The Kenai Peninsula is known to possess some of the best roadside fishing in the entire state, coupled with beautiful vistas of snow-covered mountains, ancient glaciers, active volcanoes towering to over 10,000 feet, lowland lakes too numerous to count, and abundant wildlife, including possible close encounters with bear, moose, caribou, beaver, and eagles, among many other kinds of animals, including sea lions, seals, sea otters, and whales. Anglers have liberal access to both salt- and freshwater fisheries that support an impressive variety of game fish, including all five species of salmon, trout and char, grayling, halibut, lingcod, and rockfishes, as well as a multitude of other species such as salmon shark, skate, codfishes, and flounders. The peninsula, along with Turnagain Arm and western Prince William Sound, is indeed a dream recreation area for anglers.
Area Roads & Highways
The Seward Highway is the main gateway from Anchorage to the interior Kenai Peninsula and the coastal town of Seward. There are a multitude of smaller lakes and streams along this route and the highway also serves the communities of Whittier, by the way of Portage Glacier Road/Whittier Access Road (Milepost 79), and Hope, via Hope Highway (Milepost 56).
It is important to note that the Seward Highway log reflects the distance originating in Seward (Milepost 0) and not Anchorage, unlike most roadways that begin in Alaska’s largest city. The total distance is 127 miles.
The majority of productive fisheries, however, can be found along the Sterling Highway that connects to the Seward Highway at Tern Lake Junction. From this junction (Milepost 37), Sterling heads southwest through the communities of Cooper Landing and Sterling to Soldotna, the sport fishing capitol of the peninsula, and continues on to Ninilchik, Anchor Point, and finally Homer (Milepost 173). It is along this highway that one may find the most productive roadside fisheries on the Kenai, if not the entire Southcentral region.
Soldotna is also the junction for Kenai Spur Highway (Milepost 94), leading to the town of Kenai northward 40 miles to the Captain Cook Recreation Area. Decent fishing can be found on this route as well.
Major Fisheries / Hot Spots
There are over a dozen very popular and productive fishing locales in the greater Kenai Peninsula area, with several more that are not directly road-accessible yet easily within reach by the use of boats or other watercrafts. These peninsula hot spots are among the top fish producers in Alaska and receive a good amount of angling pressure, at least part of the year.
The clearwater streams of Turnagain Arm provide great fishing for pink and silver salmon along with good opportunities for chum salmon and Dolly Varden. Bird Creek and Resurrection Creek are among the most popular.
The famed Kenai River is by far the most popular water in Alaska with more than 275,000 angler days spent on this river per season, making it the top drainage in the state based on effort as well as catch statistics. Four species of salmon – king, red, silver, and pink – plus rainbow trout and Dolly Varden are all present in substantial numbers (red salmon can top one million fish and pinks multiple millions), several of which support trophy fisheries (wild rainbows to 30 pounds have been taken here). In fact, the Kenai drainage holds the world record sport-caught king salmon (97 lbs) and the state records for both red salmon (16 lbs) and pink salmon (12 lbs). It also holds the unique distinction of hosting anadromous salmon every day of the year. The river can be waded along the banks in many places and anglers interested in boating the river can do so without any problems, with or without a guide. Floating is a particularly attractive and productive option.
The Russian River (a Kenai River tributary) is the second most popular sport fishery on the peninsula, its gin clear waters boasting two phenomenal runs of red salmon totaling, on average, about 90,000 fish. There is also a smaller but highly productive run of silver salmon and superb fly fishing for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. Due to its clarity, anglers can easily spot schools of salmon moving upstream and even cast to individual fish if so desired. Russian is exclusively a wade fishery. Bears – both brown and black – are a common sight on the Russian and support great viewing opportunities.
Neighboring Kasilof River has long been heralded as a top-notch king and red salmon spot with productive silver salmon, steelhead trout, and Dolly Varden fishing as added bonuses. Wading and floating the river are both possible, lending anglers to experience this river on two levels; the roadside stretches and the more semi-remote section. Additionally, this river harbors some large late-run kings in mid-summer, some of which may top 60 pounds.
The smaller clearwater drainages to the south – Ninilchik, Deep, and Anchor – are known for excellent king and silver salmon, steelhead trout, and Dolly Varden. If there is such as a thing as perfect waters for wading, these are it and anglers are able to move around freely and the streams can generally be crossed with ease. They also hold outstanding opportunities for classic fly-fishing techniques.
The peninsula even offers outstanding saltwater opportunities for sport fishers out of several deep-water ports, including Whitter, Seward, and Homer. These locations offer productive surf-casting for several species, including a mix of wild and hatchery runs of king, red, and silver salmon, and decent action for pink and chum salmon as well. Bottomfish can be abundant. Passage Canal in Whittier, Kachemak Bay and Dudiak Lagoon in Homer, and Resurrection Bay out of Seward are great locations for hatchery runs of king and silver salmon with additional catches of red, pink, and chum salmon and native sea-run char.
Other Popular Fisheries
There are several other smaller fisheries that do not attract the angling pressure of the hot spots listed above but nonetheless has some good to excellent fishing for one or more species. Indian, Glacier, Portage, Ingram, and Sixmile creeks of Turnagain Arm have some decent pink, chum, and silver salmon and Dolly Varden opportunities.
The Swanson River and Moose River drainages in the western part of Kenai Peninsula near Soldotna and Kenai support substantial populations of silver salmon and rainbow trout, while the Kenai-drainage waters of the central Chugach Mountains – Quartz and Ptarmigan creeks, Trail River, and Crescent Lake – yield a combination of trout, char, and grayling. Around Seward, Resurrection River and Salmon Creek are good spots for sea-run char. South of Soldotna, Crooked Creek is a small stream with quite decent catches of silver salmon and Dolly Varden.
Cook Inlet, located near Homer and along communities to the north, has beach casting for king, silver, and pink salmon as well as sea-run Dolly Varden and halibut. This is also home to the largest charter boat fishery in the state with exemplary salmon and bottomfish action. Nearby Stariski Creek offers a decent chance at pink and silver salmon, steelhead trout, and char.
There are tremendous opportunities to find some great fishing other than the more frequented spots mentioned above, especially on the northern half or central portion of the Kenai Peninsula. Some of these waters are quite remote, requiring hours of hiking, yet a few places are next to the road. Additionally, anglers can find excellent action in secluded lakes and streams that are only accessible by plane or boat.
The marine fisheries of western Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, outer Kachemak Bay, and Resurrection Bay – including the North Gulf Coast – are legendary for a variety of bottomfish, such as halibut, lingcod, and rockfish, as well as all five kinds of salmon. In the coastal ports of Whittier, Seward, Ninilchik, Anchor Point, and Homer, anglers may find a number of charters to hire for a day or overnight trip targeting the above-mentioned species. These type of excursions add significantly to any peninsula fishing trip by providing variety to the overall experience.
Anglers wishing to attempt something a little different may want to do a remote fly-out trip for salmon and trout. As with the ocean charters, these type of excursions leave from main regional towns and communities. Some operators target waters around the peninsula’s gulf coast, including parts of Prince William Sound, while others provide excursions to lesser-fished streams on the west side of Cook Inlet.
Sport Fishing Regulations
The Kenai Peninsula is part of the Southcentral Alaska management area with restrictions listed under “Anchorage Bowl,” “Prince William Sound,” and “Kenai Peninsula” sections in the booklet as provided by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G). Open and closed seasons and areas, legal tackle and gear, bag and possession limits, and fish size restrictions may vary from drainage to drainage and between species. Consult a copy of the regulations before fishing or call the ADF&G regional/field offices directly for information.
Soldotna: (907) 262-9368
Homer: (907) 235-8191
Anchorage: (907) 267-2218