19 Jul June 2019 Fishing Report
Zero complaints from the guides of Alaska Drift Away Fishing this June! Kings on the Kasilof fished well and rainbow trout on the Kenai did not disappoint either. The early portion of the red salmon run during late June on the Kasilof was a bit scratchy, but abnormal temps were the culprit.
Kasilof King Salmon
During the winter we were delighted to hear that the fishing regulations changed for the better regarding the 1st run of Kasilof kings. Single-hook artificial lures only. Most guides groaned about the news, we couldn’t have been happier. We immediately knew there would be half the amount of guides on the river. No bait means you have to row and be creative with your tactics, with bait, sitting on the anchor will probably get you fish. The holes reset for bites quicker when a ton of boats do not disturb the zones with a multitude of overwhelming scents. Kings have an incredible sniffer (1 part per billion). The common guide quote of the season was “man, if we could use bait we would crush it right now” the response, “you would catch less because there would be twice the amount of boats.”
Depending on your start time, it was very possible to only fish around 1 or 2 boats all day! A busy day was battling with 5-10 boats, with bait 10-20 boats. Enough on the power of no bait, the fishing was also good. Once we hit Memorial Weekend the tides were producing solid results as kings were consistently pushing upriver on them. We felt very good about hooking a few fish a day, which is great for kings. Kings are incredibly hard to catch somedays getting one to bite is the goal. Tying into several fish a day was the usual through the peak, there were a couple of days in the mix were the kings didn’t want to cooperate, but not many!
The run peaked somewhere around the 10th of June and fished strong till the 18th. After the 18th we saw less and less fish pushing on the tides, and the in-river fish became fairly lethargic as the Kenai Peninsula settled into a major high pressure with abnormal hot temps. The consistent increase of water temp did not help motivate the in-river kings. Usually between the 15th – 20th or so you can expect the run to slow in productivity and looking to hook a king becomes the new focus. All in all our stoke was high for the 2019 1st run of Kasilof kings!
Kenai Rainbow Trout
Our first trips started around the 15th and greeted us with hard-charging, chunky bows. This trend continued for the next week, but a dynamic event began to unfold. The Swan Lake forest fire was producing enough smoke to keep Skilak Lake from cooling at night. As mentioned above, mid-June the air temps were above normal. Normally high pressure brings clear skies, the warm temps melt snow and ice in the mountains increasing the CFS of the river, but the skies usually stay clear at night allowing Skilak Lake to cool off. The smoke from the forest fire acted as an insulator and did not allow the lake water temps to cool. That warm water began warming the Middle Kenai water temps making the trout a touch lethargic.
Fortunately, the increase in temps was not super dramatic, the bows had some time to acclimate to the rising water temps, and to our surprise found decent trout activity as water temps rose to 60+ degrees. Average temp range for this time of year is 46-51 degrees. We found solid fishing despite the increase of warm temps, the bows remained consistent with their feeding behavior and patterns. Swinging streamers during this time of year are our favorite approach, as trout love smashing them mid-swing. Once again to our surprise, our pinked-sided friends kept throttling the streamers even as the water temps reached warm levels!!! This weather event could have really put the kibosh on late June, but it didn’t and we were stoked as can be for it.
Kasilof Red Salmon
The early run of Kasilof Reds saw a nice push of fish mid-June, typically when we’re don’t see a big push. As we moved into late June (when we see a spike in fish entering the river) the party was thwarted. Our speculation was the dramatic increase in water temp on the Kasilof River deterred fish from wanting to enter the river, the rumor mill stated that a large population of reds was staged just outside the mouth.
The Kasilof is much shorter than the Kenai (only 15 miles long), so fish can move through the river fairly quickly. Anglers targeting red in the tidal zones to anglers fishing 1-10 miles above all reported the reds they were catching didn’t have sea lice on them. Sea lice are actually a good thing, it is a small parasite that lives on outside of the salmon and falls off the fish within 36 hours of the salmon being in freshwater. It’s a great way to gauge how fresh the salmon are.
Most of the reds during this time should have sea lice on them since they are not traveling too far upriver. The fact that anglers were not seeing sea lice on the fish caught only 3 miles above the ocean suggests that they are moving very slow. The warm water temps are the reason for that. Along with the slow movements, only a few would move through at any given time. The Kasilof typically is pretty easy to predict where and when reds will move through a spot depending on where the tide is at.