The following is a month-by-month summary of angling opportunities and related activities expected for the season ahead and is based on present and historical information and data. Updates may be issued if conditions warrant it. Scroll down to see what is in store for the respective time frame. Remember, however, that every year is generally slightly different than the year before in respect to exact run timing of salmon and peak fishing times but for resident and saltwater species should be very close to what is forecasted. Only in rare cases may the timing be off by more than 10 days.
APRIL MAY JUNE JULY AUGUST SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER–MARCH
SPRING (April — May)
Summary: Spring has arrived and along with it increasing opportunities for many species both in fresh water as well as salt water. King salmon begin cruising along the coast of the peninsula searching for their home waters, halibut come into the shallows chasing hooligan destined for local rivers as well as drainages up north, and trout migrate from overwintering areas into spawning streams. For anglers, this is just the beginning of a long and rich season ahead.
While saltwater action for kings is a year-round deal around Homer and Seward, it is not until about mid-month when mature, spawn-bound fish enter these fisheries. Those with access to boats will naturally do best this early with very limited success for surf-casters trying their luck from area beaches, primarily near the mouths of rivers or migratory corridors supporting deeper water and baitfish. Expect poor success at best from shore, fair to good from boats.
Migrating from the Gulf of Alaska, halibut will go where there is food to be had and that means targeting hooligan in shallow water, although there will be a steady flow of fish moving through deeper spots as well. Boaters will score in many areas of Cook Inlet and outer Resurrection Bay and often hit good fish (50+ lbs.) relatively close to shore in locations such as Anchor Point, Deep Creek, and Ninilchik. Surf-casters targeting halibut report fair catches starting in mid-April near the mouths of Kasilof and Kenai rivers with most fish being less than 15 pounds. Other spots along Cook Inlet may yield a few shallow-water halibut as well, such as Whiskey Gulch.
Anglers using light gear at the Homer Spit in Homer have ample opportunity for multiple species, such as sea-run char, several species of cod and flounder, and large sculpins. At the head of Resurrection Bay in Seward, expect decent catches of sea-run char beginning the last week of the month; however, excellent luck can be had for flounder.
There is little in the form of salmon available in rivers and streams during April on the peninsula, although in years with an early spring king salmon begin entering the Kenai and Kasilof rivers (as well as other area streams) the last week of the month. Landlocked salmon are far more prevalent and may be caught with success in many stocked lakes around the region, most notably those around the towns of Kenai and Soldotna.
Anglers begin encountering larger, spawn-bound rainbows on the middle and upper sections of the Kenai River with greater frequency as the month progresses with good fishing available at times. Russian River will also support smaller numbers of trout during April with opportunity being best towards the end of the month. It should be noted that most flowing waters on the peninsula are closed to fishing starting April 15 to protect spawning trout, with notable exceptions being the mainstem Kenai, Kasilof, and Russian rivers. Lakes, however, are open to fishing all spring and offer very good trout fishing right after ice-out, usually in mid-month. Dolly Varden action can be fair on the lower sections of Kenai and Kasilof rivers and steelhead trout are available in the latter location also. On the Seward side, sea-run char can be had in Grouse Lake and Preacher Pond and these fish may reach near-trophy proportions.
Dip netters trying their luck for hooligan in the Kenai River in Kenai and Resurrection River in Seward begin picking up a few fish in the latter part of the month. These runs will not peak until May or June, typically.
Action for mature kings hits stride as returns peak in mid-month in Cook Inlet and outer Resurrection Bay but a watercraft is necessary to enjoy the best of it; surf-casters rarely do as well with sporadic catches being the norm most locations. Dudiak Lagoon in Homer, however, may have fair to good opportunity for shore-bound anglers targeting hatchery kings. These salmon start showing up around the first of May but usually not in any numbers until about the 15th. In Seward, anglers surf-casting off the beach in front of town start seeing slow but consistent success towards the end of the month for hatchery kings. For reds, the mouth of Resurrection River can be an excellent spot in late May with a few fish becoming available already by the second week of the month; this is primarily a snag fishery. Reds, along with a few kings and early chums, can be snagged at the head of Passage Canal in Whittier during the same time frame.
For surf-casters along the beaches of Cook Inlet, May is the month of peak catches. With hooligan running thick near shore, the halibut follow them up close and shallow and are successfully targeted. Relative hot spots include the mouths of Kenai and Kasilof rivers with fair to good fishing possible for ‘buts up to 25 pounds with occasional bigger catches. Homer Spit is the place to be for “fish-on-every-cast” action for codfish, flounders, and sculpin and specifically targeting sea-run char will yield very good results. Likewise, in Seward, bottomfish abound along with decent opportunities for char near mouths of streams. A few smaller rockfish will be available here and in Whittier too.
This is the month when king runs begin in earnest in many waters and the first of early-run reds return. The lower peninsula streams of Ninilchik, Deep, and Anchor open to king fishing on weekends only and the following Monday starting in mid- to late May (check regulations for exact dates). Expect success rates to vary between slow and excellent depending on water conditions and run size. Kasilof River usually sees fishable numbers of kings by the 15th and, if run size allows, Kenai River will produce salmon as well. Expect to see a few reds appearing in Kenai and Kasilof but targeting them is rarely productive until at least the last week of the month, although limit catches can be had by Memorial Day weekend in years when runs are early. There are no practical freshwater salmon fishing opportunities to be had in Seward or Whittier in May.
With the exception of popular salmon fisheries, many peninsula streams are closed to all fishing throughout this month and on until June 15. Steelhead trout are present on the Kasilof River and effectively targeted on the lower river near Crooked Creek. This run peaks the first week of May and will decline rapidly soon after as water temperatures rise and fish move to their spawning grounds. Some resident rainbows will be available also. The lower section of Kenai River also supports a small number of steelhead and they can be caught with consistency in near the confluences of Funny River and Slikok Creek. Fair fishing for sea-run Dolly Varden may be experienced on the lower Kasilof and Kenai rivers on the western side of the peninsula as well as in Salmon Creek in Seward. Lake fishing for trout, char, landlocked salmon, and grayling can be fantastic after ice out as the water warms.
Dip netting for hooligan in the tidal area of Kenai River picks up quickly in May and this run will peak by mid-month, yet good fishing may be had into June most years. These smelt are also available in lower Kasilof River but in much smaller numbers. In Seward, the Resurrection River hooligan run turns on a bit later with catches being only fair to good in late May, building to a peak later on in June.
SUMMER (June — August)
Summary: Salmon runs of multiple species will peak all throughout the region within this time frame, with kings dominating in June, reds in July, and silvers in August. Rainbows and Dolly Varden are at their best in the latter part of summer (late July-August). Ocean fishing peaks as well with decent catches of halibut and other bottomfish off area beaches.
The first week to ten days of the month will still yield some good fishing for mature kings along the shores of Cook Inlet but expect the action to begin dwindling as salmon enter rivers and streams to spawn. Dudiak Lagoon in Homer will see its run peaking, however, with good opportunities lasting through mid-month. Larger, late-run kings bound for the Kenai and Kasilof rivers begin to move up along the beaches in late June. Reds and pinks will begin showing up in Kachemak Bay in increasing numbers as June progresses. Fishing for kings in Seward is typically best the second and third weeks of the month at the mouth of Scheffler Creek near the small boat harbor; this is primarily a snag fishery with fair to good catches to be expected. For reds, try the mouth of Resurrection River and Spring Creek; these are also snag fisheries that peak in early June but will stay productive through the month and into July. Starting in late June, chums and pinks begin to show up at Spring Creek. In Whittier, targeting reds along with a few chums in the salt is best at the head of Passage Canal the first half of June. Kings tend to peak slightly later, in mid-month, over at Cove Creek. Expect pinks to show starting in late June.
While surf-casting for halibut will begin to slow down around the mouths of Kenai and Kasilof rivers as the hooligan run enters freshwater, halibut catches in other areas only gets better from now on through the rest of the summer. However, light watercraft users with access to deeper water will find excellent action relatively close to shore still. Anglers casting from the Homer Spit in Homer and along the breakwater of Resurrection Bay in Seward soon experience more consistent results for smaller halibut. These latter locations also support great light tackle action for non-sporting species, such as cod, flounder, and other species of bottomfish. Smaller rockfish offer fair opportunities from shore in Seward and Whittier. Anglers should be aware that lingcod season in waters around the peninsula does not open until July 1. Sea-run char are at a peak in most waters around the Kenai Peninsula.
King salmon fishing is peaking in several popular streams in the area, most notably the weekend-only fisheries of Ninilchik and Anchor rivers and Deep Creek. Expect good to excellent catch rates all through the first half of the month until the season closures in mid-June. The lower Kenai River, if opened to king fishing, will support fair opportunities and the added bonus of harvesting a few red salmon. Nearby Kasilof River experiences peak king catches in mid-June near the mouth of Crooked Creek and early season opportunities will be good for reds as well. Early-run reds will also peak in the Russian River which opens to all fishing on June 11 (except the sanctuary area); most years these fish are available in large numbers during the opener, providing excellent action. The upper Kenai is also a good bet during the same time period as the Russian, with reds and trout being the main targets. Very few freshwater salmon fisheries exist in Seward or Whittier in June.
June 15 marks the opener for trout on many smaller streams around the peninsula, such as Swanson River and Quartz Creek among others. Action ranges from fair to good for rainbows and Dolly Varden but will only get better later on in the summer when spawning salmon enter these waters. The streams around Seward, however, will be slow for sea-run char as these fish have entered saltwater for the season. Kenai Peninsula lakes will have great fishing for trout, char, landlocked salmon, and grayling.
Expect dip netting to be superb for hooligan in lower sections of the Kenai River during early to mid-June with fish traveling close to shore and easily scooped up. In Seward, dipping can also be excellent in the lower Resurrection River and lower Salmon Creek the first two weeks of the month as runs typically peak right before the dip net season closes. As a reminder, dip netting for hooligan closes on June 15 in all fresh waters of the peninsula.
Fish & Wildlife
Viewing salmon migrating can be very good in June. In Seward, reds will crowd into Bear Creek and provide great spotting throughout the month. Russian River in Cooper Landing has exceptional red salmon viewing as these fish jump and navigate through a series of smaller waterfalls; mid- to late June is best time. Bears may be present at both of these locations.
With the vast majority of early-run kings having entered fresh water to spawn, smaller numbers of fish are still available to anglers primarily in hatchery locations, such as Dudiak Lagoon in Homer, the mouth of Scheffler Creek in Seward, and Cove Creek in Whittier, the former location in Homer being the better bet usually. Expect bright fish to be available in these locations until around mid-July but they will likely be outnumbered by heavily blushed kings. Catch-and-release the darker fish in favor of fresher specimens. Jack kings (less than 20 inches) can be abundant, however, and with a bag limit of 10 per day become a great option to take home fish. Bright late-run kings bound for Kenai and Kasilof rivers will be cruising through Cook Inlet all month long and into August but are only occasionally encountered from shore. But with king runs winding down, anglers will have their hands full with early-run silvers in Dudiak Lagoon by mid-month and pinks and chums off the beaches in Seward and Whittier the latter half of July. Some reds will still be around in the snag fisheries of Resurrection River and Spring Creek around Seward.
Surf-casting for halibut and other bottomfish is at a peak in Homer and Seward and will stay productive from now on through the month and August as well. Action is seldom fast and furious but limit days are absolutely possible in the right locations using the right gear. Other large saltwater species, like spiny dogfish and skate, will be present too and adds to the excitement. Also, light tackle users enjoy the non-stop frenzy of smaller bottomfish off the Homer Spit. Common catches include Pacific cod, pollock, several species of flounder, and giant sculpins, some of which makes for very good tablefare. Sea-run char are abundant in many places, particularly around Seward, and are most effectively targeted near stream mouths and exposed beaches. In the Homer area, try for char off the Homer Spit. Some smaller char are also available from shore in Whittier.
Anglers’ attention quickly turn to red salmon with the arrival of millions of salmon into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers about mid-month. For many, this is the highlight of the season on the peninsula and the runs usually peak starting about July 15 and continue strong into the first week of August. This timing also coincides with late-run kings to these same drainages, giving ample options to enjoy the best of Alaska fishing. And towards the last week of July, expect a few silvers to join the fray. Thanks to an aggressive and liberal stocking program of kings into the Ninilchik River, anglers here may enjoy an extended season lasting all month long. Unlike in May and June when only weekends were open to king fishing, this late-season opener is a daily affair. Only hatchery fish are allowed to be retained, however, and wild fish must be released. A few chrome kings will be available until the third week of July but be prepared to release a fair number of dark fish if targeting meat for the table. The neighboring streams of Deep and Anchor will be closed to king fishing in July. In addition to kings, good number of pinks and a few reds will be present in these waters. Yet for truly spectacular red action in a small stream setting, head to the Russian River the last week of July; sight fishing can be incredible to large schools of salmon. And up along the northern coast of the peninsula, anglers will find exceptional opportunities for chrome pinks and chums in Resurrection Creek in Hope and nearby Sixmile Creek; these runs peak in mid- to late July.
As salmon build in numbers in many smaller streams, anglers see an increase in trout and char activity. Quartz Creek and Russian River are two hot spots for Dolly Varden and rainbows, respectively, and legendary in their own right but many other productive waters exist as well, such as Resurrection Creek in Hope and Salmon Creek in Seward that provide very worthwhile action for sea-run char. The lower peninsula streams of Ninilchik, Deep, Stariski, and Anchor will have good to excellent opportunities for sea-run dollies in lower portions the first part of July and higher up in the drainages later in the month. Fishing in area lakes range from poor to fabulous, the better bets being waters in higher and cooler elevations for rainbows and grayling, like those around mountain passes; lowland lakes are often too warm and slows the bite, although late evening and very early morning might still be productive for certain species, like grayling and landlocked salmon.
While dip netting for hooligan ended last month, the much more popular quarry of red salmon now takes center stage and are plentiful in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers the second half of July. Expect good to excellent catches on the tides.
Fish & Wildlife
Starting in late July and continuing through the summer, the Russian River in Cooper Landing will have great viewing potentials for red salmon along with a few kings. Bear Creek in Seward has a good presence of reds as well throughout most of July and some pinks too later on in the month, while nearby Spring Creek sees a strong run of chums along with a few reds and pinks. The outlet of Tern Lake by Daves Creek at the Sterling Highway and Seward Highway interchange provides good viewing of reds starting the last week of July. All of these locations are known to attract both brown and black bears.