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

Old Russian Orthodox Churches

On the Sterling Highway south of Kasilof RV Park is the small village of old Ninilichik. This was originally a Russian fishing village and today is still predominately associated with fishing. There is a small boat harbor built for the commercial salmon ships.

On the bluff above the village stands the Russian Orthodox Church and cemetery. The church was built in the 1800s and has been in use since. From the top of the bluff you have a beautiful view of the Alaska Range of mountains including Redoubt and Ilimana, both dormant volcanoes. Cook Inlet with it’s huge salmon runs and Halibut populations extend both directions.
Russian Orthodox Cemetary

In the city of Kenai is another old Russian Orthodox Church. It was originally built in the 1800s and rebuilt again after a fire destroyed it. The church is also still in use and unlike the church in Ninilichik, the Kenai church has certain times that the priest will open the church to the public and give lectures on it’s history and function. There are still several Russian communities on the Kenai Peninsula including a large one east of Homer.

Ninilichik Villiage
Ninilichik Beach

 

Ninilichik Russian Church
Russian Orthodox Church
>
Russian Orthodox Church interior
Kenai Russian Priest

Homer Spit

Seventy miles south of the Kasilof RV Park lies the town of Homer, the self-proclaimed ‘Halibut Fishing Capital of the World’. As you arrive at the Homer Overlook, be sure to stop and see the beautiful views of the Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountains with the many glaciers and down in the distance is the famous Homer Spit sticking out into the bay.

At the end of the Spit is the Lands End Hotel which states it is the ‘Roads End’ of the most westerly continuous road in North America. From there you can drive on a continuous highway all the way to the tip of Key West Florida.

The Spit has a large boat harbor for the local commercial fishing fleet, the Halibut fishing fleet, the Coast Guard, Cruise Boats and the Alaska Ferry terminal. There was a large cannery at the end of the boat harbor until it burned. Now it is a processing plant for shipping fish to other Peninsula canneries. The Spit has many shops and restaurants including several Alaska Native Art and Crafts outlets.

One of the highlights of the Spit is the Salty Dawg Saloon. Originally it was the lighthouse on the Spit, but when the lighthouse was moved to the bluff, the log cabin was added to the base and was turned into a local watering hole (bar) for the fishermen. Over time it has become a must stop for all tourist that visit the Spit to place a dollar bill with their name on it plus other unmentionables on the walls and ceilings.

Overlooking Homer boat harbor
Inside the Salty Dog
Husbands while wives shop
Lunch on the boardwalk

Seward Sea Life Center and Exit Glacier

On the other side of the Kenai Peninsula, 110 miles from the Kasilof RV Park, is the town of Seward. It is a beautiful seaside town nestled in the Kenai Mountains with a year round open harbor. It is the terminus of the Alaska Railroad and many cruise ship lines. One of it’s main attractions is the Alaska Sea Life Center which was built with some of the funds recovered from the Exxon Valdez disaster.

At the time of the oil spill, the center was primarily a sea life research center for the Alaska Fish and Game. When the disaster occurred, many of the water fowl, and sea animals that were coated with oil were rescued and brought to the center for cleaning and recovery.

In addition to educational displays the sea life in the Resurrection Bay, it has aquariums of the local Alaskan sea inhabitants, birds and animals.

 

Also just outside the city of Seward, the Harding Ice Field has a glacier outlet which is accessable by automobile. The glacier got it’s name from the early explorers of the ice field. It was the only accessable exit from the Harding Ice Field close to a town so it became known as ‘Exit Glacier’. It is unique in that you can walk right up to the edge of the glacier and down to the face where the melted water is released.

Every 4th of July, Seward holds an annual race to the 3,000 foot top of Mt. Marathon which rises from sea level on the edge of town.  Starting downtown, the foot race is a climb and descent on Mt. Marathon, complete with cliffs, scree fields, waterfalls, and a spectacular view.  This annual event draws runners from around the world.

 

Alaska Sea Life Center
Exit Glacier
Runner Ending Mt. Marathon Race
Runners climbing to the top

Kenai Fjords Boat Cruises

There are several Seward companies offering day long and half day boat cruises to the Kenai Fjords National Park. These include visits to the glaciers flowing out of the Harding Ice Field into Resurrection Bay. The boats commonly go up to the face of the glaciers such as this one at Holgate Glacier although they stay far enough away from the face to assure that ice calving from the face of the glacier doesn’t hit the boat.
The tours include watching the many animal and bird nesting areas in the bay. There is always an interest in whale watching and the bay hosts many species of whale in the summer months. Shown on the right is a male Orca whale that was spotted on one of the tours feeding with it’s pod of female and young whales. Many sperm whales are also normally seen. The boats also tour the sea lion and various bird rookeries.

Kasilof V Park can make reservations with many different tour companies to visit the Kenai Fjords National Park. We can explain the differences in the tours for you.

 

 

Girls at the “Gate”
Sealions relax in the sun
Eagle Pair
Puffin Rookery

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

Mt. McKinley (Denali)

Choose a nice period of sunny weather and spend a few days touring the highest mountain in North America. Located approximately 240 miles north of Anchorage, Mt. McKinley soars 20,320 feet above sea level.  To Alaskans, the mountain is known by it’s Athabaskan name, Denali, which means ‘Beautiful One.’

It is rare that one can see it from the south side not shrouded in clouds. Although you can only drive a few miles into the Denali Park, there is a campground plus many hotels, motels and cabins located just outside the park. From the entrance the road extends 94 miles to the end at Kantishna. It is available to the tourist only by daily bus trips. There are shorter versions of the bus trips, but the one to Kantishina lasts 13 hours in and out.

Along the way, you may see a wide variety of birds and animals including ptarmigan, eagles, caribou, moose, marmots, ground squirrels, goats, big-horn sheep and black and grizzly bears. There are six mountain peaks in the Denali complex over 10,000 feet and twelve glaciers flowing between and out of the peaks. Most of the rivers and creeks (such as the one on the left) are filled with sand and gravel from the glaciers.

The photo on the right is taken at Mirror Lake just a few miles from Kantishina Lodge. Unfortunately there was a slight breeze and Denali was not reflected in it’s surface.

When you leave 
Denali in the fall, the contrast between the fall colors and the beautiful mountains is definitely a photo opportunity.

 

Denali closeup
Mountain goats along the trail
Denali sunlit
Denali in the fall
Caribou above the road

Extended Stay Campground