Kenai River Fishing Seasons
Spring Kasilof King Salmon
We begin our salmon fishing season on the Kenai Peninsula during the months of May and June fishing for king salmon on the Kasilof river. This scenic river is approximately 13 miles south of Soldotna and is a quiet, drift boat fishery. We fish out of stable 20 foot willie drift boats, typically back trolling plugs and other baits through the holes where these fish lay. We often use other techniques such as float fishing and back bouncing while fishing for Kasilof kings. Kasilof River king salmon average 10-30 pounds, but larger fish are possible. The Kasilof river is home to a strong hatchery program which allows for a liberal 2 King salmon per day limit. These first run Kings fresh from the ocean are fantastic light tackle fighters, and also make excellent table fare.
July Kenai King Salmon
July is the beginning of our Kenai river fishing season, where we can target the largest kings in the world out of the comfort of our specially designed 20′ powerboats. We fish for these hard fighting fish by back trolling or back bouncing large plugs or spin-n-glos on a jet-diver, utilizing bait when legally allowed. Fishing for Kenai king salmon is not a numbers fishery, however the raw power and sheer adrenaline rush an angler experiences when they hook one of these giants more than makes up for it. The incredible fight these fish put up can defeat even the most experienced angler, although the largest fish of the 2017 season was caught by a 13 year old boy and was 50″ long and an estimated 50 pounds! Just imagine the battle that a fish like this estimated 65 pounder put up. These second run kings are the ultimate sport fish.
Kenai River Sockeye Salmon
If a priority for your Alaskan vacation is to bring home a box of fish, look no further than the kenai river sockeye salmon. Between 4-7 million of these tasty 6-13 lb fish return to the cook inlet every year, making them the ultimate sustainable resource. They first show up as a trickle in early June as the 1st run fish head to the Russian river, then again in July as the massive 2nd run brings tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of these fish into the river per day. Following these fish is a spike in tourism in July, as tourists by the thousands flock to the public fishing areas. This can make fishing for these fish at public fishing areas a stressful, and at times dangerous affair as you stand shoulder to shoulder with other fishermen, all vying for the best spots.
By booking a guided trip for sockeyes, we can get away from the stress of the public fishing areas as we fish the best spots which are accessible only by boat. Here you won’t typically have to worry about the stranger next to you hooking you or loosing your spot if you step out of the water for a minute to take a break. We use our 20′ Willie powerboats to get you to and from productive fishing spots, and to leapfrog huge schools of these fish as they head upriver. Kenai River sockeye salmon limits usually begin at 3 per person, then late July or early August often become liberated to 6 fish if AK Fish & Game deems appropriate. One thing many anglers notice is that Kenai River sockeye salmon tend to run larger in size than other rivers in Alaska. In the fast flowing waters of the Kenai River these salmon put up an impressive acrobatic battle
Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon
Because the bulk of the Kenai River sockeye run doesn’t typically show up until mid July we spend much of our time between June 20- July 15th fishing on the Kasilof River, which has an early run of sockeye. Because we have Kenai National Wildlife Refuge permits we are able to fish the productive gravel bars located on the refuge waters of the upper Kasilof river. Not only can the fishing be excellent on this stretch of river, it is also minimally developed providing for an amazing Alaskan experience. Here it is common to see moose and other wildlife while drifting or slowly motoring this scenic 9 mile stretch of river. The salmon pushing through this fishery are fast traveling fish heavily influenced by the tides. This makes it important to keep an open mind on the possibility of an early morning start time to ensure we can put you on a productive spot. The Kasilof River sockeye salmon limit starts out at 3 fish per person, but typically gets raised to 6 fish per person sometime in July. If you are in Alaska during late June-mid July spending a guided day on the Kasilof River fishing for sockeye salmon will make for great memories, and with just a bit of luck lots of salmon fillets.
When fishing for sockeye salmon on either the Kasilof or Kenai rivers you may choose to use either conventional or fly gear. We typically keep both in the boat at all times. As guides we can promise to give you all the one-on-one teaching you need to become proficient at the very specific technique used to catch these fish. Don’t be surprised to find us standing next to you in the river helping correct technique and fine tuning your sockeye flossing skills. There is nothing we want more as guides than for you to catch fish and we will give as much effort on our end as it takes to help get you 100% dialed in.
Coho (Silver) Salmon August/September
If I had to pick one salmon to call my favorite, it without a doubt would be the silver salmon.Present in the river from August-November no other salmon in Alaska is as fast and acrobatic as a fresh chrome silver. When plug fishing with Kwikfish it is not uncommon to spot the fish thrashing on the top of the water before you even see the rod fold! These fish can reach weights up to 20 pounds, although the average size of a Kenai River silver salmon is 8-14 pounds. With the light tackle we use these fish are truly a riot! There are many productive ways of fishing for the silvers, and at times you may find us fishing plugs, bobbers, casting spinners or twitching hand tied bunny strip jigs. There are times we can even catch them on fly rods!.
Spending a day fishing out of Soldotna with an experienced Kenai river guide is the best way to find success during the silver salmon season. Silvers have a delicate, flavorful flesh making them one of my favorite salmon to eat. When the bite is on, limits of silver salmon can come quickly resulting in full fish boxes and many good meals.
Rainbow Trout & Dolly Varden June 11-November
The Kenai River is home to some of Alaska’s largest trout, and is certainly the best drive to trout fishery in the state. Trout season opens in June, and the fishing just gets better as the season goes on, eventually reaching its peak as the salmon begin to spawn in August and September. Trout fishing trips are customizable and I can cater to both fly and spin fishers. Trout on the Kenai river average 12-25″, with larger fish very common. For an angler looking for lots of action this is the perfect trip, as some days we can boat 70-100 fish. By law all trout species on the Kenai river are catch and release only.
Available on even numbered years pink salmon provide plenty of action, and they are a blast on light tackle. At times pink salmon are so abundant you can catch one on nearly every cast. These are a fine eating fish when they are bright and fresh from the ocean. Many people smoke or can these 3-8 pound fish. With a liberal 6 fish limit its easy to fill a fish box when fresh pinks enter the river. This is a great species to target for the angler just looking to bend a rod on many aggressive fish and have a good time.
The Kenai river kings are truly special because they are genetically unlike any other king salmon on earth. Historically they reached sizes up to 100 lbs, with the world record 97 lb 4 oz fish being caught by legendary angler Les Anderson in 1985. However, partially because of anglers selectively harvesting the largest fish the average size of the king salmon on the Kenai river has drastically decreased in the last two decades. The average size fish is now less than 50 lb, but each year we tend to catch several over 50 pounds. These are still truly incredible fish, and remain larger than the king salmon caught anywhere else in North America!
To do our part as good stewards of this increasingly rare, precious resource we have joined with a growing number of sport fishing guides who promote practicing CPR (Catch, Photograph and Release) on the trophy Kenai Kings. Starting in 2017 all large wild Kenai river King salmon and all hens (female salmon) will be released after a quick & ethical photo and video shoot. If legal, we will still allow harvest of the more abundant & smaller male Kenai river king salmon These fish are much better eating and their genetic removal will not harm the run. Doing this allows these amazing fish to continue on their epic journey and propagate the species. This is our way of doing what we can to save these incredible fish before these genetics are gone to history forever. These giants have become too rare and special to kill, especially as we try to come out of a period of low abundance.
An additional incentive to releasing your King Salmon is offered by Fish For The Future, a non profit organization dedicated to saving the unique genetics of the trophy king salmon that reside in the Kenai river. The organization has shown their dedication by offering weekly prizes and random drawings for photos submitted of King Salmon that were released out of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. These prizes range in value up to $1000 and include replica fish mounts, prints, halibut and bear viewing charters and more!
Check out their page here. http://www.fishforthefuture.net