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Thread: Kenai depth questions

  1. #1
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    Default Kenai depth questions

    I will be fishing the Kenai for Kings the later part of July and will be mostly drift fishing. Just wondering How deep is the Kenai and how deep are the ''holes'' where the Kings frequent. I know it varies a lot but whats average for king fishing depth and whats the deepest i can plan on fishing? Thanks for your help!

  2. #2

    Default Varies

    There is a great diversity in water depths on the Kenai. You can find anything from prop shortening shallows to 20' depending on the areas you are fishing. In the lower river, middle of July, working the drifting holes, you will be looking at anywhere from 6' (Eagle Rock) to 15' (Slide Hole or Bluffs). For back trolling, I like to stay between 6' and 8'. For the really deep holes like Big Eddy, Beaver Creek and bottom of the Pasture, consider bouncing. You will be fishing anywhere from 12'-20'. Also, expect great tidal influences from Eagle Rock down to the mouth. Depending on the size of the tide, you may see changes all the way up to Big Eddy.

    As you are venturing out on the river, pay attention to the techniques used in different areas. While you are free to use any technique that is legal, if you are back trolling in a traditional drift area, you will encounter much friction. When in Rome do as the Romans, so the saying goes. These areas can be somewhat dynamic.... you just have to be flexible and willing to go with the flow.

    Some anglers will devote all of their efforts to drifting or trolling or bouncing and will do very well. Learn a hole and a technique and be the best that you can be and you will find success.

    Cheers

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    not much more to add... alaskanfishguide's information/advice is right on the money.
    www.akfishology.com

    fishing isn't about life or death... it's more important than that.

  4. #4

    Default Agree...

    Since I am very new to king fishing, we spent most of our time fishing one drift area, all day, day after day. I'm not sure what the area is called but I do know it's above Big Eddy. There's very steep cut banks on the right (if you're running upriver), a small island on the left, and RW's is also on the left. That area we fish reds and loads and loads of boats drift for kings thru there, so we tried that. Spent enough days there watching boats hook up so figured that sooner or later we'd get lucky. We fished it a total of 4 days and netted 2 kings there; not big (30 lbers) but huge in our eyes! We just kept doing the same thing over and over, getting comfortable with running the boat, fishing in the "fleet", adjusting how much line let out, different weight, etc. and stuck with it. It's tempting to run all over doing different things but we figured sooner or later we'd get a hit by staying in one area. I tried a little backtrolling but just couldn't handle the boat traffic and not sure of all the nuances (sp?) of that technique, plus I was running the boat and hard to fish at the same time. The more time you spend on the river (in a boat), the more you'll get confident.
    The good thing about drifting the above area is that we usually have one of us who doesn't want to fish kings so we'll drop him off on the cut bank to fish reds. Works well as we drift past that guy every drift in case he wants off the bank, potty break, etc. Next year I hope to expand a little in technique but will spend time doing the "drift" as it's a little more relaxing. I will also say that it's imperative to follow the advice of the veterans on here; gotfish? really helped me out (felt sorry for me!) couple years ago and I believe we caught the kings we did because of his tips & advice. My dad always says that there's someone, somewhere that knows more than you on any given subject. Finding that person can mean success!
    Good luck!

  5. #5
    Member Mark Collett's Avatar
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    Question More about depths on the Kenai

    The question about depth on the Kenai wasn't really answered.It seems like he 's looking for depth charts for the river.I know I've wondered the same thing.Of course a river bottom changes year to year due to a number of factors (scouring,obstructions,current changes,etc).But you would think certain holes remain basically the same.Where can a guy find a bathimetric (sp) bottom contour map of the lower Kenai ?Or does such a map even exist? A map like that could help us get through the winter doing some pre-season scouting.Fishing is not that much different from hunting.You have to do your homework to be successful.Can anyone help ???????????

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    Mark,

    I don't know if you have fished the lower Kenai River before but trust me. Your not going to find any holes that are secrets by looking at a map even if it does exist. I think there is a local map that does show/name some of the holes but the most important thing is how those holes are being fished. Run the lower river once, the holes are pretty much covered with boats. Also pay attention to the technique being utilized at each hole. There are a select few that are pretty much drift only, other than that your going to have a hard time drifting through a bunch of power boats. If your in a drift boat they should move for you but if you've got power I wouldn't expect anyone to move out of the way. Catching fish on the Kenai has a lot more to do with technique than anything else. If your fishing up river on the Kenai, well thats a different story.
    Alaskanishguides gave you a really good answer for the lower river.

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    Rivers are very dynamic. With each high water event, the potential for change exists. New holes get gouged out. Old holes fill in. Banks erode. Channels shift. Oxbows get cut off. Gravel bars get pushed downriver.

    The best way to know how much water you are sitting in is a reliable depthfinder (sounder). For decades, I had NO IDEA just how deep a water we'd been fishing until my brother and I got our own boat in 2003 and put a depth sounder on it. Talk about enlightening.... esp to find out that some of the "deep" holes we routinely caught some of our biggest fish from were only 4-5 ft deep!

    With or without a sounder, the best way to know if you are "in the zone" is to watch your rod tip.

    If you like to drag bait (free drift) your rod tip will bounce everytime the lead touches bottom. If you like to backbounce, not only can you "see" bottom with the rod-tip, but you will feel it as well. If you like to backtroll divers/plugs watch the tremendous load in the rod tip as your gear "bites" into the current. The plug will impart a very rapid pulsation/vibration to the rod tip 10-15 + per second as it dives down against the full force of the current. As the gear approaches the soft water adjacent to the bottom, there is a lot less "push" against the gear. The load in the rod tip diminishes, and the plug pulsations slow down to only 4-5 per second (rattle off one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand to get an idea of the cadence of 4 pulses per second). When you see this, you are in the zone!

    If you don't "see" or feel bottom, you are NOT in the zone... let out more line!
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Member Mark Collett's Avatar
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    Cool Just do it

    Thanks for the input from JOHNSCD and KeenEye .2008 was my first year with a powered boat on the Kenai. I did pretty good for a newbie but still have a lot to learn.Most of the time I was fishing from Eagle Rock up to River Quest. I figure to learn a few good holes well and the techniques that are most effective in those holes then gradually expand my search to other areas .I'm not one to spend all day looking for greener grass when there are fish right at my feet.This year I'll probably spend more time in tide water (Beaver Creek,Pasture,the Bluffs) looking for them big boys with sea lice still hanging on .
    Keeneye I do have a decent fishfinder/depth sounder.It's a Garmin 440c .Not the top of the line but it serves me well on my 19' Klamath.With the GPS built in it's lot better than what I used while I lived in Grays Harbor (a Bottom Line).It's all about having that extra edge,advantage.
    I have also read/memorized Gunnar Pederson's "Fishing the Kenai River".It is a very well written book that has a lot of tips,maps,and good advise.Re-reading it gets me pumped for more action to come.I also just got Scott Haugen's "300 tips to more salmon and steelhead"Another juicy read. As I've only been fishing salmon/steelies for 30 years I hope I can always learn a few new tricks to up the odds.Here's one I picked up last season for you egg fishers...When fishing in heavy current the mono in your egg loop often cuts thru your bait leaving you little but the connecting tissue and very few eggs.A remedy....Take a piece of pipe cleaner and wrap it tight around a nail,slide the curled pipe cleaner off the nail.Pull your egg loop out of the hook eye and slip the curled pipe cleaner onto your leader,then put the leader back through the hook eye,and put on your eggs.This helps protect your eggs from being cut by the mono and retains scent if the eggs do come off.Or you can add scent to the yarn of the pipe cleaner to increase the effectiveness of your bait.It worked really well for me last year so I'll be using this tactic again.I put my leaders in a Pips so these pre-tied pipe cleaner leaders take up a bit more room than a simple egg looped leader,so I just seperate different sized hooks into different Pips.Makes for good winter project.
    Good luck to all this year.........

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    Rivers are very dynamic. With each high water event, the potential for change exists. New holes get gouged out. Old holes fill in. Banks erode. Channels shift. Oxbows get cut off. Gravel bars get pushed downriver.

    The best way to know how much water you are sitting in is a reliable depthfinder (sounder). For decades, I had NO IDEA just how deep a water we'd been fishing until my brother and I got our own boat in 2003 and put a depth sounder on it. Talk about enlightening.... esp to find out that some of the "deep" holes we routinely caught some of our biggest fish from were only 4-5 ft deep!

    With or without a sounder, the best way to know if you are "in the zone" is to watch your rod tip.


    If you like to drag bait (free drift) your rod tip will bounce everytime the lead touches bottom. If you like to backbounce, not only can you "see" bottom with the rod-tip, but you will feel it as well. If you like to backtroll divers/plugs watch the tremendous load in the rod tip as your gear "bites" into the current. The plug will impart a very rapid pulsation/vibration to the rod tip 10-15 + per second as it dives down against the full force of the current. As the gear approaches the soft water adjacent to the bottom, there is a lot less "push" against the gear. The load in the rod tip diminishes, and the plug pulsations slow down to only 4-5 per second (rattle off one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand to get an idea of the cadence of 4 pulses per second). When you see this, you are in the zone!

    If you don't "see" or feel bottom, you are NOT in the zone... let out more line!
    Or, you can do what my friend does and use a downrigger. It sounds crazy I know, but he outfishes me just about every single time. People always give him crazy looks. But, he is always in the strike zone.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by T.R. Bauer View Post
    Or, you can do what my friend does and use a downrigger. It sounds crazy
    On the Kenai River???? Tell me more.

  11. #11

    Default Mark,

    What power do you have on your Klamath? I'd like to get one for the salt.
    Sounds like you like to drift eggs; me too. That has generated the most success for us but we haven't spent enough time backtrolling/bouncing yet. Hope to spend more time in the summer chasing kings.
    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by T.R. Bauer View Post
    Or, you can do what my friend does and use a downrigger. It sounds crazy I know, but he outfishes me just about every single time. People always give him crazy looks. But, he is always in the strike zone.
    And flies can be killed with a sledge hammer, too.

    A downrigger can get you to the bottom consistently, but at considerable expense, not to mention the complexity you add to an already intense fishery limited by physical space. It's enough of a challenge to clear all the other lines and gear when a hot fish strikes and takes off with all your goods, but to have to clear a downrigger as well? And what about that screaming fish the neighboring boat just hooked... it's all you can do to rapidly clear your lines and get out of his way.

    With careful attention, there's not one hole on the river where the strike zone can't be reached with lead or the appropriate diver. Yes, it takes some attention to do it, but so will a downrigger. I'd save it for deeper open water for which it was designed.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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  13. #13
    Member Mark Collett's Avatar
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    Big Jim
    I have a 50 hp E-tech on my 19 footer and I couldn't be more happy with it.Not only is it legal for the Kenai but it does real good out of Homer and Seward.The Klamath only weighs 800 lbs plus 235 lbs for the 50 horse,add gear and a couple of people and I'm pushing 1500 lbs.Going out of Homer last summer the wife and I went over to Halibut Cove (approx 7 miles) fished all day,had to wait out a windy afternoon,made it back to the dock around 11:00 pm and only used a little over 6 gallons of fuel.According to my Garmin 440c we were going 33 mph @ 4200 rpm on the way over.Plenty fast enough for my taste.
    I have not had any problems with my Evinrude so far.My only beef woud be the price of the 2 stroke oil I buy at A-1.$50 a gallon....ouch!!!!!!On the plus side I didn't even use the whole gallon last summer and I was out on the water a lot.The E-tec barely sips gas and/or oil.

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    Depth chart on the Kenai River would be of very little "realtime" value. Remember that the Kenai is a glacier river and the depth slowly rises through spring and normally has peak water flow from late July into August. The amount of the flow will vary depending on snow melt, rain, late spring, early spring, or those cold clear mornings that hit South Central toward the end of August. A typical year will see the Kenai slowly rising all summer and then it can bounce up and down depending on the weather that hits the Kenai mountains as fall rolls arouund. When the termination dusts hits the mountains it tends to drop pretty steadily down its winter flow level which is about a quarter or less of normal peak water flow.

    Places that you could run a prop and find holding kings will vary with the increase of water levels. Placement of my boat and how a fish a "hole" in May can be much different than how I would fish the same area in late July.

    A pretty good rule of thumb as far as the deeper part of the river would be that the high banks tend to mean a drop off and thus deeper water and the flat side (low brush trees or gravel )of the river tends to be the shallow side. Of course there are exceptions to every rule but for the most part this holds true on the Kenai.
    On the Kenai there are vary few "secret" spots so watching were other anglers are fishing or running the river will be your best tool to utilize.

  15. #15

    Default I tried...

    Quote Originally Posted by T.R. Bauer View Post
    Or, you can do what my friend does and use a downrigger. It sounds crazy I know, but he outfishes me just about every single time. People always give him crazy looks. But, he is always in the strike zone.
    I tried a downrigger in the lower tidal sections. It was a disaster! but a good experiement nonetheless. The problem that I ran into is that the bottom/depth was not consistent, so when the water shallows, the ball started rolling, winding up all my gear. In order to keep the weight off the bottom, you would have to be constantly on the downrigger reel contanstly cranking up and down.... way more grief than it was worth in my opinion.

    Now that being said, a downrigger could be helpful when fishing, say the Pasture or below at high slack where you are in 16-22' of water. In this case, I believe that the kings could be anywhere in the water column, so you could set the depth to like 10' or 8' and troll. I think that this could be very effective. What I see most doing presently are either bouncing or down trolling with the biggest planer in the box.

    Anyone else?

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    Most of the runs or holes that I fish while backtrolling (even in July) are less than 10 feet deep. Yes, a few are a little deeper than that but I would think that it would way more effort than the rewards would justify in using a downrigger in this situation.

    Lower Kenai on the tide you are better off running 3 ounce weight and trolling downriver with a egg set up or switching over to back bouncing. Ever notice how a rig just hung over the side while back bouncing on the Kenai just does not get bit very often? The movement is what gets the fish attention so a downrigger in this situation would't be your best bet either. Qwikfish on a downrigger? There is a reason folks are using the 10'6" rods that enable the plug to work its magic so I would think that the downrigger would hender this presentation as well.

    Would a downrigger work? Sure, it will get you lure/bait down in the zone which means that it will get bit at some point but I would think that it would be more troublesome to keep this rig working properly than it would be to use either weight or a diving aide such as a jet planer. Cost a lot less if you were to get hung up to boot.

  17. #17

    Default My buddy is strange, but this is what he does.

    Here it is:

    He finds a stretch of river that is deep. He then lets out a deal of line, attaches the downrigger clip, and then lowers all of it to the desired depth. He then back trolls with his little honda while watching the fish finder.

    All the nightmare stories that others have posted just do not happen to him. This is probably because he has been fishing using this method for just about ever. But it is also because his downrigger is connected to his fish finder and it raises the downrigger automatically to the contour of the bottom. When he gets a fish on, it is electric and it is up very fast. When others boats need him to raise it, same thing. It is sweet and it was costly. It really works for him. Like others have posted, it may not work for you. I personally think that the expense is a little extreme, but he also uses the little Kalamath on the ocean too. You should see him use his downrigger to fish for halibut at deep creek on light tackle, it is amazing.

    Clearly, do what you want. I wounldn't do this with my little jet skiff as I just about always run shallow stuff, but Phil does do this to great success. Like I said, just about every time we go out he beats me. It could be he is luckier, better looking, a better fisherman, or it could be that he is always in the strike zone and I am not. I hope it is just the last reason

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.R. Bauer View Post
    Here it is:

    He finds a stretch of river that is deep. He then lets out a deal of line, attaches the downrigger clip, and then lowers all of it to the desired depth. He then back trolls with his little honda while watching the fish finder.

    All the nightmare stories that others have posted just do not happen to him. This is probably because he has been fishing using this method for just about ever. But it is also because his downrigger is connected to his fish finder and it raises the downrigger automatically to the contour of the bottom. When he gets a fish on, it is electric and it is up very fast. When others boats need him to raise it, same thing. It is sweet and it was costly. It really works for him. Like others have posted, it may not work for you. I personally think that the expense is a little extreme, but he also uses the little Kalamath on the ocean too. You should see him use his downrigger to fish for halibut at deep creek on light tackle, it is amazing.

    Clearly, do what you want. I wounldn't do this with my little jet skiff as I just about always run shallow stuff, but Phil does do this to great success. Like I said, just about every time we go out he beats me. It could be he is luckier, better looking, a better fisherman, or it could be that he is always in the strike zone and I am not. I hope it is just the last reason
    Isn't that esentially what the back bouncers do? Only the weight is a bit smaller?
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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