Prime Time in Alaska
Just wrapped up my first summer in Alaska and was fortunate enough to enjoy many successful fishing expeditions that have allowed me to pack the freezer with more than enough salmon to get me through the winter.
Now, I'm already getting questions from friends and relatives in the Lower 48 about when they should plan to visit next year.
Based on my initial experiences, however, I'm hesitant to suggest a particular time-frame for people to come because I keep hearing that the summer of 2006 was an anomaly with the salmon runs being late and/or inconsistent.
For my guests, a few considersations are:
* We will be bank fishing;
* We would like to catch a lot of salmon;
* We plan to target species not readily available in Oregon (sockeye and pinks);
* We prefer to stay fairly close to Anchorage (Kenai Peninsula, Parks Highway, etc.)
From a historical perspective, I'm inclined to think that mid-to-late July would be our best bet. Yet, when a buddy and his son visited in mid-July this past summer, we were hard-pressed to find many fish. The Ship, Bird, Russian, Kenai and Homer were all slow, but we finally managed to find some action in Hope and save the trip.
Within a few days of their departure though, the fishing improved dramatically. I was feeling pretty bad about being a lousy host and guide, especially since the trip was a suppose to be their "fishing adventure of a lifetime." My friend had researched the run charts, too, figuring that mid-July would be perfect. Those are the breaks I guess.
I realize that it can be difficult to predict when abundant numbers of salmon will be in the rivers on an annual basis, but I'd be interested in hearing your opinions on the following question.
If a person could only fish for one week out of the summer in Southcentral Alaska, when and where would it be?
when and where
Your logic would have normally paid off if it weren't for the exceptionally late runs. Will this trend continue? Global Warming????
My best recommendation is July 18-25 on the Kenai. I am not familiar with the run timing on the Mat-Su or Anchorage rivers/streams, so I'll let others chime on on those.
That being said, this is probably the most crowded time on the Kenai as well. So bring your own rocks.
There won't be pinks in fishable numbers on the Kenai next year (even numbered years only). But, sockeye and Kings should be available on the Kenai and Kasilof. The lake fishing should be decent, early and late in the day. It is possible that the coho may be starting towards the end of July on the Kenai and Kasilof, certainly in Seward.
That is my best bet, but be prepared for a later than usual or weaker than usual run. I am expecting another lower forcast for sockeye on the Kenai again next year.
I know what you are talking about Tomcat..Next summer will be my fourth in the Great Land. The strategy I use is runandgun. Three trips hardly makes me any expert but all three trips share one commonality and that is each was unique. Weather seems to play the biggest factor relevant to exact dates for run timming; too hot, too cold, low water, high water, ect. By doing your homework you can develop a plan that allows for flexibility if you can be mobile. Last year the Pinks were on time and in great numbers ...(July 15) Valdez. Silvers were a tad bit early in a lot of the Parks streams and were in good numbers. Reds were record setting on the early run on the Copper system but a little slow on the second run......If you can access a computer during your stay it will help in deciding where to be when...and that can change almost daily. Fish and Game can also be helpful beyond belief! I too will entertain guets next summer and feel the pressure to produce but by expanding boundaries and remaining mobile,I know I can show them a great time and fishing beyond thier best expectations. We will float some rivers, fish some lakes, catch some fish and in general bask in the joy of being in Alaska!
Middle of July
The middle of July is the best time. You can catch all three speices of salmon, and halibut. Bearviewing is also good in July.
July 20th to 27th.
For the best chance at sockeye I would suggest the Kenai between July 22th to 29th. If the run is early fish will be in the system but still good numbers should be entering in this time period and you can always chase them upstream. If it is late this period will cover most years - last year was unique.
The bottom end of the sonar count goal is 650,000 fish and unless the run is very weak ADF&G will achieve this goal. The upper goal is 1 million.
Now having said all that next year may be a poor year. The forecast for Kenai River sockeye salmon will be out by the first of the year. If it is for less than 1.5 million fish things could get tough relative to daily passage rates and good fishing. So check the forecast.
Based on my research and experience I penned it this way:
"It was no fluke that led me to pick the third week of July through the first week of August to fish outside of Anchorage during the even numbered calendar years."
That's 20 years and 500,000 commuter air miles, and I'll never be the expert.
Mother Nature dictates everyhing...
Kenai Reds (sockeye)
The sockeye in the Kenai river have now been late 2 years in a row. My family has a cabin on the river and each year I usually plan my summer vaction for about 2 weeks starting on the 17th-18th or so. This is usaually perfect timing for late run chinook and sockeye but the last 2 years this has not been so. Maybe this comming year things will be back to normal. Very hard to tell.
Everyone hates, or at least resists change to some extent. If you haven't yet read "Who Moved the Cheese?", do so! Everyone wants their hot spots, specific dates, etc., to always work, but they don't. Hard as it may be - when the situation changes, you have to change if you want success. If the fish run late one year, sure it could be just be a fluke. If the fish run late two years in a row - place your bets on the fish running late next year too....
Best way to learn
That's the best way to learn, "Get out of your comfort zone". The wild was meant to be dynamic and that's what makes it so worthwhile and exciting.
Plan the best you can, and prepare to adapt with a smile on your face and a eagerness to learn, you will never go wrong.
I agree with Nerka and Ryocheck; my dad banks on coming up every year between July 17-first of August.
I use this site to give me a general idea when they are gonna be running on any river
Pinks and chums
We went up to Clear creek on the talkeetna this year for silvers at the end of august and there were so many pinks and chums it was hard to not catch one on every cast. They litteraly filled the entire creek. the silver fishing was good too if you can find a spot where they hang out that the others don't like. This was not an unusual year there but the norm.
Take the parks hwy to Talkeetna spur to Talkeetna go accross the railroad tracks and follow the Mahays river boat service sign. Book a ride in advance with mahays to take you 7 miles up to clear creek. Unless you have a boat. The water was very high this year and very dirty, but usually the trout and grayling fishing is good too.
Broaden your horizons
I'd shoot for mid to late July and if the salmon don't cooperate you could always fish for rainbows and dollies. Great fun on moderate light fly gear.
3rd or 4th ........
week of July........
I think you're better off being LATE than early.........
Don't overlook Bird Creek if you have a day or two when you need to be close to Anchorage........
I laid off that creek for the last 20 years but this year I went down twice and enjoyed both outtings......
Ship Creek is also a nice place to kill half a day if you're not down on the Kenai or up the Parks.......