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Spending a life time in the outdoors, I have had my share of adventures. However,...
Kenai River King Salmon Fishing
With Great Alaska Adventure Lodge
The mighty Kings of the Kenai are the most famous salmon on the planet....and rightfully so. With nearly all of the 80 pound class taken worldwide in the past 30 years, the overwhelming majority have come from our river and the Kenai River has developed a well earned reputation as THE place to go for a lifetime trophy salmon. Great Alaska Adventure Lodge has the #1 location on the river and has been producing great catches for our guests since 1982.
Our licensed guide staff is among the best in the state, combining enthusiasm, energy and experience. We use only the finest equipment made, with Custom Willy Boat made "Predator" powerboats and driftboats. We also target these spectacular gamefish with fly rods and have for nearly thirty years...no one has caught as many Kenai Kings on the fly as the guides and guests of Great Alaska Adventure lodge. For info on our fly fishing opportunities for the big Kings, check out here.
How do you fish the Kenai River? Our boats seat 4 anglers comfortably, with the guide either at the helm of the powerboat or at the oars in the Mackenzie River driftboat. You'll be looking downstream towards the plugs and working with the guide to lay out your lines and work the gear" from hole to hole. Early season fish move upstream mostly during the morning, evening hours, so the mornings are especially exciting- however the fish can be notoriously unpredictable, so every strike is pulse quickening.
Kenai River King Salmon Fishing primer: The Kenai river King salmon fishery is really made up of 3 separate runs of Kings- The May Run, the June run and the July run.
May Kenai River King salmon fishing: In early May, the early season fish work their way up the southern beaches of the Kenai Peninsula, past the beaches of Homer and nearly a dozen small spawning tributaries, seeking the Mighty Kenai river and it's main early season tributary, the Killey River. The earliest to arrive at the Kenai are a specific early run (what some call a "sub strain" or "mini-run") of Kenai Kings that can be truly exceptional. With the lower water levels of May and the bright ocean fresh fish moving upstream, the fishing can be amazing. Generally, the May and June runs average 25 - 50 pounds in weight with some exceptional 60 and 70 even 80 pound fish caught each year. The river is very quiet with relatively few anglers and Moose, Eagles and Arctic Terns line the river. Great Alaska Adventure Lodge guides have caught many fish in the 80 pound class over the years with two of the biggest being taken in the early season. The world record Kenai river King Salmon was caught during this time in 1985 by local legend Les Anderson of Soldotna, Alaska...The weight was 97 pounds, 4 ounces (I knew you wanted to ask) .
June Kenai river King Salmon Fishing
The June fishery is fairly similar to the May fishing described above, with the tradtional peak of the run from around the 5th of June through the 20th. The early season is more unpredictable than the July fishery, so most any date can provide great fishing with just a little luck. Plan on backtrolling for the kings with plugs in both powerboats and or driftboats.
Kenai River Water Levels: Being a glacial and freshwater mix, the Kenai River reaches it's highest level during the middle of summer, and it's lowest during the long days of winter. Early season fishing means low, clear waters perfect for fly fishing, wade fishing and driftboat fishing. (Of course, we launch our powerboats by the 15th of May each year as well). The Early fish are dime bright from the ocean and take unbaited lures aggressively. REGULATION NOTE: May and June Kenai River King Salmon seaasons begin each year as No bait fishing, and stay that way until the number of fish entering the river hit historically healthy levels.
In both May and June, King salmon fishing is generally done in either driftboats or Powerboats- either way we'll be trolling the big fish in custom Willy Boat driftboats with custom hight back bucket seats, you'll slowly back your way downstream with trolling plugs. This style of fishing orignated in England's big lakes and Lochs of Scotland, known as 'Harling'. Adapted to suit the Northwest United States salmon and steelhead streams it became 'Back Trolling' and we still do it today. Running wiggling plugs downstream with bait-casting reals, the guide will slowly "back his way down" the holes, presenting the lures to the upstream-oriented fish. When fish and lures collide the results can be breathtaking!
July Kenai River King salmon fishing is a different animal altogether! With the fish averaging 35 - 80 pounds (actually there is almost no upper limit, as triple digit fish have been hooked many times on the river, but not have been brought to scale!) With the traditional peak of the run being 7/15 through the end of the month. With the peak of the Kings pretty much coinciding with the amazing Sockey Salmon run the last two weeks of July, this is our most popular time and is often sold out by the first of the year each year. It is also no longer a secret, so if you want to target these fish you'll be on the river with other enthusiasts from around the globe. The Kenai has some bad PR in terms of river traffic, and while much of it is not true, it is true that if you want to target these great gamefish you'll be with other anglers vying for the same prize! If you want a quieter time on the river but want to still target the Kings, try May and June- they're awesome and of course for variety and fly or spin fishing, the Fall trophy Trout and Silver season is fantastic.
The July King fishing is generally done via the driftboats and Powerboats, with much of the fishing concentrated in the lower, tidally influenced portion of the river. Many of the powerful second-run kings spawn directly in the main stem of the Kenai and never make it u to the Killey river. With bait now allowed, your guide will troll his plugs wrapped with filet's of Sardine to enhance the lure's effectiveness. At other times (or even during the same day) you may "Drift" for the kings if the tidal activity is good- drifting entails using weights (aka "slinky's") to drift the bait (usually salmon eggs) along the bottom and attract the fish as they move up the outgoing tidal swing.
Fishing continues for the big kings all the way to the last day of July. While the Alaska sportfishing regulations allow for one King Salmon to be retained per angler per day (and a total of two per season), Great Alaska and it's guide staff promote catch and release for these beautiful sport fish and hope you'll consider releasing one yourself if you have the opportunity. Remeber that to protect this great fishery, Sundays and Mondays are closed to guided sport fishing for King Salmon on the Kenai river from May through the end of July - so plan accordingly. Great Alaska Adventure Lodge guests target sockeye salmon, offshore Halibut, Upper River trophy Trout fishing and wild bear viewing (among other activities) on these days so you'll be having fun every day of the week!
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