Russian River, Kenai River rainbow fishing to open

Fishermen on the central Kenai Peninsula will be able to head to the Kenai and Russian rivers for some fishing starting Saturday.

Sockeye fishing on the Russian River will open Saturday at 12:01 a.m. The Kenai River upstream of the power line to a marker just downstream of the ferry crossing will be fly-fishing only; the confluence area in the mouth of the Russian River is still closed until July 15. However, the Russian River will be open to sportfishing — fly-fishing only — from 100 yards upstream to 600 yards downstream of the falls. The rest of the river is closed to all salmon fishing.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s netting and sonar data have shown that the fishing may be good this coming weekend, said Jason Pawluk, the assistant area management biologist for the Division of Sportfish in Fish and Game in Soldotna.

As fishing on the Russian River picks up, the U.S. Forest Service warns fishermen to do everything they can to prevent bear-human interactions. Bears are attracted to the fish waste left by fishermen, so the Chugach National Forest managers asked fishermen to take fish out whole when possible, process fish only at established fish-cleaning facilities and to make sure fish pieces make it into fast-moving water, according to a press release issued Wednesday.

The Kenai River opens up for rainbow trout fishing this weekend as well, with most of the fishing taking place along the upper river and the middle river, Pawluk said. Much of the fishing takes place from boats, and many anglers don’t keep the rainbow trout. However, if they choose to, the bag limit in the upper river is one trout less than 16 inches long, one in possession. In the middle river, the limit is one fish less than 18 inches long per day, one in possession.

The Kenai River opened to king salmon fishing last weekend, but with only catch-and-release available, participation was low. Pawluk said the creel surveyors from Fish and Game saw few boats on the Kenai River last weekend, possibly because of muddy water conditions. The water conditions are improving, so participation may increase, he said.

Fishing on the Kasilof River is also looking good — reports are coming in strong for the early run of king salmon, Pawluk said. The weir on Crooked Creek does not start counting the passage of kings until later in the season, but the data Fish and Game receives from guides and fishermen shows that catch success is improving this year over previous years, he said.

“It sounds like the Kasilof is picking up pretty good,” Pawluk said.

On the lower peninsula, king fishing will be available on the Ninilchik and Anchor rivers and Deep Creek, and the terminal fisheries at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, Halibut Cove and Seldovia Bay. The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon is seeing good returns of king salmon, and Fish and Game recently stocked king salmon into Halibut Cove, said Carol Kerkvliet, the area management biologist for the Division of Sportfish in Homer.

Early-run kings are present in the nearshore waters of Anchor Point, Whiskey Gulch and Deep Creek, and anglers are reporting good luck with trolling for kings north of Bluff Point as well as at the head of Kachemak Bay and Point Pogibshi.

Halibut fishing is improving — some anglers are reporting catching larger fish in the sportfishery. However, Fish and Game is also receiving reports of “mushy” halibut, Kerkvliet said. Anglers have been seeing smaller-size halibut, with softer flesh that turns mushy when cooked, for a few years now.

“I think there’s been an increase this year as compared to last year,” Kerkvliet said.

Mushy halibut are likely to be soft and flabby rather than rounded and robust, sometimes with pockets of jelly-like tissue. Anglers should release the fish immediately unharmed and move to another area, as past research has shown that the incidence is high in certain areas, Kerkvliet said.

• Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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