage for emergency orders that may affect both the Kasilof and Kenai rivers chinook salmon sport fishery.
Early-run Kasilof River Chinook salmon fishery peaks in early June. Beginning May 16, bait and treble/multiple hooks may be used in the Kasilof River. Before May 16, only unbaited, single hooks are allowed. Popular lures include Spin-N-Glos™, Pixees™, Vibrax™, Okie Drifters™, and yarn flies. Lures are often sweetened with a chunk of preserved salmon roe. Average size of Kasilof River early-run Chinook salmon is about 15-25 pounds. 20-lb. monofilament line is the minimum line strength recommended when targeting Chinook salmon on the Kasilof River.
Rainbow/Steelhead Trout and Dolly Varden
Spawning season for rainbow/steelhead trout occurs in the springtime. During this time fish become vulnerable and require conservative fishing regulations so that they are protected from over exploitation. Eggs are also extremely fragile in the first few weeks, and spawning beds must be protected as much as possible. Spring is an excellent time to observe rainbow trout spawning on the Russian River and to reflect on the conservation of this natural resource. Please note the upper Kenai River, parts of the middle Kenai River, and all Kenai River tributaries are closed to all fishing May 1 through June 10 to protect spawning rainbow trout. Please review the Southcentral Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet prior to fishing.
The Kasilof River presents the only flowing water opportunity for rainbow/steelhead trout fishing in May. The Kasilof River is catch-and-release only for rainbow/steelhead trout, and fish may not be removed from the water prior to release. Through May 15, only single-hook, unbaited, artificial lures are allowed. After May 15, bait and treble/multiple hooks are allowed. The steelhead run is extremely small, so expectations of fast and furious catch-and-release action are unrealistic.
Dolly Varden often begin their spring migration in May and present a good light tackle opportunity throughout both drainages in waters open to sport fishing.
The best opportunity to fish for rainbow trout in April and May is at one of the 25 stocked lakes in the area, and carefully selected portions of the lower Kenai River, Kenai and Skilak lakes. The smaller lakes are usually ice-free by early May. If the ice is not completely off the lake, try casting out to the edge of the ice where fish are feeding on freshly immerged aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Publications describing these lakes are available online and at ADF&G offices in Anchorage, Soldotna, and Homer. Make sure to check out the ADF&G fish stocking and the ADF&G Alaska Lakes Database (ALDAT) webpages for up-to-date lake stocking information.