Fishing in May on the Kenai River – Pros and Cons

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MAY-JUNE Early Run

The first run of king salmon appear in catchable numbers in early May when the river is low and very clear. The size of this run is smaller than the second run but with fewer anglers & boats participating in this fishery the experience can be much more pleasant with less competition on the water. The low level of the river during this period tends to concentrate the fish in a few deep holes in the area, and each tide will bring another group of fish into the river. Backtrolling or back-bouncing is the preferred method used by our powerboat guides. The tranquility of the river during May and June provides our anglers the chance to view wildlife such as moose, caribou, bald eagles and waterfowl. This run usually peaks during the middle of June but remains strong in daily counts until the second run of kings begins to appear at the end of June.

This article will outline the pros and cons of fishing the Kenai River and the Kasilof River of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula in May. Most anglers plan their trips for later in the summer, but fishing in May can be very rewarding, depending on what you consider to be a successful fishing trip. Generally speaking, if you are looking for a trophy king salmon, do not bother fishing freshwater in May. If, however, you want to sit in stunning solitude and observe the wildlife of Alaska as it shakes off a long winter, this is the time of year for you. Although, remember, the world record 97 pound monster king salmon was done in May! All things are possible.

Fishing in late May means catching the early-run of the king salmon (chinook). These may not be the massive kings of the late-run, but these moderate-sized fish run on both the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and provide anglers with plenty to do between bites from rainbow trout.

Not only are early-run kings smaller, they run in smaller numbers. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF & G) has a sonar counter about 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai. It is often only in the final days of May that more than 100 kings a day swim past. As a rule, the Kasilof offers more, but smaller fish than the Kenai.

The upside to fishing in May comes from the glacial origins of the two rivers. Both Kenai and Kasilof are glacially fed, and in May both rivers are relatively low. So, while there may not be as many fish, there are not many places for them to hide either. A good guide will know how to exploit running channels on both rivers, and set up ambushes for the early kings. Just because the numbers of fish are reliably lower in May does not mean you're off the hook; a 20 to 35-lb king salmon can still put up plenty of fight.

Another reason to consider fishing Alaska in May is the low angler density. Most sport fishers will wait until July before descending on the Kenai Peninsula. Fewer anglers mean less competition and more river for you. Add in the Kasilof River's driftboat-only policy and you have a recipe for true peace and quiet.

While you are on the river in May, be sure and take your eyes off the water. This month is marked by abundant wildlife that just can not be seen at busier times of the year. Moose cows are showing their calves the ropes, while bears and eagles eagerly await the return of the fish.

To recap, fishing in May can be a rich experience. Expect good numbers of fish that are fresh and full of fight. Exploit skinny running channels while the river is low, and enjoy the freedom afforded by low angler density.


Source by Jimmie Jack Drath

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