The Kenai Peninsula, especially around the Kenai River, is world famous for salmon fishing. Each summer, thousands upon thousands of anglers from all over the world descend upon the Kenai Peninsula to fish the Kenai River and its tributaries, in the hopes of catching salmon. That includes us.
The Kenai River is easily reachable via the Sterling Highway. Cooper Landing, along the Sterling Highway, is one of the more popular places to get onto the river and start fishing. It’s where the Kenai River meets Kenai Lake. The banks of the river are deep with anglers fully engaged in "combat fishing." Combat fishing is where anglers crowd the banks of the river to fish, jockeying for position, sometimes they are as close as 5-10 feet away from each other. Unfortunately, sometimes the combat becomes literal as the close proximities and hooks flying around create short tempers. But regardless, salmon fishing is usually a fun and relaxing activity. Just don't forget the fishing license, as the fish and game do check licenses. You can easily buy a license almost anywhere, convenience stores, lodges, supermarkets, some gas stations, etc.
Starting around early July through the end of July, king salmon make their run up the Kenai River. In late July to early August, the sockeye, or red salmon make their runs. Known for their distinctive red flesh, the red salmon are usually caught using flies, as lures nor bait attract them. Starting in August, the silver salmon make their runs. The silvers are known for being ferocious fighters. Not only can you fish for silvers along the Kenai and its tributaries, but they are also found along the edges of Resurrection Bay, near Seward. At around the same time as the silver salmon run, pink salmon also show up.
I’m very fortunate that my family keeps a cabin on the Kenai River near mile marker 44. Our cabin directly backs to the river, giving us direct access to wade out behind our cabin to fish. When we feel like fishing, we put on the hip boots or waders and wander into the Kenai River. Personally, I find that fishing in the morning hours before 11 AM and fishing after 8 PM seem to be the best hours. I’ve been told that the fish make themselves scare during the middle of the day, as during these hours, the fish are more visible in the water to natural predators, such as bears and eagles. I do find the morning and evening hours, I do catch more salmon. Most of my salmon were caught around 11 PM to 12:30 AM. Remember, this is Alaska in the summertime, and there’s still fairly abundant sunlight at this time.
One thing I really like about fishing is that it does immerse you in nature. There are always birds around, especially seagulls. Somewhere around our cabin, a bald eagle makes its home. There's also a baby bald eagle that poaches our fish every now and then. When we fish, we sometimes leave the fish we've caught sitting on the bank of the river until we come in and start to gut and clean them. One day, a baby bald eagle, came and stole one. It wasn't strong enough to fly away with the fish, so it ate part of it and flew off. The baby bald eagle's "hood" feathers hadn't turned into the signature white hood yet.
There are so many places to fish for salmon, the Kenai is the main river, there’s the Russian River, Funny River, Kasilof and Swanson Rivers. There are numerous fishing lodges and charters in the area, as well as in the town of Soldotna, where the Kenai flows through. People really do come from all over to fish here. While I was in Soldotna, I spoke with a group of guys from Germany that had been coming to fish the Kenai River for several years now.
There are plenty of ways to fish, the cheapest is to put on waders and enter at a public area, like Cooper Landing, where they combat fish. If you have a boat, you can launch out and fish from the boat or anchor near the sides of the river and hop out into the water to fish. If you have some money, you can do a fly in fishing trip. Either way, this is a fun activity, and a good way to connect with nature. It's very scenic on the Kenai, and there is a lot to see, from beautiful landscapes, to eagles and other wild creatures. There’s no guarantee you’ll catch anything, as its dependent on when the salmon runs come in. But if you do catch fish, it can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. Thousands upon thousands of people think so.