One fish, two fish, red fish… LET’S FISH! The season is here and it’s heating up quicker than we can even comprehend. And we absolutely, positively LOVE it!
This is what we love about July. Lots of fun outdoorsy chaos and lots of action. It starts out peaceful and patriotic and then all of a sudden, BOOM… the streets are packed with visitors and the river is packed with anglers.
Although it’s always an adjustment to go from having such a slow passed town to having so much traffic, we are very grateful to live in an area that has such a prominent and thriving tourism industry. The Kenai River on Alaska’s Playground is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we are very happy to share it with fellow angling enthusiasts from all over the world.
The Kenai River is the most heavily fished river in Alaska is is world famous for its natural beauty and incredible fishery. The Kenai is a glacial stream draining the central Kenai Peninsula. Kenai Lake narrows into the Kenai River near the community of Cooper Landing. It meanders through slack water for approximately six miles, crossing gravel riffles before narrowing again into a stream of greater, yet still gentle, gradient.
This continues for about another six miles before tumbling through the “Kenai Canyon” which is two miles of fast river with whitewater enough to excite even the more experienced floaters and kayakers.
Below the Kenai Canyon, the river continues in a more gentle fashion for about three more miles to Skilak Lake. There are 17.3 river miles from Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake, and this stretch of river is commonly called the “Upper River.”
After leaving Skilak Lake, the river travels for 10.5 miles at a gradient of 3.3 ft/mi before encountering the Naptowne Rapids. These rapids are about 1 mile long on a slightly greater gradient and contains many large rocks. Only experienced boat operators using a powered craft should attempt this run, especially when the water levels increase around this time of the year.
Downstream of the rapids, the river is faster and continues to have many large boulders. This section (typically called the “Mid-River” section) is 19.5 miles in length with a gradient of 5.4 ft/mi. It is very safe to negotiate, but it is of course always smart to use caution.
The Sterling Highway bridge in “Alaska’s Kenai River City” of Soldotna marks the beginning of the “Lower River.” This final 21 mile section is gentler, and the river winds its way to empty into Cook Inlet near the city of Kenai. The final 12 miles of this section are tidally-influenced due to the proximity to the inlet.
There are 40 unique species of fish in the Kenai River. These are resident fish, which spend their entire life cycle in the river; “anadromous” fish, which spend part of their life in the river and part in the salt water; and fish which are common to the intertidal area, which is a mixture of both fresh and salt water.
The Kenai River is the most popular sport fishing destination in Alaska, particularly for King (or Chinook) Salmon. Each year there are two runs each of King Salmon, Silver Salmon, Red Salmon, plus a run of Pink Salmon every other year. Pink Salmon run on even years, so the next good run will be in 2016.
The world record king salmon, which weighed about 44 kg (97 lb), was caught in the Kenai River in 1985. The Kenai is also the home of trophy size Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden. Stretching to sizes over 76.2 cm (30 inches). Occasionally there will be reports of catching of “Steelhead”(Sea-run Trout) on the Kenai River.
The upper Kenai River is home to trophy-sized wild rainbow trout, and “off-season” fishing is a fly fishing angler’s dream. The majority of Kenai River rainbows are year-round residents of the Kenai River. About 43,000 rainbow and steelhead are caught every year by anglers, with 95% being catch and release.
King fishing is off to a great start on the Kenai River. In fact, tomorrow morning at 12:01am, Saturday, July 25, the use of bait/scent in the Kenai River will be allowed from its mouth, upstream to regulatory markers located at the outlet of Skilak Lake. King salmon fishing will remain restricted to those waters downstream ADF&G markers located approximately 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek. For a list of the latest regulations, be sure to check out the ADFG website HERE. For a list of great guide services, be sure to check out our website Kenai Peninsula Fishing Guides.
Right now, the “reds” are continuing to come in strong on the Kenai River. For a list of the latest regulations, be sure to check out the ADFG website HERE. For a list of great guide services, be sure to check out our website Kenai Peninsula Fishing Guides.
Hopefully if you weren’t already, you are now as excited as we are to “punch out” and wet a line! Have a safe, fun weekend out there friends!
Sources: Alaska Department of Fish & Game