kenai river sockeye - Alaska

Kenai River Sockeye Fishing, DIY or DIWHY?

For one of my first posts, I wanted to dig into the topic of hiring a guide. More specifically, why you should think about hiring a guide for sockeye fishing when you come to Alaska when you could just go DIY. I will preface this post with a short story that seems to occur every summer, then get into some of the details on why I think it makes sense to book a guide, for at least 1 day of your trip to Alaska.

Storytime: As my guide Aaron and I row into the take-out on the Upper Kasilof River the first-time salmon anglers inside our drift boats are nothing but smiles. In each boat is a cooler filled with 48 sockeye salmon fillets- the results of a good day of fishing with the liberalized early July limits that have become so typical the last 4-5 years. As we begin to offload our guests and their fish a small crowd forms. It is a group of anglers in Alaska for their first time. After talking with them we find they have been fishing on their own at Crooked Creek State Recreation area the last several days with unfortunately little success to show for it. After giving away a business card they inevitably book a guided trip for the next day and end up catching more fish in 4 hours of fishing on the river than they have had during the entire previous portion of their trip. A great success right? Below I will dive into why you should consider booking a guide instead trying to fish DIY, or at least consider booking a day in addition to your DIY days with a little more detail below.

1)We know the regulations.  Fishing regulations in Alaska are notoriously confusing, it is very easy (and common as we see it daily) for a visiting angler to find themselves in violation for something as simple as removing an out-of-season salmon from the water for a photo or casting into a closed body of water.

2) Cut the learning curve.  While it may look simple, there are many nuances to sockeye fishing that separate a veteran from a beginner. A day on the water with an experienced guide will help iron out any bad habits and show you the finer details from weight selection to leader length, casting technique and much more. If you are visiting for an extended period of time getting out for a day on the front end of your trip with a guide to get dialed in can pay off big dividends on the remainder of your trip. 

3)Location, Location, Location.  Not all spots are created equal. Although sockeye salmon do have to run the entire length of the river to get to their spawning grounds, there are certain spots that are much more productive than others. Having the mobility of a boat and the knowledge of when to be in a specific spot at a specific time often means the difference between catching limits and going home with one or two fish. Anyone can fill a limit on a day when 100,000 sockeye enter the river, it’s the more common days when 10,000-50,000 fish enter the Kenai River or 4,000-12,000 enter the Kasilof that having a guide really pays off.

5) Efficiency: Most visiting anglers are only in the area for a short time, If you are only going to fish a day or two you should maximize you chances of success by going with a guide. 

6) Avoid the combat: While we are not afraid to jump into the action if we need to we can often get away from the busier areas to allow for a more relaxed sockeye salmon fishing experience. Even if we do find ourselves fishing around others (as we often do at well known producers such as the sockeye factory on the lower Kenai River) we are almost always fishing right next to our fellow guide partners and their guests. These guides are some of our best friends and you won’t typically experience the rowdy, spot stealing actions you might at some of the more popular walk in fishing spots.

7) We have the gear:  Don’t worry about flying all your gear to Alaska, or buying the specialty gear you need for sockeye but probably won’t use back home. By booking a trip with a guide all you need to do is show up in weather appropriate clothing. We will provide the chest waders, rods, tackle and everything else you might need with the exception of your fishing license. This makes for simple logistics and more room in your rental vehicle for coolers of fish on your drive back to the airport.

8) Pick our brain:  Need a restaurant recommendation? Ideas for other things to do while visiting Alaska  or want to pick our brain on anything local? We are your captive audience for the duration of your trip and are a wealth of information that can be used to help make your trip more enjoyable.

For more information or to book a guided sockeye fishing trip on the Kenai or Kasilof River visit our website at or call (907)312-0039.

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