The most productive roadside fisheries this week:
Updated Thursday, May 13, 2021
CURRENT HOT SPOTS: TURNAGAIN, 20-MILE RIVER HOOLIGAN; HOMER AND SEWARD DOLLIES; COOK INLET HALIBUT; AREA TROUT LAKES.
Weekly Summary: Open-water fishing opportunities are finally starting to flourish around the region. Although there are still some rivers and streams experiencing seasonal snow melt accompanied by high and turbid water conditions, an increasing number of places are seeing acceptable stream flows and clarity. Most lakes are now ice free, at least at lower elevations, and the marine fisheries are shaping up nicely as well. But perhaps the most exciting news is that the long-awaited king salmon runs have started with several really nice river fish caught already. While these runs are far from peaking yet, at least there is hope for good catches in the very near future.
ANCHORAGE AREA-TURNAGAIN ARM
All of the lakes around the city are ice free and anglers are catching a decent number of stocked landlocked salmon, trout, char, and grayling. ADF&G will soon be making their rounds stocking fresh supplies of fish for the summer; consult the department website for exact stocking dates of specific waters and plan accordingly. As for stream fishing, both Campbell and Chester creeks are closed until June 15 but Ship Creek is open. No king salmon reported caught in Ship as of this writing but it is very likely that at least one or two fish have already arrived and just waiting for someone to hook into them. Water temperature is a bit cold but at least clarity is good. Remember, The Bait Shack is offering prizes for first king brought to scale so there is added incentive to get out early and give it a try. If wanting an opportunity to collect a mess of fish, go down to Turnagain Arm and 20-Mile River where hooligan are running.
TURNAGAIN ARM/20-MILE RIVER: Dip netters are doing much better these days as the hooligan run is nearing its peak. This weekend and next week should see good to excellent dipping on the tides; the outgoing tide on the lower 20-Mile River as well as along the shoreline of Turnagain Arm between Peterson Creek and mouth of 20-Mile are the best places to go. Also, low tide can be good in the arm and in pools above tidewater on 20-Mile.
As often is the case this time of year, the peninsula leads in angling opportunities for the Southcentral region as most lakes are ice free and producing catches of both stocked and wild landlocked salmon, trout, char, and grayling, saltwater species and other game fish are becoming more abundant by the day in Cook Inlet and Kachemak and Resurrection bays, and stream fishing is holding steady as steelhead finish up and kings are just getting started. But it is equally noteworthy to mention that many waters are closed to fishing until June 11 to protect spawning trout, and the lower peninsula streams of Ninilchik, Deep, and Anchor are also closed until the king salmon season begins. Anchor kicks off the king opener on May 22 followed by Ninilchik and Deep on May 29.
KENAI RIVER: No solid reports yet of any king salmon being caught but a few have been sighted in the tidewater section of the river. The ADF&G sonar at River Mile 14 should mark the passage of the first king shortly. Make note that conservative restrictions are in effect regarding kings; consult regulations. A few early reds bound for Russian River and elsewhere will begin moving through at any time after this weekend. Out-migrating Dolly Varden are present in the lower river. A few steelhead trout may still be caught in the vicinity of Funny River and Slikok Creek but these runs are just about over as most fish are in spawning waters. Dip netting for hooligan is fair and could improve significantly during the course of next week if the run is strong. Target them from the river mouth on up through tidewater. The middle river above the Killey confluence and all of the upper between Kenai and Skilak lakes, as well as the Russian, are closed to fishing through June 10.
KASILOF RIVER: Word is out that king salmon are now entering the river in small numbers and some fish are being hooked. The first few kings were caught last weekend by anglers in drift boats fishing the tidewater area from The People Hole downstream to near the river mouth and a few more catches have followed during the week since then. As the water is still low and very cold, success has been mainly on plugs fished deep and slow. Although fishing has been spotty thus far, it is expected to improve significantly starting this weekend as more fish arrive to the area and big tides help push salmon upstream and within range of anglers casting from shore. As a reminder, “wild” kings may only be retained on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, while fin-clipped hatchery kings are allowed daily. Additional restrictions apply, check regulations. As for steelhead trout, the action has been slow to fair at best; plugs, flies, and beads/corkies work. Dolly Varden are showing up.
COOK INLET: Big tides occurring now and on through this weekend will assist surf-casters in reaching halibut along the beaches of the inlet from Nikiski to around Anchor Point. These flatfish are currently chasing hooligan bound for the Kenai River and Turnagain Arm through the shallows and now is the time to target them before they head back to deeper water for the summer. Herring is a great bait due to strong scent distribution, hooligan less so. Pieces of salmon can be very effective at times but not so much in spring. Recent catches are reported to be fair for 5- to 20-pound specimens with occasionally larger fish to 40 pounds or more. Nikiski Beach, Kenai Beach, Kasilof Beach, Clam Gulch, and Whiskey Gulch are among top locations. As a note, please check regulations for closed areas around the mouths of Ninilchik, Deep, Stariski, and Anchor. Sea-run Dolly Varden and a few kings are present as well.
KACHEMAK BAY/HOMER: While a few hatchery kings are undoubtedly cruising the shoreline of the Homer Spit zeroing in on the Dudiak Lagoon, no reports yet of any angler actually landing one; however, this will change at any moment, very likely by this weekend. Try the incoming and outgoing tides at the lagoon using herring or spinners. Yet the best action right now is for sea-run Dolly Varden that are currently feeding along the beaches of the spit and bay area. The bite is often good or better at the tidal changes using lures and flies imitating juvenile salmon; the fish usually travel near shore so very long casts are not necessary. For a change of pace, cast pieces of herring or squid off the end of the spit at Coal Point for quick results on codfish, flounders, and sculpins.
RESURRECTION BAY/SEWARD: It is only a matter of days before the first few red salmon show up at the Bear Lake hatchery, which means anglers could, theoretically at least, pick up a fish or two at the mouth of Resurrection River starting this weekend going forward. Until these fish hit in force sometime around the first of June, it is probably a much better bet for now to focus on the sea-run Dolly Varden that are gathering at the mouths of salmon streams feeding on out-migrating salmon smolts and fry. Cast lures and flies imitating this food source at these locations and a char will likely strike. Scheffler, Lowell, Spruce, Alice, Spring, and Tonsina creeks are all good spots to try with the latter typically being the hot spot. With herring situated at the head of the bay, a few halibut and feeder kings will be around and may be caught from shore with patience and dedication. Codfish, flounders, and other bottomfish are providing good to excellent catches in some spots using pieces of herring and small jigs.
Like elsewhere around Southcentral, lakes in lowland areas are mostly ice free and producing fair to good catches of landlocked salmon, trout, char, grayling, and pike. Stocked lakes will receive a fresh supply of fish shortly, which will boost catch rates significantly. Big Lake still has ice cover but should be fishable in another week or so. The pike action in lakes around Nancy Lake Parkway is variable but usually good and can be great at times as fish come off the spawn later this month and early June. The lakes at higher elevations may still be covered in ice and, if so, should not be ventured out on at this time. The first roadside king salmon has yet to be reported caught but a few early specimens should be present on the lower Little Susitna River as well as in the mainstem Knik River just downstream of the Eklutna Tailrace confluence. As a note, only the tailrace has the opportunity to retain a king, at least for now, while all other waters are catch-and-release only by emergency order. As for the streams up along the Parks Highway, they are currently flowing quite high and off-color as the snow melt continues at headwaters; a few rainbows, Dolly Varden, and grayling may be caught at the mouths of these locations. As water flows subside and clarity improves, look for bigger trout in upper reaches of Montana, Kashwitna, and Willow.
COPPER VALLEY-VALDEZ ARM
With spring progressing quite nicely in this area, smaller lakes are shedding ice and starting to yield a mix of species, including landlocked salmon, trout, char, and grayling. Expect very productive catches shortly in stocked lakes as the state commence its rounds with a fresh supply of fish. However, many of the larger and deeper lakes, such as Louise, Paxson, and Summit, are still firmly locked in ice and are not likely to show much open water until late May or even early June. There has been very decent opportunities for lake trout and some epic days for burbot on Louise recently but the ice is rotting quickly and safe travel may not be possible by this weekend. Spawn-bound grayling are starting their annual runs up clearwater tributaries of larger rivers and lakes and will likely support good to excellent action soon. Hot spots to come include the smaller drainages around Eureka Pass and Cache, Tolsona, Moose, Tulsona, Sourdough, Gillespie, Haggard, and Gunn creeks. The larger rivers, such as Gulkana, Klutina, and Tonsina, are flowing relatively high and turbid at this time with limited angling opportunities. To the south, around Valdez, the Lowe and Robe rivers are continuing to yield ocean-bound Dolly Varden; however, the Lowe is rising and becoming increasingly silty, which will slow the action considerably as the month progresses. Also, these fish will be entering Port Valdez, creating new opportunities at the mouths of clearwater salmon streams. Lures and flies imitating juvenile salmon are especially productive.
Updated Thursday, May 6, 2021
Weekly Summary: Spring fishing conditions are quickly evolving as the last remnants of ice and snow disappear from waters around the region, yielding better angling opportunities from all areas as fish respond more aggressively to artificial lures and flies and baits. Although the action is still progressing at the time of writing this report, the next week or two will really make a big difference as temperatures increase and the annual salmon runs signal their start into spawning streams. But until that time, anglers are content with lakes filled with a myriad of game species and flowing waters seeing numbers of steelhead, rainbows, Dollies, and grayling showing up. For those targeting hooligan, these fish are now being caught in a few locations. Even the marine fisheries appear promising. Read on.
ANCHORAGE AREA-TURNAGAIN ARM:
As local lakes continue to thaw out and present some degree of angling opportunities for stocked landlocked salmon, trout, char, and grayling, arguably one of the most popular spring activities in this area is beginning to take shape: dip netting for hooligan is now underway. As for ocean-run salmon, it is generally too early for kings in Ship Creek, although a few have been sighted—and even hooked—this early in years past. However, given the chilly conditions so far this season and snowmelt still occurring, the general consensus is the first king will be caught somewhere between the 15th and 22nd. Campbell, Chester, and Bird creeks remain closed to all fishing until later in the season.
TURNAGAIN ARM: Smelt—or hooligan—were a few days late this year after an unseasonably cool start to spring and cold, ice-filled waters, but are now on track to fill buckets and even coolers before long. While the run is still a week or two from its peak, dippers are finding fair catches of fish in Turnagain Arm along the stretch of Seward Highway between Girdwood and Portage. Outgoing and low tides are favored as it provides dippers the ideal current direction vs. net sweep for effectively snaring fish heading to the 20-Mile River. Some fish are entering 20-Mile but action is for the most part slow; wait another week or so in this location.
Open-water opportunities in this area is quickly coming to fruition as halibut are in the shallows chasing herring and smelt, well within range of surf-casters, and sea-run Dolly Varden and other bottomfish are prowling off beaches, points, and around docks providing decent action. Steelhead are appearing at the Kasilof River. Even lowland lakes are now seeing steady catches of trout, char, and landlocked salmon as ice covers are melting away. Some of the mountain lakes, however, are two weeks or more from being fishable. Dip netters are seeing hooligan moving into the Kenai River but the Resurrection River in Seward has yet to produce much results as the run there is typically ten days later than the Kenai and Turnagain fisheries.
KENAI RIVER: Salmon anglers will have to wait until the end of the month before seeing any consistent action, although a few kings are reputedly already present in tidewater and holes immediately above. Until then, out-migrating Dolly Varden are yielding bites on smelt and fry-imitation lures and flies from the Sterling area on down to Cook Inlet. If the river is turbid, focus on mouths of clearwater streams for these sea-run char. A few halibut have been caught off the river mouth by surf-casters soaking herring bait on high tides; these fish are following the hooligan run now entering the river. Dip netters are scoring fair results on these silvery smelt, mostly the lower several miles of the river. For the more entrepreneurial angler, a few steelhead trout may be hooked on the lower Kenai in the vicinity of Funny River and Slikok Creek.
KASILOF RIVER: Conditions here are improving as most of the shelf ice has melted away, resulting in rising water temperatures and increasingly aggressive steelhead. Best location at this time is the area around the mouth of Crooked Creek but fish are being caught in spots anywhere between the Sterling Highway bridge and tidewater. Additionally, a couple of king salmon have been observed surfacing in The People Hole near the Crooked Creek Campground; no fish reported hooked yet but should be any day now. Fishing for Dolly Varden will pick up shortly as these sea-run char move out of Tustumena Lake bound for Cook Inlet. Surf-casters are doing better as halibut are gathering in fishable numbers off the beach near the river mouth—expect fair opportunities. Herring makes great bait in these waters.
KACHEMAK BAY/HOMER: Sea-run Dolly Varden are arriving off the beaches of Homer Spit and along the shoreline of the bay, providing fair to good action using lures and flies imitating juvenile salmon that are now emigrating out of area rivers and streams. Most char measure in the high single digits and teens with some larger specimens weighing up to several pounds. For bottomfish enthusiasts, several species of flounders and codfish are available in decent numbers off the end of the spit at Coal Point. Herring and squid makes for perfect bait but smaller jigs work too. No reports yet of any king salmon at the Dudiak Lagoon but typically a few will be present by the 15th of the month; however, scouts can appear any day, if not already.
RESURRECTION BAY/SEWARD: Surf-casting for flounder and codfish is fair to very good at the head of the bay with anglers doing best with cut herring. A few halibut are possible on larger baits near shore as these fish are pursuing the herring and hooligan runs. Feeder kings may also be found. A better target are the sea-run Dolly Varden now beginning to appear off stream mouths and beaches around town. The action is currently fair but will improve through the next week or two as more fish arrive from freshwater overwintering areas. Try lures and flies imitating juvenile salmon, preferably off the mouths of salmon spawning streams. No reports yet of any spawner kings or reds showing up at hatchery release sites or the mouth of Resurrection River. However, anglers should expect these fish to be present in small numbers in another week to ten days.
Lakes and streams in this area have shed most ice but locations at higher elevations are still ice covered, although travel on them is not recommended at this time. Landlocked salmon, trout, char, and grayling are beginning to be caught in stocked as well as wild lakes and the action can be productive in some spots. Pike fishing is rapidly improving and should yield excellent results shortly in waters off Nancy Lake Parkway. The tributaries of Susitna River along the Parks Highway are flowing at moderate levels and clarity and anglers are hitting some fish at the mouths and lower reaches. Rainbows, Dolly Varden, and grayling are striking forage lures and flies with some fish starting upstream movement to spawning and summer feeding areas in the upper reaches of streams. Willow, Little Willow, Kashwitna, Goose, and Montana are good places to try, albeit action is sporadic right now but will get better as soon as spring runoff clears and water temperatures increase. No signs of king salmon yet; a few specimens are usually present in lower Little Susitna River and Knik River near the Eklutna Tailrace confluence by mid-month.
COPPER VALLEY-VALDEZ ARM:
Many of the tributaries of the Copper River are still in the midst of spring breakup with shelf ice and high, turbid water conditions the norm right now. Additionally, most lakes are largely ice covered, including the larger and more popular locations such as Summit, Paxson, and Louise. Anglers should begin focusing on grayling spawning streams soon with runs anticipated to begin in a week or so. Stay tuned. For those wanting solid open-water opportunities, head south to the Valdez area where sea-run Dolly Varden are providing fair catches along the Lowe River from Keystone Canyon on downstream. Water conditions are favorable right now but not for long before warmer temperatures will start the glacial silt process. Robe River is also producing out-migrating Dolly Varden. Some flounders and codfish may be caught off the city dock in Valdez.
Updated Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Weekly Summary: After a very cold start to spring, things are finally beginning to thaw out after a few days of unseasonably warm temperatures. Although snow loads and ice measuring in feet still persist in some areas, most of the coastal region and some inland places are seeing break-up in progress with bare ground present as rivers and streams are shedding ice and resuming flow. While it is too early to expect sea-run salmon action in freshwater locales, some action is building for trout, char, and grayling as these fish are preparing for their annual trek to spring and summer spawning and feeding grounds in rivers and creeks. For anglers still interested in hard-water opportunities, highland lakes are producing decent ice fishing for landlocked salmon, rainbows, Arctic char, pike, lakers, and burbot; however, stay clear of lowland drainages where the ice is now rotten and considered hazardous to walk on. Action is also beginning to perk up in the saltwater fisheries as bottomfish, including halibut, are edging into the shallows within range of bait-casters. Additionally, hooligan are reportedly on the move in Cook Inlet and should make an appearance soon for dip netters. But it must be mentioned that anglers exercise cautious optimism regarding any “Hot Spots” this time of the year as things are just getting started.
ANCHORAGE AREA-TURNAGAIN ARM:
The first solid spring open water opportunity in this area is generally dip netting for hooligan in Turnagain Arm and lower 20-Mile River. In contrast to a couple of years ago when these silvery smelt appeared the end of the first week of April, the run is definitely delayed this season as 20-mile is still largely ice-covered around tidewater as of last weekend and an abundance of big ice chunks present in the arm keeping water temperatures very cold for the time being. Expect the first catches of hoolies by the first of May with the peak occurring approximately two weeks later. Until then, anglers should focus on open patches of water in local, stocked lakes. As for Ship Creek, the stream is open to fishing and king salmon may be targeted–all that is needed is for the first few fish to actually show up, probably by the second or third week of May. Anglers are reminded that Campbell and Chester creeks are closed to all fishing through June 14. Lake ice is not to be trusted right now but open water should prevail in another two weeks or so.
For open water opportunities, the peninsula has it. Although many streams are closed to fishing until June 11 during the trout spawning period, there are a few rivers and all of the saltwater that are currently producing catches of fish. The upper Kenai River and the Kasilof River are both solid bets in late April with anglers mainly targeting pre-spawning or feeding rainbows and steelhead. The eastern shoreline of Cook Inlet is seeing a number of halibut being landed by bait-casters as the herring have started spawning and hooligan runs bound for Kenai River and the Turnagain Arm area are steadily moving through; this fishery should stay consistent from now on through mid-May with flatfish typically weighing 5 to 20 pounds being landed. Like most anywhere else on the road system, area lakes is a no-go zone due to rotten ice; however, a few of the mountain lakes around Cooper Landing and Moose Pass are still considered safe for travel and ice fishing for another week, perhaps two. Dolly Varden will become available in Seward waters shortly, mainly at Preachers Pond, but do not expect marine opportunities for this species to be viable until mid-May. The Homer Spit in Kachemak Bay is seeing the first few Dolly Varden hitting the beaches there and a small number of flounder and codfish are also available; expect this fishery to pick up significantly the next couple of weeks.
KENAI RIVER: Without a doubt the most productive stream fishery on the peninsula right now with anglers scoring a fair number of rainbow trout in the 15- to 24-inch range with occasional reports of large spawn-bound specimens up to 30 inches or more. The stretch of water from Kenai Lake down to Jim’s Landing is wide open and floatable (as it has been all winter) with quite a bit of shelf ice. For smaller, feeder ‘bows, the lake outlet and first several miles of river has been very consistent using nymph patterns as well as salmon smolt and fry imitations. The main river around the Russian confluence and below is the area where anglers are hitting sizable fish casting larger forage patterns; the Russian itself is slow right now due to delayed spring conditions and cold water. The middle river, from Bing’s Landing on up, is producing rainbows as well. On another note, there are still a few winter-run silver salmon completing their life cycle present in the river, with byproducts adding variety to what anglers could be using. Down around tidewater, it is a bit early for king salmon to show up but a few are usually in the area by the first of May. No reports of hooligan or halibut off the beach yet.
KASILOF RIVER: Anglers are having to work the water for success these days but a few steelhead are being caught despite a lot of shelf ice and very low and cold water conditions. In fact, it was not more than 10 days ago that parts of the river were still locked up tight in ice. Yet recent unseasonably warm weather has helped speed things along and anglers are able to connect with fish in deeper slots throughout the length of the river. Expect the Crooked Creek confluence to turn on in another week or so as more trout arrive from overwintering areas. Larger and more colorful attractor flies, beads, and corkies in addition to small plugs work well this time of year. The mouth of the river will see some fair but steady action for halibut now on through mid-May; try high tide using herring.
There is not a lot of open water opportunities in this area, at least not ones that are producing steady catches. As of Monday (4/19), Montana, Goose, and Willow creeks were flowing low and clear but with significant shelf ice, while Little Willow, Kashwitna, and Sheep were for the most part still locked solid in ice except for a few open leads. Talkeetna River is showing a few small, open spots near town and at the Susitna confluence but otherwise winter conditions persist. The mainstem Susitna is largely ice covered except for a few leads and at or near the mouths of tributaries. Though a few early trout, char, and grayling may be coaxed through the open water present, anglers are likely not to see any productive action until around the first of May. Recent warm temperatures will help move things along a bit but it will just take time. The warm weather has also effectively put a halt to ice fishing in the area, save for lakes at higher altitudes, such as those on the Glenn Highway north of Sutton up to Eureka where anglers are hauling in a fair number of trout and char as well as a few burbot. The Knik River is ice free from the Eklutna Tailrace confluence down to Knik Arm but it is still way too early to see any king salmon yet.
COPPER VALLEY-VALDEZ ARM:
This area still has very good options for ice fishing and opportunities should hold for the next week to ten days in many locations, foremost the more expansive waters such as Louise, Paxson, and Summit lakes. Although these places support populations of larger fish, anglers often prefer the smaller stocked lakes and ponds along the road system for faster action, albeit smaller fish. Landlocked salmon, rainbows, and char are the main quarry at this time with good catches being made. Finding open water and fish too is a challenging proposition as most rivers and streams in this area are either firmly locked in ice or only have limited channels or leads available; expect to see the grayling migrations into spawning streams to begin in about two weeks. To the south, the Valdez area has the best opportunity to catch fish in streams as spring has arrived and the Lowe River drainage is flowing, yielding a fair number of Dolly Varden. Fish are being caught in deeper pools and holes from the Keystone Canyon on down. If the river is a bit cloudy or silty, as is often the case this time of year, search out the mouths of clearwater tributaries for success. Saltwater action has yet to materialize to any extent but some bottomfish may be taken off the city dock.
To access fishing reports from past seasons, please click on link below.