Kenai River Trout Fishing Information
The Kenai River , throughout the seasons, provides trout with a variety of feeding options such as Sculpins, Lamprey, Smolt, salmon eggs, trout eggs, fish carcasses, aquatic insects and small fury critters. We also have earth worms and caterpillars and other land based morsels for them to feast upon.
This season on the Kenai River, we had an absurd amount of small brown moths throughout South Central Alaska and as such became a significant part of the fly fisherman’s arsenal that were in the know. Another insect was the Carpenter Ant which also made an overwhelming appearance this past season and needless to say, black ant patterns of the right size were the best option especially during the months of June and July.
So what’s in the water in the spring? Well let’s explore that thought for a bit. One thing we get lots of during the summers on the Kenai River are insects and lots of them. Most of these bugs come from the water where adults lay their eggs and the process begins.
During the spring months on the Kenai River (April & May) most of our river fish are keyed in on nymphs of varying sizes and shades. The predominant colors are black and olive. Having said that, it is hard to go wrong with a black nymph. Some of the favorite patterns for the spring are Kaufmann Nymphs, AP Blacks, Bead Head Prince Nymphs, Prince Nymphs, Zug Bugs, Grey Hares Ear, Beaded Grey Hares Ear, Damsels and a variety of other natural colored nymphs sizes 8-12.
Another occurrence during the spring months on the Kenai River Fishing scene is the anticipated Smolt out from the past seasons spawning. Smolt that hold over in the lakes begin there down migration in large quantities creating a significant feeding opportunity for hungry trout and char. Key in on lake and stream outlets during these periods and keep a sharp lookout for these schools and rig up accordingly. Another good indicator of migration are diving Terns as they are keyed in to this event this time of year for good reason.
Sculpins are also high on the trout and char food list in the spring as they forage the bottoms for both nymphs and the high protein supplement of the ever present Sculpins. The most effective technique for Sculpin fishing is a down ward presentation and stripping it in to trigger aggressive strikes.
The last option that I want to mention for fishing the Kenai River is flesh patterns. Bleached patterns as well as old dirty grey flesh are good choices as they best match the carcasses that were frozen in the shelf ice over the winter and released into the food chain in the spring. Some areas of the Kenai River have higher concentrations of these remains than others. Look out for good amounts of carcasses and chances are the trout and char will be keyed into them into them as a food option.
This is a great time of the year on the Kenai River Fishing scene for salmon and yes, good amounts of trout. Many Summer time fishermen on the Kenai River make the mistake of using predominantly flesh and egg patterns which can make for some slow fishing. This time of year on the Kenai River is similar in many instances to Spring circumstances as far a food options are concerned with one exception; in and below areas with heavy amounts of salmon fishing/fish cleaning activities. This is the exception on the Kenai River because these sources of food (salmon roe & fresh flesh) are otherwise unavailable to our trout and char during the Summer months.
Our Kenai River & tributary trout and char over the decades are becoming more and more dependent on this premature entry of eggs and flesh into their diets. Moreover, the flesh from fresh salmon is richer in nutrients then from depleted carcasses that they would normally get in the end. So do your part and return those fish parts back to the river. After all, our fish populations of the Kenai River and health of the quarry are dependent on this very practice.
I digress and so back to the patterns at hand. Use fresh flesh patterns (peach, orange, pink) and egg cluster patterns or beads (naturals) while fishing the Kenai River to replicate this offering when fishing in the aforementioned areas. Increasingly popular in the flesh department are flesh flies that incorporate beads in them and also strands of stiff mono to replicate bones.
Again, nymph and Sculpin patterns are a great option as well as leech patterns in black and olive. Fishing Guides on the Kenai River Pay attention to the years nuances such as black ants and moths especially after a good rain which is the main cause for them being pushed into the rivers. Also after a good rain, especially around creek mouths and moreover run of locations into the river, use earth worm patterns such as the San Juan Worm.
Lastly, we have a unique creature on the Kenai River that appears on the branches of overhanging Cottonwoods during the month of July and it’s a pea green inch worm. These worms are about an inch to 1 ½ inches in length and often fall prey to trout below waiting for them to drop form the branches above.
More like late summer and into the fall, the magic period of the Kenai River has arrived. August brings with it the first of our usual salmon spawns in key areas of the peninsula. Typically the King salmon are spawning in the main Kenai River and the Sockeye are spawning in our tributaries. The Russian River is one of our main August Sockeye spawning tributaries in Cooper Landing and as such plays host to thousands of spawners.
Typically on or about the 1 st of August is when the spawn in the Russian River is going full swing in this very scenic and wadable river. Flies replicating the exact spawn (beads are illegal until the 21 st of August) or pretty darn close are essential to consistently connecting with fish. Tumble Eggs, Glo Bugs, flies which incorporate beads, are all good choices this time of year. A trout & Chars preference for size and color can and will change from time to time. Remember, when using these smaller presentations (flies and egg patterns)that a trout or Char on occasion will near swallow the fly; Under these circumstances, cut the line as close to the hook as possible to minimize damage to these wonderful fish.
The mighty King salmon are on the spawn around the middle of August (some as early as July) and are primarily in the main channels of the river itself. This bead bite can be phenomenal on the Kenai River and is heavily dependent on the amount of King Salmon escapement beyond the King Fishermen. It should come as little surprise that in years where the lower King Salmon catch numbers were low, we benefited from an extraordinary amount of Kings spawning. From this we were rewarded with a bead bite of epic proportions. The typical bead size for the King spawn are 10mm to 14mm beads and as with the other spawns, start with natural bead colors for consistent success.
With our typical high escapement numbers, which are critical for our unparalleled trout fishing, one can expect a hook up on just about every drift, and that, is Alaska baby!
The month of September is when the 2 nd run of Sockeye spawn in the Kenai River and can be found throughout the river system. A couple of the most popular areas for cashing in on this event are the Upper Kenai River from the bridge on Kenai Lake and beyond and the Russian River . The fishing can be fast and furious. Again during the initial stages of the spawn, stick with fresh egg patterns in either a 6mm or 8mm bead.
One of the most critical components of bead fishing for Kenai River Guides and other anglers is that the bead must be painted to replicate the change in an eggs appearance once it is exposed to the water. As far as paint color is concerned, anything white/translucent in color will normally be in the ball park. Of course, everyone has their favorite color that works best for them so experiment.
On even years, we are further blessed fishing on the Kenai River with a Pink salmon run in excess of a million fish. This is the super bowl of trout fishing on the Lower Kenai River as they are usually the last of the spawners and draw fish from throughout the river system to partake in the biggest feast before winter. This event also coincides with the larger fish that depart Skilak Lake and the vicinity during the Summer months and return not only in preparation for wintering in the lake but to feed on the bounty.
This time of year on the Kenai River accounts for more trophy Rainbows and Dollies than any other on the river where fish have been known to reach lengths of 43inches and over 30 pounds. September through November (yes November) on the Kenai River are prime during pink spawns. Toward the later part of fall, large, washed out flesh flies become very popular but prior to that beads once again.
Good portions of the Kenai River remain open during the winter months especially on the upper section in Cooper landing. Most of our Kenai River trout winter over in the lakes, primarily in Kenai Lake and Skilak Lake . As such some of the best areas to fish on the Kenai River are at or near the outlets. One of the primary food sources on the Kenai River for these fish during the winter months are the eggs and the carcasses of Silver Salmon that continue to make their way in to the rivers. Use either flesh patterns or beads to match the food source.
Another key source of food on the Kenai River during the winter months are Sculpins. Fish the deep holes as the Dollies and Rainbows are in energy conservation mode and become very lethargic until hooked. One of the best methods for getting these Fish to strike during the winter is to strip leeches slowly through these holes. Use a sink tip to facilitate this process. Leeches in black or Sculpins in either black, olive or brown, usually does well. Avoid walking over ice on rivers as thin spots can be unpredictable. Most days can be productive but keep an eye open for those warm fronts as they create activity.
Hopefuly this article was of some insight for you in your fishing adventures. The Kenai Peninsula is an amazing and beautiful place to fish while here in Alaska. If you are in town on business or just visiting for a few days, be sure to contact us about Alaska Fishing Trips with one of our experienced and knowleadgeable Kenai River Fishing Guides. Here at the Kenai Cache Outfiters, we offer both Alaska Fly Fishing Trips as well as Alaska Salmon Fishing Trips. If you have more time make sure to take a look at our Alaska Fishing Packages for multi day trips which offer significant savings.