2019 Summer Fishing Update for King Salmon & Rainbow Trout

In like a lamb out like a lion would be the most accurate way to describe June fishing for King Salmon on the Kasilof River and Rainbow Trout on the Kenai River.

King Salmon – Kasilof River

By Memorial weekend we were consistently hooking into fish daily.  As June progressed we had great tide cycles and were able to position ourselves well to intercept the fish that pushed in on those tides.  Several days had us hitting 10 fish a boat.  Unfortunately, not all those made it to the net, but great action and weather made for incredible days.  We were getting excited to see what the peak of the run would produce as the action on the tides was suggesting that the peak was closing in.

Enter the lion,  a week of giant tides put a huge halt on fish entering the river in large pulses.  By high tides, we were looking at 23ft highs with -4ft lows on some days.  That is 27ft of water sloshing around in 6hrs!  Fish still enter the river on those gigantic tides but not a ton.  To make the equation more spicy ADF&G reduced the Kasilof to single hook artificial lure only.  Some would say that it is hard/next to impossible to hit fish with artificial lures and no bait on the Kasilof, but we disagree.  Not many fish in the river makes it hard to hook fish.  We felt that if bait were still open the fishing would have been a touch better by not by much.  The reason for the switch from bait to artificial was to mirror the closing of the 1st run of Kings on the Kenai.  Artificial only on the Kasilof helped deter many Kenai guides that would have flooded the Kasilof if bait were still an option.

Memorial Weekend Kenai River Rainbow Trout caught with artificial bait.

Rainbow Trout – Kenai River

Trout season opens on the Kenai River on June 11, our first trip was on the 13th.  What we found as we eagerly greeted the early season was low water ~ 5,000 CFS, clear-ish water ~ 5-7ft of visibility, and solid rainbows that were down to party.  Over the years we’ve seen better and way worse, overall we were stoked.  The bows were hitting our patterns with gusto and double-digit numbers of fish hit the net.

At that point, we felt good about where the bite was and felt good about a solid June of trout fishing, but water levels and weather can be volatile for our pink-sided friends during June.

Enter the lion, rain in the mountains coupled with warm temps sent the water level skyrocketing.  The Kenai went form ~5,000 CFS to ~15,000 CFS in 9 days!   We call this an event, the giant increase in water flow washed most of the food down the river, and the trout with it.  The water down the river was chocolate milk making following the rainbows not productive.   The trout that typically reside in the middle river refuge all season became angry since their food left, and began moving around to avoid the strong current and search for food.

After dealing with a influx of lower river salmon guides, we got creative and lead our clients to several pockets that consistently held fish and were reliable. We just had to be sneaky on how wand when we went to those zones.

This event also coincided with the closure of King Salmon on the lower river and brought an influx of lower river salmon guides to the middle river to give their clients something to do.  The increase in boat pressure and salmon guides back-trolling plugs further angered the trout making us get ultra creative.

All was not lost,  we still found some great fish, but had to work for them.  There were several pockets that consistently held fish and were very reliable.  We just had to be sneaky on how and when we went to those zones.

Kenai River Flow Chart