Category Archives: Fishing & Clamming

Salmon Fishing

King (Chinook) Salmon

King salmon enter the Cook Inlet in late April as the water begins to warm.  The king fishery starts in the salt water out of Homer and continues up the Kenai Peninsula coastline in early May. They swim up the shore line and enter the Kasilof and Kenai rivers to spawn.  Fishing for Kings in the Kenai river is accomplished entirely by boat.  The size and strength of the fish preclude bank fishing.  There have been slot limits for the length of fish taken in the early run, but your guide will know all the regulations.  We know several of the better fishing guides on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers and can make arrangements with them for your fishing trip.  Peak times are always busy so let us know early in order to get a date.

We had a good day on the Kenai in late July 2006 when we caught two Kings (48 and 52 pounds), a Red, a Pink and two Silvers.  The four of us were fishing in our own small river boat without a guide.  It was very crowded- there were approximately fifty other boats in the lower river below Eagle Rock.  We were very lucky to land both Kings with all the boats around us.

Kenai Kings are generally large in the 40 to 80 pound range.  These two Kings weighed 48 and 55 pounds.  The one on the left took 45 minutes to land in the boat and we traveled almost three miles down river before it wore out.

 

The Kasilof river King salmon include both native and hatchery fish.  The first run of Kings in the Kasilof are usually under 30 pounds and can be fished from the bank.  Although sometimes landing a feisty 30 pound King from the bank can require a lengthy run down the bank trying to wear the fish out! In 2008, native Kings could only be kept on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday although hatchery Kings could be kept every day.
Also there was a two fish daily limit on the Kasilof.  Be sure to read the Fish & Game regulations this year.  The Kasilof river is restricted to drift boat fishing only due to the shallow water and many rocks. We will be glad to tell you the best places to fish on the Kasilof river and will contact guides to take you on a trip down the lower river in a drift boat to fish for Kings if you prefer.

Red (Sockeye) Salmon

In mid-June, the first run of Red salmon swim into the Kenai river and quickly head upstream to the confluence of the Russian river. There they will stop and stay in about a three mile stretch of the Kenai until some unknown signal happens telling them to swim up to the Russian lakes to spawn. This is really the first chance to catch the delicious Red salmon of the year and thousands of people from all over the world gather in this out of the way spot on the Kenai river to enjoy ‘COMBAT FISHING’.

This is the river ferry located on the north side of the river. Fishermen gather here to cross to the south side of the river where most of the salmon are laying in wait before swimming up the Russian river.

On the south side of the river, you will have to find a gap in the people fishing in order to catch the wild salmon.  You may be between an Oriental, a German, a Dane, a lower 48-er or another Alaskan.  Whoever is next to you, you can be sure that you will be hung up in their fishing line more than once.  Usually everyone is congenial and having a good time.

It is hard to catch your limit though as most of the fish either break your line or are released in the tangle with other people.  Add to this a few brown bear that think that this place is their fishing ground and they also enjoy what fish you catch.
This fishing frenzy usually lasts for about two weeks before the salmon get that signal that it’s time to swim up the Russian river to spawn.

Mid-July starts the second run of the Reds in the Kenai river.  The thrill of catching a 10+ pound Red salmon from the bank of a swift river is enough to get your heart pounding! The Reds are so strong that many a line and fishing pole have been broken by a fighting fish.

The season on Reds starts out with a limit of three fish a day, but normally when the minimum number of spawning fish up the river is reached, Fish & Game will raise the limit to six fish per day.  Be sure to read the regulations for the limits and locations where you can fish.  A beautiful large Red salmon is a thrill for any fisherman.

The Red salmon start entering the Kasilof river in late June.  Although they are not as large as the second run Kenai fish, they are still fun to catch especially in the swift, shallower water of the Kasilof.  Also the river is not as crowded as the Kenai and there you might also catch a large Rainbow, Cutthroat trout, a Dolly Varden or even a King.  Fishing for Reds on the Kasilof is much different than fishing on the Kenai as the fish are less concentrated at the edge of the river.

Down near the mouth of the Kasilof are primary locations for Alaskans to obtain their annual subsistence salmon both by hand netting and set netting. The Kenai mouth is also a hand netting location.  You can stand at the edge of Scout Park on the bluff in the city of Kenai and watch the locals netting the Reds on the beach below. 

The Silver salmon start entering the Kenai Peninsula rivers and creeks around the first of August.  These fish are usually caught with bait or lures and therefore are generally fished from a boat on the Kasilof and Kenai rivers.  The Silvers normally bite best it the very early morning or late evening as they are very sensitive to light.  The Silver Salmon Derby in Seward is a huge event with prizes amounting up to tens of thousands of dollars.  Generally fishing is done from boats in Resurrection Bay although at certain times the Silvers can be caught from the shore.
Catching my first red salmon was a thrill of a lifetime and hooked me on fishing in Alaska.  Fighting a 10 to 12 pounds salmon with a fly pole in a river that is running 12 knots is to me the ultimate in sport fishing.  Add to that enjoyment of eating a fresh wild native red salmon convinced me that the Kenai Peninsula was going to be my summer home.  It gives us great pleasure to provide our visitors with a beautiful place to stay while they are enjoying our great and wonderful state.

See more on the salmon prime fishing times and places.

Fishing on the Kasilof River
Kasilof King
Kenai Reds
Neal shows off his catch
A good catch of reds
Salmon fishing in the shallows

Combat Fishing
A great catch of reds on the rack
Fishing from the bank
Tom holds up his catch
Reeling one in from the bank
Cary with his catch

Fishing & Clamming

landing 40 lb. King SalmonThe Kenai Peninsula is considered one of the premier salmon fishing sites of the world.  It boasts two major salmon rivers. One of which, the Kenai, holds the world record for the largest King Salmon (98 pounds) rod caught by a fisherman. It has two runs of the delicious Sockeye (Red) salmon, a Coho (Silver) salmon run and in even years millions of pink salmon. Then there is the Kasilof River with it’s early runs of Kings, both natural and hatchery, followed by a growing Sockeye (Red) salmon run and a big Coho (Silver) salmon run. In addition, King salmon can be caught on Deep Creek, Ninilichik Creek and Anchor River on Memorial weekend and the following two weekends, then Coho (Silver) salmon in the fall.

Early May also starts the entrance of Kings into the Kenai River and the guide boats fill the lower river. Combat fishing at the Russian River starts around the end of June bringing in fishermen and women from all over the world for the annual event (more detail in the fishing section). 

The middle of July brings the second run of Reds into the Kenai with the big males up to 12 pounds.  For two weeks, the river is full of reds and the banks are lined with fishermen.

Starting the 1st of August the Coho (silver) salmon enter all the rivers and creeks on the peninsula and the annual Silver Salmon derby starts in Seward.  Is it any wonder that the Kenai Peninsula is considered: ‘THE SALMON FISHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’

A large halibut from the Cook InletThe Kenai Peninsula also boasts the ‘HALIBUT FISHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’ in Homer, Alaska.   The Cook Inlet is salt water and provides easy access to some of the largest Halibut in the world.  Guides with large boats can take fishermen and women on daily trips to the fishing grounds from Ninilichik to Homer.  Some guides offer both Halibut and King salmon fishing on the same trip.

ClammingThe beaches of the Cook Inlet also offer the fun of digging for the famous and delicious Alaskan Razor Clams.  The beaches at Coho, Ninilichik, Deep Creek, Clam Gulch and Whiskey Creek are always crowded at the low tides with people digging for the elusive clams.  Come and enjoy the fun and then having the pleasure of eating the fresh clam strips, clam fritters and delicious chowder.

Rafting on Johnson LakeAnd don’t let us forget the fun for the entire family of fishing for Rainbow trout in Johnson Lake.  Each year the Alaska Fish and Game stock Johnson Lake with Rainbows.  They are a delight to catch and good to eat.

IT IS EASY TO SEE WHY SUMMERS IN ALASKA ARE A FISHERMAN’S PARADISE

 

Russian River Sockeye Fishing

In early June, the first run of Sockeye (Red) salmon come into the Kenai River to head to the confluence of the Kenai and the Russian Rivers. Thousands of these salmon will congregate in about two miles of the Kenai river waiting for some signal to enter the Russian river and make their way up the river to the Russian Lake where they will spawn and die.

Fishermen and women from all over the world know of this annual event and gather on the banks of the Kenai to participate. So many in fact that they line up elbow to elbow to catch these tasty, elusive salmon and it has become known as ‘Combat Fishing’. The National Parks have built a park and a Ferry at this confluence of the rivers and each year during this event, ferry anxious fishermen across the river to catch these tasty salmon.

Russian Lake
Russian River Falls

Combat Fishing
Russian River
Russian River Ferry
Combat Fishing

Clamming Tides

Currently, Clamming on the Kenai Peninsula may be a little poor due to over harvesting of the clams. Fish and Game have closed down several of the most popular clamming sites, be sure to check with F&G to find out which ones may be open.

When available the quality of razor clams on the beaches of the Kenai Peninsula brings a special treat and great food to our visitors and our Alaskan residents. Each summer there are two low tides each month which offer the opportunity to harvest these wonderful treats. The waters of the Cook Inlet provide plenty of food to build plump, juicy clams and the cold temperatures of the waters assure that they remain tender.

The tide charts on the above indicate the dates, times and the low tide level that will be obtained on the beach of Ninilchik in 2016. Alaska razor clams are available on the eastern shore of the Cook Inlet from the mouth of the Kasilof River to Anchor Point. The low tide times are earlier the further south you go.

In order to get out to the sand beds where the clams are abundant, it is necessary to have negative tide levels below -2.0 feet and the lower the better.

It should still provide many opportunities for gathering your limit of clams (check your State Fishing Guide for the 2015 limit) from 4 to 6 inches in length. Note that the limits of clams taken change from year to year.

2018 Clamming Low Tides

Date
Time
HEIGHT,
feet
Thursday, May 3111:32 AM-2.4
Tuesday, Jun 129:14 AM-3.18
Wednesday, Jun 139:57 AM-4.58
Thursday, Jun 1410:40 AM-5.38
Friday, Jun 1511:25 AM-5.47
Saturday, Jun 1612:12 PM-4.85
Sunday, Jun 171:01 PM-3.62
Wednesday, Jun 2710:04 AM-2.33
Thursday, Jun 2810:40 AM-2.44
Friday, Jun 2911:15 AM-2.25
Wednesday, Jul 118:53 AM-2.99
Thursday, Jul 129:40 AM-4.52
Friday, Jul 1310:26 AM-5.45
Saturday, Jul 1411:12 AM-5.66
Sunday, Jul 1511:58 AM-5.1
Monday, Jul 1612:45 PM-3.84
Tuesday, Jul 171:33 PM-2.04
Saturday, Jul 2810:56 AM-2.04
Thursday, Aug 098:37 AM-2.39
Friday, Aug 109:26 AM-3.98
Saturday, Aug 1110:12 AM-4.96
Sunday, Aug 1210:56 AM-5.17
Monday, Aug 1311:39 AM-4.56
Tuesday, Aug 1412:22 PM-3.2

Also you must take and count any clam you dig regardless of the size or condition. Do not hesitate to go clamming during those periods where the negative tides are not as great (-2 to -4 feet) as some sand beds are still available. Clams are there also, but may be more scarce and may be deeper below the surface.

You can normally dig for clams up to a couple of hours before the low tide and an hour or so after the low tide. However, be very careful as the tide changes and begins to return. It comes in very quickly and can leave you stranded if you are too far away from the beach. There is a free handout guide available for you at the Kasilof RV Park which will identify the major locations for clamming and methods for cleaning them. We also rent all the gear for clamming, including clam shovels, clam tubes, rubber boots and buckets. If you need help cleaning them, we will give you lessons and advice. 

 

Raking the surface sand for steamer clams

Digging clams

Clamming at Cook Inlet
Reaching for a clam
Starting the clam search
Clamming at low tide
Cleaning the large clam batch
Shelling clams

Clamming

Notice: Fish and Game have closed down several of the most popular clamming sites, be sure to check with F&G to find out which ones may be open.
If they are open be sure to get this years info on the prime clamming tides.

Kasilof RV Park is just a few miles away from some of the best razor clam beds in Alaska.  Twice a month during the summer, tides are lower than normal and the beaches fill with eager diggers looking for the tell-tail dimple in the sand that indicates a delicious razor clam is in residence several inches to feet below the surface.  Yes, these elusive clams can pull themselves down into the sand as you are digging for them.  They can’t go sideways, but they can sure go deep!

One of the methods of digging the razor clam is the clam shooter.  A long pipe with a handle on the top that you push into the ground around one of those dimples.  You have to be strong and you have to be careful because a misalignment may cut the fragile shell of the clam allowing the sand to enter. Then you have to pull the pipe full of sand out of the hole hopefully with an intact clam in it.  If not you have to keep pulling out pipes full of sand until you find that elusive clam.

The tried and true method is a clam shovel and long arms!  After finding a dimple, you have to dig a trench between it and the ocean down to where the clam is located and then pull it out of the sand by the neck.  Sometimes this turns into a problem as the deeper you dig, the surface water wants to run into the trench and cave in the walls.  It’s not unusual to be up above your elbows in the sand or higher.

The reward for your efforts are up to 65 delicious razor clams for each of the participants. The clams average about 6 inches long and are unusually tender due to the very cold waters of the Cook Inlet.  Kasilof RV Park has clamming equipment available for rent and during certain times will take groups to the clamming beach.

Clamming is not easy and is very messy.  Often mud is mixed with the sand where the clams are located.  It requires knee boots and rain gear.  The beaches can be cold and windy at times also.  However, clamming is quite an experience and a lot of fun if you don’t mind the work and the mess.  We normally clean the mud and sand off the clams in the ocean placing the clean clams in salt water for the ride back to the park where further fun awaits.

Cleaning begins after the clams have set for about an hour in the salt water to help clean them.  Then they are dipped in boiling water to loosen the shell, then in cold water to clean any additional sand off them.  Then they have to be cut up for eating.  We discard the belly and keep the neck, sides and foot.  The neck is chopped up for chowder, the sides chopped for fritters and the foot is stripped for fried clam strips.  When all that is accomplished, all that is left is a delicious meal.

Get this years info on the prime clamming tides.

Raking the surface sand for steamer clams

Digging clams

Clamming at Cook Inlet
Reaching for a clam
Starting the clam search
Clamming at low tide
Cleaning the large clam batch
Shelling clams

Halibut Fishing Suggestions

Note: It was pointed out to me this pass summer by several of our Halibut Charter friends that the previous prime time tide charts we provided on the website were misleading. Actually, prime time for Halibut fishing occurs all summer long. Charter operators operate every day, but it is important to ask the operator about any weather advisories. Everyone gets sick and you do not catch many fish when the waves are high!

Halibut fishing occurs year around in the Cook Inlet. However, the Halibut do not migrate out of the deep water until late March or early April. Serious Halibut fishing begins out of Ninilchik on charter boats when the Deep Creek Tractor Pull opens in April and continues through September. Tide tables for the summer months can be obtained from the NOAA website or from any Alaskan tackle shop, Trustworthy Hardware, or Fred Meyers in Soldotna.

From mid-June through July, huge numbers of 20 to 60 pound (prime quality) Halibut feed in the 100 to 250 feet waters of the central Cook Inlet. Due to the extreme tide changes in the Cook Inlet (10 to 30 feet), most charter boats concentrate fishing 4 to 6 hours over the tide change reducing the flow rate of water over the bottom where the fish are
located. Actual tide changes at the fishing locations in the inlet vary by distance from Deep Creek and the water depth at which you are fishing. Generally the morning tide changes are better than the afternoon due to the warming of the air over the inlet and thus the increase in wind and wave action. 

In late July and the Sockeye (Red) salmon enter the rivers to spawn, plus the Chinook (King) salmon begin to spawn, and huge amounts of salmon pieces begin flowing out of the rivers. The Halibut feed heavy on these pieces as do the sharks. It becomes much more difficult to keep your Halibut baits away from the sharks. Also as the water and air over the Cook Inlet warm during the months of July and August, the winds and waves of the Cook Inlet become more pronounced and more frequent.

There are many listings for Halibut charter companies on the web that leave from Ninilchik (Deep Creek), Anchor Point and Homer. Also charters work out of Seward and Valdez. If you need help in locating a charter or making a reservation for a
Halibut trip, just let us know at info@kasilofrvpark.com and we will provide assistance with some of the charter companies we have had success with in the past.

Nice catch
Two big halibut
Group halibut catch
Cleaning big halibut
Boys and their halibut catch
Another good catch
Two big ones for Sara

Halibut Fishing

As you travel south along the Kenai Peninsula, you will drive through the small town of Ninilichik.  There will be fairly large boats parked along the highway with large racks to hold fish.  Further on a ways you will see a cannery followed by a road leading off to the left with a sign that says ‘Boat Launch’.

This is the Deep Creek boat launch where large tractors hook to the boat trailers to launch the boats off the beach into the salt water of the Cook Inlet.  From here, the boats will travel 20 to 30 miles down the Cook Inlet to the fabulous fishing grounds for Halibut.  At the end of the fishing trip, the tractors will again hook to the boat trailer and back it into the water of the Cook Inlet to recapture the boat for the trip back to Ninilichik.

Once to the fishing grounds the fun begins.  Fishing on the ocean bottom with heavy weights, the Halibut will take the herring bait and start swimming away.  Then begins the fight of pulling the flat fish to the surface of the water.  The fishing grounds in these waters generally run from 100 to 250 feet deep.

After a lengthy fight, you are reward with a nice fish.  The boat captain or his mate will gaff the Halibut and stow it away in the hold until the trip is over.  He will bait your hook again and then it is another wait until the next one decides your bait is the most interesting of those others from the boat.  And the fun begins again.

 

So after everyone on board has had their fun and gotten their limit of two Halibut, the boat returns to shore, is pulled from the ocean by the tractor again and you get to hang your fish along with the other on a rack so every one can take a picture of them. The guide cleans your fish and packages them so you can take them home for future delicious dinners.

Or you can drive further south to the tip of the peninsula and out on the Homer spit where the Halibut boats are already launched and are waiting for you in the harbor.  Most of the boats in Homer hold six fishermen and travel out around the tip of Kachemak Bay for the big Halibut.  Here you will fish in 300 to 500 feet of water where the big ones lay.

Out there it is not unusual to catch a big one upwards of 150 pounds during the trip.  On one trip we caught 12 fish totaling over 1100 pounds.  Five fish were over 110 pounds with the largest weighing in at 120.  However, we were fishing in 530 feet of water and had sore muscles for several days.  Nobody complained about it though.

There is always the chance for the really big one though.  Homer has a Halibut Derby every year with fishermen buying tickets for the biggest fish caught.  It is not uncommon for the largest fish of the year to weigh over 300 pounds with a payoff sometimes as high as $35,000.  This particular fish was 84 inches long and weighed 349 pounds.  Unfortunately the fisherman that caught it didn’t buy a Derby ticket.  By the way, this one wouldn’t fit on the rack!

Learn more on our halibut fishing suggestions page.

 

Launching boats at Deep Creek tractor launch.
Group halibut catch
Tom’s halibut catch
Another good catch
Two big ones for Sara
Cleaning big halibut
Boys and their halibut catch
Two big halibut
Nice catch

Kenai Peninsula Prime Salmon Fishing Times

   DOWNLOAD or Open as .pdf   

KING FISHING – Chinook or King Salmon is one of the premier fish of the Kenai Peninsula due to their large size. In the Kenai River they can vary from 20 to almost 100 pounds (the record is 97 lbs. 8 oz.). Due to their size and their fighting strength, it is almost impossible to land a King from the river bank, thus hiring a guide with a boat is a must.
On the Kasilof River, the first run Kings are mostly hatchery fish that range from 15 to 35 pounds, thus they can be caught from the bank. However, there are plenty of guides with drift boats (no motors allowed) to increase your chances of landing a King salmon. As the second run of larger (30 to 60 pounds) Kings enter the Kasilof, a guided drift boat is a necessity. The limit is two hatchery Kings or one hatchery plus one native on certain days. 

LOCATIONDATESFISH TYPE
COOK INLET & HOMERSPRING through JULY OCEANKINGS
KENAI RIVERMAY-JUNE 1ST RUNKINGS (20 to 100#)
KENAI RIVERJULY 2ND RUNKINGS (40 to 100#)
NINILCHIK & ANCHOR RIVERS,
DEEP CREEK
MEMORIAL WEEKEND
PLUS TWO WEEKENDS
1ST RUN KINGS
KASILOF RIVERMid-MAY to mid-JUNE1st RUN KINGS (15 to 35#)
KASILOF RIVERJULY peaks @ 20th2nd RUN KINGS (20 to 60#)

 

RED FISHING – I consider Sockeye or Red Salmon to be the best table fish. The Alaskan Wild Red Salmon has bright red meat and rich flavor which is high in Omega 3 oils. Plus it is one of the most exciting fish to catch. The red salmon doesn’t eat once it re-enters fresh water. To catch them, you must drag a fly-hook through their mouth hooking them, not an easy task and very exciting when you hook them in the fin or tail. Many a rod has been broken or rod & reel lost when a 8 to 12 pound red takes off across the river after being hooked in the tail. 

LOCATIONDATESFISH TYPE
RUSSIAN RIVERJUNE 15TH 1st RUNKENAI REDS (6 to 8#)
KENAI RIVERLAST 2 WEEKS IN JULY2nd RUN REDS (8 to 12#)
KASILOF RIVERMAY through JUNE1st RUN REDS (6 to 8#)
KASILOF RIVERJULY2nd RUN REDS (6 to 8#)

 

SILVERS & HUMPY FISHING – Silvers (Coho) and Humpies (Pink) Salmon come into the rivers at the beginning of August. However the Pinks only come into the Kenai River on even years. There are two runs of Silvers in the Kenai River, but only one in the Kasilof. Both species feed in the river and spawn in the river and side creeks; therefore, both baits (cured salmon eggs) and lures will attract the fish. Silvers tend to feed only in early mornings and evenings on sunny days, Pinks feed any time and will strike at about anything. Silvers are more oily than reds and have orange meat, Pinks tend to have pink, mushy meat (especially the males).

LOCATIONDATESFISH TYPE
KENAI RIVERAUGUST & SEPTEMBERSILVERS (8 to 20#)
KENAI RIVERAUGUST EVEN YEARSPINKS (4 to 6#)
KASILOF RIVER
NINILCHIK & ANCHOR RIVERS, 
DEEP CREEK
AUGUSTSILVERS (8 to 20#)
PINKS (4 to 6#)

 

TROUT & DOLLY VARDEN FISHING – Rivers, creeks and lakes on the Peninsula are normally open to trout and Dolly Varden fishing all year round except for closures in specific areas on certain dates. Be sure to check the fishing regulations concerning the closure dates, limits and where they have to be released when caught.

* I have personally collected this information over the years fishing on the Peninsula. 
The dates vary due to changes in the weather, water temperature, etc.

King catch
Big Red Catch
Kenai Reds
Combat Fishing
Tom and his King
Deb catches a Pink
Coleman and his Red
Cary’s Silver catch