Kenai Stories and Tips

Kenai River Fishing

Just fishin Photo, Kenai, Alaska

My family owns a cabin in an area of the Kenai River known as the Kenai Keys. It's situated off Highway 1, about 5-6 miles east of the town of Sterling, and about 3-4 miles south on Felding Road. Their cabin is on a riverfront lot up against the Kenai River. The Kenai River is world famous for it's salmon fishing.

The fishing season varies on the Kenai River. From mid-May to the end of June and a second run from early to late July are the King Salmon runs. Dolly Varden, trout, and the prized red salmon (sockeye) have their first run from June to early July. The red salmon hava a larger second run from mid-July to early August. The trout and Dollys have their second run from early August to mid-October. The silver salmon (coho) run all throughout August to September. The salmon can be found all throughout the Kenai River, however, the trout and Dolly Varden are more plentiful further downstream closer to the ocean.

From my family's cabin, we simply put on waders and carefully walk out to about groin depth and start fishing. The water is quite cold, as we are downstream from Skilak Lake, which has a small glacier on the far side. The current is swift, but not all that strong near the banks of the river, but always be careful. The water is not clear, and you can't see the bottom of the river due to the silt and nutrients in the water that come off the glaciers. The best way to move around is to take shallow steps, or shuffle your feet along the riverbed.

We fly fished, since that was the regulation for the red salmon runs. You must read the regulations carefully and figure out what specific types of lures or bait can be used in what season, but good thing most store clerks where they sell fishing licenses know the rules.

Most of the time, Kenai River fishing is very fun, especially since the fishing is plentiful. For me, fishing on the Kenai does three different things. 1) It's relaxing and helps to relieve stress. It's not too phyiscally demanding. Although you have to post yourself in the river and keep from falling over, unless you're fighting a fish on the hook, it's a nice, relaxing time. In fact, the water seems to help keep you bouyant, almost like a load off your feet. 2) It's visually stimulating. There are many things to look at, and pique your interest, as it's very beautiful on the Kenai River. 3) It's spiritual. It's not a religious thing, but it does serve to connect you with nature and your surroundings and help you to appreciate things more. When I was standing in the river fishing, I couldn't help but to appreciate the beauty of things around me, realize the need to keep things beautiful, and understand there are things bigger than ourselvses. There is a lot of wildlife present in the area. We saw a bald eagle land in front of our cabin, clutching a salmon it had fished out of the river. It started ripping away and eating the salmon, tearing out chunks with it's powerful beak, leaving when the seagulls came closer. We saw ducks, seagulls, and all sorts of other birds. We kept seeing bald eagles, although we suspect it was the same bald eagle, as they are territorial.

My family has a boat, but the motor hasn't been used in years and is probably rusted solid. People can rent boats from various boat rental shops on the river. You can also book riverboat fishing trips where everything is provided, from equiptment to food and guides and licenses. They even have fly-in-fishing. There are many of these services where they will fly you into the Kenai River via floatplane and you can fish off a boat or from shore. The most simple way to fish is to find a public fishing area off Alaska Highway 1, whch mostly parallels the Kenai River, and find a public parking area and hike a few yards to the river and wade in and start fishing. Just make sure it is public land and not somebody's private property. There are just so many ways and places to fish along the Kenai that it's very easy to do.

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