2013 Year in Review and Fishing Reports

2013 Year in Review and Fishing Reports

fishing in alaskaLooking back on a fishing season and attempting to recap the many memories that accumulate in a summer of guiding is never easy.  After taking people fishing on the Kenai River and surrounding waters for past 23 years straight, you can just imagine how people, fish and experiences have a natural tendency to flood the memory bank. That said, there are always a number of seasonally specific occurrences that standout and serve to characterize one year from another.  No summer is ever quite the same in Alaska and 2013 was very special for a number of reasons.  Unlike so many other seasons where it seems to rain constantly, 2013 will be best remembered for incredible blue bird weather.  We also saw the largest return of echelon (said hooligan), a small smelt like fish, that anyone has ever seen.  From mid-April to early June, there was a three foot black line of these 6 inch silver sided fish up and down the river for miles. 2013 also revealed some remarkable returns of salmon, too many trophy trout to count and incredible halibut fishing.  It was a perfect example of Alaska at its finest and we can only hope next season will continue the trend.  Meanwhile let’s take a look back at the fishing highlights of 2013! Kasilof Sockeye SalmonThe most memorable picture of the beginning of the 2013 fishing season was the view looking down the Kasilof boat launch.  It was essentially a six foot berm of ice carved out in the middle with a hole just large enough to squeeze a drift boat through.  It was a cold slow start to the season as our winter lingered longer than normal.  Yet finally in late May the weather turned and so did the fishing.  The first good catches of kings were starting happen on the Kasilof and the fish were a good mix of both hatchery and naturally produced kings.  On the Kenai things were not starting off well with low counts and slow fishing.   We remaining on the Kasilof for most of the early season and enjoyed many days with great action for a mix of king salmon and steelhead.  As we moved into mid-June, it was evident good numbers of sockeye salmon were beginning to enter the Kasilof daily.  This provided an additional option for those looking to get out of the boat and fish from shore and also to experience some explosive action. The abundance of early run sockeye salmon was not isolated to the Kasilof.  The Kenai was also seeing a healthy push of Russian River sockeye swimming up its shorelines and persistent anglers were finding limit catches throughout the first two weeks of June. Kenai River Rainbow TroutJune rolled along at a very consistent pace with more beautiful weather, good king fishing on the Kasilof and building sockeye runs on both rivers.  Trout also opened on the Kenai and with these choices plus salt water fishing and great fly out sockeye and bear viewing, the options in June seemed endless!  Many of these options stayed strong well into late June and into July.  Unfortunately as June closed, so did any possibility of achieving the lower end of the escapement goal for Early Run Kenai River King Salmon.  The river closed to all king fishing on June 18 yet still struggled to make the lower end of the goal. Cleaning Sockeye SalmonThankfully the alternatives to king fishing were not only alluring, but they were many, and we turned the corner into July with great fishing all around us.  The weather remained sunny and clear and both sockeye and trout fishing continued to improve with each passing day.  King fishing had re-opened on the lower Kenai but was still hit and miss.  By far the most productive trip for us at the time was a float from Tustamena Lake to the Sterling highway bridge on the Kasilof in search of big, chrome bright sockeye.  This has become one of our favorite and most enjoyable mid-summer adventures. The scenery in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge below Tustamena Lake along with the serenity afforded by the drift boat makes this a very peaceful experience.  This remote float also allows you to separate yourself from the busier fishing areas and more often than not we will have an entire bank to ourselves (something not always the case on the more popular Kenai.) As usual, the Kasilof fish were a few weeks earlier than the bulk of the Kenai sockeye so their timing was ideal for those here in late June and early July.  There were days we worked harder than others but very few of these trips failed to yield limits. Kenai River Sockeye LimitsAs we moved into mid-July, we shifted our focus back on the Kenai where the first big waves of late run sockeye were entering the river.  While king fishing remained open on the lower Kenai, most of our effort remained on sockeye and trout as the numbers of fish, the action and the variety were all very tough to beat.  While some did opt to put in their time for king salmon, success was limited.  In the end, not enough late run kings were making it back to the river and the season closed early on July 26. With kings closed we continued our pursuit of both sockeye and rainbows.  The sockeye run, while very large this year, all seemed to arrive in a relatively short window.  Instead of limit sockeye catches and fresh pulses of fish entering well into August, the 2013 run ended sooner than normal. Kenai Silver Limit August 2013Fortunately, there was an unexpected surprise waiting right behind the sockeye as hoards of nickel bright silver salmon began flooding the lower Kenai.  Soon their masses were spread throughout the river and excellent fishing was the rule for the majority of the month.  High water opened up a variety of fishing spots for the aggressive coho and we enjoyed world class silver salmon action on a variety of offerings.  Kwik-Fish, both trolled and casted, along with Vibrax spinners, jigs, flies, bobbers and eggs, they all worked really well and after weeks of this great fishing many agreed this was one of the strongest early run silver salmon returns in recent history. Fly Out Silver SalmonThe blockbuster silver return was not only isolated to the Kenai River. On the West Side of Cook Inlet, particularly on the Kustatan, wave after wave of bright coho began arriving in mid-July and they continued to show up even as late as early September.  Buchatna Creek, The Chuit, Big River Lake all saw strong coho run and this was a welcome sight after a number of years with middle of the road returns. Kenai River TroutIn addition to the better than average silver fishing, rainbow trout fishing in 2013 was equally outstanding. There are a number of factors that helped to make this season so productive for big trout and this included a literal perfect storm of meat for them to feast on.  Starting with the fall of 2012, millions upon millions of pink salmon blanketed the Kenai and their deceased bodies along with the countless loose eggs served a protein banquet for several months prior to winter.  Then in the early spring 2013, perhaps the largest return of echelon (hooligan) smelt invaded the river and their fleshy soft-meated bodies were deposited in the billions throughout the watershed.  Again the trout were surrounded by an abundant and rich food source and summer had just begun! Fast forward to July and hundreds of thousands of filleted sockeye salmon carcasses rolling down the river and piling up by the truck loads behind eddies and below rock piles. The already girthy rainbow have a fresh feast to devour and this mid-season frenzy yields some of the largest trout of the season.  This amazing fishing action for truly world class trout continues well into August in the middle sections of the river until the majority of the sockeye carnage has subsided and the fish eventually move upriver to position themselves for the pending spawn. Kenai Silvers, September 2013We too migrated upriver in mid-August and it is here we stayed until the conclusion of our fishing season  The robust run of silvers combined with several high water events in August pushed most of the fish upriver at a fast pace and action just below Skilak Lake was incredible.  The ideal conditions and high densities of salmon spanned the entire month of August and just when things finally started to slow down below the lake, lower sections of the river were starting to fill up with new, late run silvers, fresh from the ocean!  These second run fish are noticeably larger than their first run cousins and with the limit increasing to three fish in September, the fish box was full on many days this fall. While we were blessed with awesome trout fishing in August, the typical peak trout fishing we normally experience in late September and October never really happened.  There were a few flashes in the pan but the high water and a lot of natural food for the trout scattered throughout the system, kept the trout bite slow in late fall.  As they say, all good things must eventually come to an end and after what seemed like one of the best seasons we have seen in many years, this one certainly ended with a lot of very fond memories. As always, so many great friends, family and special experiences combine to make-up a full season here on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.  Thanks to each and every one of you that helped make 2013 such a great year for us. After 23 years I am continually amazed at just how memorable and different each individual season ends up being. 2014 is a brand new adventure and it is always fun to look forward to all the promise another summer in Alaska will bring.  We sincerely hope that you can join us and thanks again to everyone that has fished with us through the years. Take Care and Great Fishing! Mark, Cindy, Faith, Caleigh and Emma ——————————————————————————————————– 2013 Fishing Reports:

Alaska Fishing Report: September 30, 2013

Alaska Fishing Report: September 9, 2013

Alaska Fishing Report: August 24, 2013

Alaska Fishing Report, July 22, 2013

Alaska Fishing Report July 14, 2013

Alaska Fishing Report: June 23, 2013

Alaska Fishing Report: June 14, 2013