Early Kenai King Salmon Fishing, Alaska

As Old Man Winter starts loosening his grip, the first thing that comes to my mind is salmon fishing. A great option for early season action would have to be Alaska’s Kasilof River. The Kasilof River starts its life as the waters of the massive Tustumena Lake in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula. The Kasilof River spills westward only 15 miles, when it reaches the deep waters of Cooks Inlet. Alaska’s most popular drift boat fishery, the Kasilof River provides the highest king salmon success rate on the Kenai Peninsula. Early run kings begin making their appearance in early May. However, fishing doesn’t really begin to pick up until mid-May, when the river opens to the use of bait. By the last week of the month, king fishing is in full swing with the run peaking around the second week of June. The early run of kings on the Kasilof River is primarily of hatchery origin. These fish are returning to Crooked Creek, about five miles from the rivers mouth. This fishery provides the rare option in south central Alaska, for keeping two king salmon per day.

Early season Kasilof kings normally average around 20 pounds and will often reach 30-40 pounds. Hard fighters, they often leave wakes behind them in their sizzling runs across the early-season shallow waters of the Kasilof.

Most of the early season fishing will consist of back trolling sardine-wrapped kwikfish or jet diver/spin ‘n glo / egg combos. Although when the time is right back bouncing eggs right along the boat can be stellar.

So when you’re looking for that early season king, don’t over look this great river. The Kasilof offers some amazing tidewater fishing along with a drift boat-only setting, great scenery, rich abundant wildlife, and through most of the season, lighter fishing pressure than the nearby Kenai.

adminEarly Kenai King Salmon Fishing, Alaska

Time to start thinking Alaska!

The largest recreational fishery in Alaska is supported by the Kenai River, a glacially turbid stream draining the central Kenai Peninsula (originating at the outlet of Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing). This popular river supports excellent runs of androgynous (sea-run) King, silver, sockeye and pink salmon, both resident (exclusively fresh water) and androgynous Dolly Varden char, in addition to resident rainbow trout. Lake trout are common in the Kenai and Skilak Lakes of the Kenai River System.KING (CHINOOK) SALMON. 48,343 Kings entered the Kenai River in 2010. The very name “King” connotes a large fish, but not all King salmon caught are necessarily large. A combination of genetics, food availability and the life history of each fish determine the size of a salmon. But the Kenai River boasts more than its fair share of “King” salmon both in name and size; the world record (sport caught) King salmon was taken in 1985 from the Kenai River and weighed in at a whopping 97 pounds and 4 ounces.Two distinct runs represent the largest freshwater King salmon fishery in Alaska. The early run usually begins to enter the Kenai River around mid-May, reaching a peak in June and finishing by the end of the month. Fish from the late run enter the river in early July and provide excellent fishing until the end of July.
King Salmon caught on the Kenai River in Alaska.
Bring along an ample supply of patience and courtesy on your Kenai King salmon fishing trip, because the Kenai River King salmon fishery is extremely popular and on occasion can become a bit crowded. Operate your boat in accordance with the “rules of the road” and extend to your fellow angler the same courtesies you would like to receive. Give boats with “fish on” the widest berth possible to avoid line tangles. At its best, King salmon fishing is not a sport recommended for the impatient. On the average it requires approximately 31 hours of fishing before an angler boats a king. However, you can improve your chances by hiring a guide. On the Kenai River, guided anglers are about three times as efficient as non-guided anglers.

adminTime to start thinking Alaska!

Columbia River fall chinook to return in record numbers!

Posted by Mark Yuasa

State Fish and Wildlife sent out the fall chinook return for this year and with more than 1.6-million forecasted on top of another 1.2-million coho, which may lead to some outstanding fishing in the ocean and in-river this coming summer!

Here is the report that came out this morning:

In addition to nearly a million Columbia River coho swimming in the ocean, 1.6 million fall Chinook are expected to the Columbia River in 2014, the largest return since at least 1938!

Nearly 1 million of those Chinook are expected to be upriver brights of which 2/3 will be four-year-olds. This year’s forecasted run is over 25% larger than the 2013 actual return. Last year’s actual return came in nearly twice as large as the preseason forecast.

adminColumbia River fall chinook to return in record numbers!

No smelt present in the Lower Columbia this week, and could spell slow prospects for Cowlitz dip-netters

Posted by Mark Yuasa

All eyes have been on the Lower Columbia mainstem commercial smelt fishery this week to see if any could be migrating up into the Cowlitz when the second sport bank dip-net fishery opens on Saturday.

“We are telling folks that it is not worth the drive, and wait-and-see deal,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “The water cooled down (ideal smelt passage is about 41 degrees) and nothing has been seen.”

A commercial fishery in the Lower Columbia River produced no smelt, and there was another fishery on Thursday with no reports of catches. The commercial smelt fishery will continue on a Monday and Thursday schedule between 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day in the Lower Columbia mainstem.

The first sport smelt dip-net fishery since 2010 occurred in the Cowlitz River last Saturday (Feb. 8), and coincided with the winter storm producing nothing for the few who turned out to try their luck.

Only a half dozen dip-netters turned out with no catch observed.

The sport dip-net bank fishery in the Cowlitz River will reopen this Saturday (Feb. 15) from 6 a.m. until noon, and will also reopen every Saturday through March 1. The daily limit is 10 pounds.

A similar smelt dipping sport fishery is happening on the Sandy River in Oregon.

These fisheries were created by state fisheries officials from Washington and Oregon to gather data on smelt abundance and the catch was only expected to amount to no more than 1 percent of the predicted return this year.

Smelt were listed as threatened from northern California into British Columbia under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2010.

Smelt have been declining for more than a decade, and then took a turn for the better in 2011, and by last year there was 110-million spawned smelt. Fisheries managers were predicting another strong return this year.

adminNo smelt present in the Lower Columbia this week, and could spell slow prospects for Cowlitz dip-netters

Columbia coho forecast at nearly 1 million fish

By Staff

The run of coho salmon returning to the Columbia River this year will reach nearly 1 million fish, more than three times the size of the run in 2013.

The ocean abundance, before any fisheries, of early- and late-run Columbia coho is forecast at 964,100 adult fish, compared with a final estimate of 301,500 for the 2013 run. The forecast was released last week by the Technical Advisory Committee.

The 2003-2012 annual average return to the mouth of the Columbia, which subtracts ocean harvest and other mortality, is 434,100 fish, according to the July 2013 joint staff report produced by the Washington and Oregon departments of fish and wildlife.

The 2014 forecast includes an ocean abundance estimate of 526,600 Columbia River early-run fish and 437,500 late-run coho, compared with 190,800 and 110,700 estimates, respectively, last year.

Coho adults are typically 3-year-old fish, and return to freshwater after only one year in the ocean. The early-stock coho enter the river from mid-August to early October, peaking in early September. In the ocean, these early-stock coho tend to remain near the Oregon and southern Washington coasts, and most migrate southward from the Columbia River and are therefore referred to as Type S, said a task force news release.

The late-stock fish return from mid-September through December, with the peak occurring in mid-October. In the ocean, these coho tend to migrate north along the Washington coast and Vancouver Island, and are therefore referred to as Type N.

Columbia River coho return primarily to Oregon and Washington hatcheries downstream from Bonneville Dam, although substantial hatchery and some natural production now occurs in areas upstream of Bonneville Dam.

Historical natural coho-production areas above Bonneville Dam include the Spokane, Yakima, Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow and Snake rivers. The majority of coho currently passing Bonneville Dam are from the U.S. vs. Oregon management plan-mandated hatchery releases of lower-river coho stocks in the Yakima, Klickitat, Wenatchee and Methow rivers in Washington, the Umatilla in Oregon and Idaho’s Clearwater river, the news release said.

Fish releases outside the Klickitat are primarily intended to restore naturally producing coho to appropriate habitats above Bonneville Dam, most recently in the Snake, Yakima, Methow and Entiat rivers. Coho destined for areas above Bonneville Dam have represented an increasing percentage of the total return in response to increased releases above Bonneville Dam



Winner Winner! Springer Dinner!!!!!
By Andy Walgamott, on February 4th, 2014

A photograph of a chrome Chinook has been posted on a popular regional fishing forum that holds an annual first springer contest.

A caption with the photo of two men holding a copy of The Oregonian and posted at 10:21 a.m. this morning reads “Its done 16.25 lbr 1st pass! Thanks for the net job by Megabyte!!!!”

Our contributor Andy Schneider got ahold of the pair for the following report:

Sean Brophy was the lucky angler to hook the first confirmed spring Chinook of the 2014 season on a plug-cut herring, straight from the package. Brophy was using 8 ounces of lead and a Shortbus Flasher in 14 feet of water when he hooked into the fish.

“We launched out of Scappoose Bay this morning into 28-degree air temperature and 42.3 water temperature,” says fishing partner Gary Ryan. “On our first pass, no kidding, Sean hooked up with a mint-bright, ocean-fresh fish with scales dripping off it. Unbelievable! Blew my mind!”


While the exact location of where the first springer was hooked is being withheld for the moment, Scappoose Bay might be a good starting point for someone looking to score a February fish.

“It was 9:30, an hour after high slack, when we hooked the miracle fish,” notes Ryan, who provided the bait and netted the Chinook for Brophy. “The water visibility was only 2 feet so we had to have trolled the herring right in front of its face.”

While the crew ran to shore to photograph the fish with a copy of today’s Oregonian for Ifish’s contest, they are actually back on the water trying for number two.

“We are not marking a lot of fish, but we are marking some. We’re just hoping for another miracle,” says a pumped Ryan.

With only three other boats trolling the waters, the crew doesn’t have much competition, or have to worry about others being too close during the netting.

“When we saw that the fish didn’t have a fin and only had one barbless hook in it, we were getting a little panicked and I knew if I screwed up the net job, I would be swimming,” says Ryan.

Last year’s first confirmed springer was hooked Feb. 3 by angler Dustin Stansbury while 2012′s first was landed Jan. 31 by a commercial sturgeon fisherman, 2011′s on Jan. 26 also by a commercial fisherman, and 2010′s on Feb. 1 by Jesse Eveland fishing with guide Larry Kesch.

Fishing for the year’s first migratory salmon is currently open on the Columbia below the I-5 bridge and in the Willamette River and its Multnomah Channel. Only hatchery fish can be retained, and barbless hooks are required.

Catch stats we obtained from ODFW show that while this month is by no stretch of the imagination March or even April, fair numbers of fish are caught early:

springer catch

With a run of 308,000 due back to the Columbia system, the February issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine features two stories on how and where to fish for springers.

cover-NS:Layout 1

While the Bonneville Dam count shows four Chinook so far in 2014 (singles were counted Jan. 1, 5, 11 and 12), anecdotal reports had them pinned as very late fall kings



1.6 Million Columbia Fall Kings Forecasted; Would Be A Record Back To 1938
By Andy Walgamott, on February 14th, 2014

Get ready for the mother of all fall Chinook runs, and some serious salmon insanity later this year in the Northwest.

This morning, fishery managers put out a prediction of 1.6 million kings back to the Columbia, including 973,000 upriver brights.

That’s on top of the 964,000 coho anticipated back to the big river, and another 230,000 to Oregon Coast streams.

(Now, let’s cross our fingers that these insane numerals aren’t the result of some new-counting-program test gone awry, like what happened with springers at Bonneville earlier this week.)

While last summer saw crazy-good Chinook fishing in the Columbia, a string of shad-count-like days at Bonneville and record Snake returns, this one-two punch of kings and silvers off our coast and up the river — if it comes in — should make for salmon fishing beyond belief.

“We have a very large run of Chinook and coho in the same year. Now we’re trying to figure out what that means for fishing,” says WDFW’s Ron Roler, who manages Columbia River fisheries.

He says he’s already tying rigs and pinching barbs in anticipation of August and September on the river, and he might just be going heavier on the leader too.

“They’re going to be 4s and 5s,” Roler says.

Last year’s huge return of smaller 3-year-olds indicates to managers that we’ll see older, larger salmon this year, fish that stayed in the ocean and had a full year more of growth for their journey upstream.

Two-thirds of the URBs are forecasted to be 4-year-olds, according to PSMFC supervising fisheries biologist Joe Hymer. He says 3s average 5 to 8 pounds, 4s 12 to 18 pounds and 5s go 20-plus.

“All we gotta have is water temperatures in our favor. I don’t know where we’re sitting on that, but the run size is in our favor. I’m excited about it,” Roler says.

And he hints that some of the stock estimates were on the conservative side, so who knows, maybe even more Chinook will come in.

“I’m ready for fall,” Roler says


Commission approves new policy
on Grays Harbor salmon fisheries



OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a new Grays Harbor salmon-management policy designed to conserve wild salmon runs and clarify catch guidelines for sport and commercial fisheries in the bay.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the new policy Feb. 8 during a public meeting in Tumwater.

Miranda Wecker, commission chair, said the new policy provides clear direction to make conservation of wild salmon the first priority for fishery management in the harbor.

“Most importantly, this policy sends a strong and unmistakable signal about the importance of meeting our conservation objectives, even if that means seriously reining in both sport and commercial fisheries,” Wecker said. “It also represents a fair accommodation for both fisheries when harvestable numbers of fish are present.”

The new policy includes provisions for state-managed fisheries that:

  • Limit the total catch of wild chinook salmon to a maximum of 5 percent of the adult return if established spawning goals have not been met in three out of the previous five years.
  • Prioritize the recreational fishery in allocating the chinook salmon catch between commercial and recreational users.
  • Allow an increase in the base allocation of chinook salmon for commercial fisheries in years of high abundance.
  • Structure commercial seasons so that recreational anglers have at least three consecutive days per week to fish when no commercial fisheries take place.
  • Focus commercial fisheries on coho and chum salmon when harvestable numbers of fish exist.

Since last October, WDFW has held eight public meetings in Grays Harbor County to encourage public involvement in the development of the policy. More than 350 written comments were received on the draft policy during that time.

State fishery managers expect to post the final text of the new Grays Harbor Salmon Management Policy on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/) by mid-February.

In other business, the commission approved an updated policy for lower Columbia River sturgeon fisheries that includes technical amendments to the version approved in 2011 and extends the policy through 2018.

Updates to the policy do not affect the closure of retention fishing for sturgeon below Bonneville Dam due to conservation concerns. That closure remains in effect until further notice.

The commission also approved a proposal by WDFW to purchase two acres of uplands and tidelands at Lynch Cove in Mason County, where the department plans to provide parking and access to waterfowl hunting on Hood Canal. The project will also provide a migratory pathway for juvenile summer chum and chinook salmon, and preserve habitat for shellfish, shorebirds and waterfow


Smelt time!

Smelt dipping opens Saturday (Feb. 8)
on Cowlitz River for first time in 3 years


OLYMPIA – The first recreational fishery for eulachon smelt in three years will get under way Saturday (Feb. 8) on the Cowlitz River under a new rule approved by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Under the new rule, fishing with dip nets will be allowed from the riverbank from 6 a.m. until noon each Saturday through March 1. Each dip-netter may retain 10 pounds of smelt per day.

In a joint meeting Wednesday, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon also approved a similar smelt-dipping schedule on the Sandy River in Oregon and a limited gillnetting fishery on the lower Columbia River.

Ron Roler, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator, said all three fisheries are designed primarily to gather basic biological data on smelt, which were listed as threatened from northern California into British Columbia under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2010.

“In the three years since the fishery closed, we’ve lacked basic data to monitor the smelt population returning to the lower Columbia River,” Roler said. “The limited fishing opportunities approved this year will allow us to monitor this resource without affecting its recovery.”

Working in consultation with NOAA-Fisheries, state fishery managers developed fishing seasons that are expected to take no more than 1 percent of the total amount of smelt expected to return this year.

After declining for more than a decade, smelt returns began to increase in 2011, reaching 110 million spawners in 2013, Roler said. Another large run is expected this year, he said.

“This year’s fishery will provide limited fishing opportunities that are consistent with the conservation of smelt and will assist NOAA-Fisheries in developing a recovery plan,” Roler said.

The commercial fishery for smelt approved this year is scheduled to run Mondays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Columbia River below Warrior Rock at the mouth of the Lewis River.

adminSmelt time!

Spring Kings

Lower Columbia River spring chinook seasons set as strong return is forecast


CHINOOK RUNWashington and Oregon fisheries managers agreed on Columbia River hatchery spring chinook fishing seasons with anglers getting 36 days below Bonneville Dam and 55 days above Bonneville.


The seasons came to light on the heels of a 2014 upriver Columbia River spring chinook prediction of 308,000 compared to a forecast last year of 141,400 and an actual return of 123,100. If the run actually pans out then it would be the fifth-largest return since 1980.


Ron Roler, the state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy manager, said in a news release that this year’s spring chinook fishery looks promising, noting that the initial seasons could be extended if enough fish are available for harvest.


“The stage is set for a great fishery this year,” Roler said in the news release. “Not only is the run forecast well above average, but the light snow pack makes it unlikely that anglers will have to contend with high, turbid water as they have in some years.”


The Lower Columbia River up to Bonneville Dam would be to open sport fishing from March 1 to April 7, and closed for commercial fishing on March 25 and April 1. The Lower Columbia kept catch would be 12,400 adult fish.


When fishing opens on the lower river March 1, the fishery for boat and bank anglers will expand upriver to Beacon Rock, and bank fishing also allowed from Beacon Rock upriver to the fishing boundary just below Bonneville Dam.


The Columbia River from above Bonneville to the Washington-Oregon border upstream 17 miles above McNary Dam would be open from March 16 through May 9. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville up to the Tower Island powerlines during this time frame. The kept catch would be 1,325 adult fish.


The daily limit will be one hatchery chinook in all open sections. Barbless hooks are required, and wild unmarked salmon and steelhead must be released.


The lower river is currently open for hatchery spring chinook below the I-5 Bridge.


The breakdown is the Upper Columbia portion of the spring chinook forecast is 24,100 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 14,300 and an actual return of 18,000.


The Snake River spring/summer component of the spring Chinook forecast is 125,000 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 58,200 and an actual return of 67,300.


The Snake River wild spring chinook forecast is 42,200 in 2014 compared to a forecast last year of 18,900 and an actual return of 21,900.


The Wind is expecting 8,500 spring chinook compared to a forecast last year of 3,000 and an actual return of 3,600. At Drano the tally is 13,100, up considerably from 4,900 and 7,300. The Klickitat will see a slight bump with 2,500 compared to 2,200 and 1,800.


In the Lower Columbia, the Willamette River on the Oregon side, is expecting 58,700 spring chinook (59,800 was forecasted in 2013 and the actual return was 47,300). The Cowlitz forecast is 7,800 (5,500 and 9,500); Kalama is 500 (700 and 1,300); and Lewis is 1,100 (1,600 and 1,800).


State fishery managers also decided to open sturgeon fishing in Bonneville Pool beginning this Saturday (Feb. 1) through Feb. 17 or until 300 to 350 sturgeon are caught, whichever comes first. Only white sturgeon measuring 38 to 54 inches (fork length) may be kept.

The Lower Columbia below Bonneville is closed for sturgeon catch and keep

adminSpring Kings