Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Reds ran out but fishing still good 'n' plenty — Anglers may see silver lining to poor sockeye year

By Matt Tunseth
For the Redoubt Reporter

When he first moved to Kenai a year ago, Steve Cunningham went searching for a fishing hole he could call his own. He didn’t have to look far.

“I saw Cunningham Park, so I thought, ‘Hey, this looks like a good spot,’” Cunningham said while soaking eggs in the Kenai River in hope of hooking a silver salmon.

Cunningham is no relation to Martha Cunningham, who donated the land on which the small riverside park now sits. Still, he said he feels at home whenever he visits the park on Beaver Loop Road.

“It’s a lot more relaxing than combat fishing for reds,” he said.

Cunningham Park is one of the most popular spots for anglers seeking silver and pink salmon during the fall season. Free to the public, its muddy banks are a boon for fishermen who seek convenience and affordability – along with a good chance of landing a salmon or two.

The park is popular among locals and tourists, who can find success without having to hire a guide or rent a boat. Michigan angler Owen Sult said he’s spent four summers in Alaska, and each time he’s been a frequent visitor to the park.

“You can’t beat this,” he said while trying to fill out his limit of two silvers per day.

With one shiny coho on a stringer beside him, Sult was well on his way Monday. He said he hooked the fish on the preferred method of salmon roe held near the bottom with a heavy weight.

“I might have been here about an hour,” he said.

Anglers are finding success for silvers not just at Cunningham, but throughout the Kenai River. On Sunday, nets were up on boats throughout the river, signaling a fish on the line. Most boat-based angler efforts took place in the tidal areas below Eagle Rock. Anglers fishing with eggs were having the most success over the weekend, though silvers can also be picked up using a variety of plugs and spinners.

Humpy haven

Pink salmon have also hit the Kenai in waves over the past week, and anglers should have no trouble hooking into these smallest of the Pacific salmon. Any type of spinning lure typically works for pinks, as do eggs.

The fish aren’t typically sought by sport anglers, although they’re a great “starter” fish for young and novice fishermen. Cunningham Park is a good shore-based location to cast for pinks, as is the Warren Ames Bridge and from the public beach in Kenai. Pinks can be had from shore further up river, as well. But their meat tends to deteriorate quickly, meaning any caught upstream of the tidal area are likely to already be well on their way to spawning.

No more kings

July 31 was the final day of king salmon fishing, and any anglers accidentally hooking into one of the many kings still entering the river must release the fish without removing it from the water. More than 1,000 fish were counted passing the sonar counter at river mile 19 on Sunday, the final day of king salmon counting.

Reds restrictions increased

Sockeye salmon fishing on the Kenai continues to be slow, with two emergency orders now in place to restrict the Kenai River fishery. The first order, issued July 30, closed sockeye fishing downstream from river mile 19. The second order, issued Monday, cut retention of sockeye above mile 19 to just one fish per day in order to get more reds onto their spawning grounds. The order does not affect the fly fishing-only area at the confluence of the Kenai and Russian Rivers.

Fall trout season begins

Fishing for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden typically begins to heat up during August and September on the upper and middle Kenai, although water levels are reportedly high at this time. Once the water clears, anglers should find success using beads or flesh flies floated near the bottom beneath a floating indicator.

Anglers are reminded to always check fishing regulations before heading out on the water.


Ishmael said...

Cunningham Park's muddy banks... I think it was about 10 years ago a certain young cub reporter went sliding down those banks on one of her first assignments there in Kenai....

The Redoubt Reporter said...

Come now, Ishmael. Haven't we all fallen in the river at one point or another, literally or figuratively?

I wish I could remember that fisherman's name. I never thanked him for fishing out my shoe.