Sunday, September 11, 2016

Salmon Fishing in Alaska

I have a few pictures most taken with my phone showing my salmon fishing adventure in Alaska.  I have included my notes for some of the days I camped in Soldotna fishing on the Kenai River and Wasilla fishing on Fish Creek.

I came looking for the Artic Grayling and some of the wilderness of Alaska.  It took me a while to find it.   Early July I ventured up the Steese Hwy and found the White Mountains Recreational Area.  This area is BLM and has several campgrounds in the area.  I found both trophy grayling and the Alaskan Wilderness I have read about and seen on TV so my objectives were met and then some.
Salmon fishing was low on my list of things to do in Alaska…but I was in Anchorage looking for a new adventure I call my buddy Michael he had found a place in Soldotna on the Kenai River that sounded interesting.  In my research and talking to locals either you used a boat or float plane to access the better salmon spots or you combat fish.  I did not want to pay for guide services or rent a boat, combat fishing did not sound very interesting either.  My buddy Michael had found a campground in Soldotna on the Kenai River where the red (Sockeye) salmon run was over.  With the red salmon run over and pink salmon starting the campground fees dropped from $70 a night to $25 and I negotiated a price of $16 a night for water and sewage no electrical.  It took several days and coaching from a few of the regulars to get the hang of flipping for the pinks.  You have a 5-6’ leader with about an oz of weight on the end of your line attached to the same area as the leader is attached.  On the end of the leader you have a 4/0 hook with a pink bead about 3/8” diameter.  You cast the line out about 10 foot towards the center of the river the weight sinks to the bottom and the current takes it down stream and swings it back to the dock 10 feet past you then you just flip it back out towards the center of the river.  There is so many fish you foul hook more fish than you hook legally in the mouth…if not hooked in the mouth the fish is released.  There was talk about the silver (Coho) salmon run that follows the pink salmon.  I have been waiting on the silver run now for a week fishing every day with no luck…I may wander back down the river but my salmon fishing run is over.

In my left hand is a Silver (Coho) Salmon and the other is Chum Salmon

My buddy Bill willing to go anywhere to catch a fish
Fish Creek Wasilla, AK

If you look close on the far bank you guested it that's Bill
Fish Creek Wasilla, AK

Dock at Soldotna Campground on the Kenai River

Dock at Soldotna Campground on the Kenai River

Pink Male Salmon "Humpy"

Beach at Kasil River and Cook Inlet 

Beach at Kasil River and Cook Inlet 

Beach at Kasil River and Cook Inlet 

Beach at Kasil River and Cook Inlet 


Fall is here in Soldotna, AK

8/19/16 Friday  Seward AK Stoney Point RV Park   65 partly cloudy
                Spent Thursday night in Wasilla in the Walmart parking lot parked next to my friends Bill and Kathy.   I helped Bill install the drive rod for his slide last night until about 10PM.  The shaft had broken and Bill took it to a weld shop and had it repaired.  It went in fairly easy and alignment was simple.   The Walmart here does not have near as many RV’s in the lot as Fairbanks they seem to have the same liberal policy on allowing campers to stay for extended periods.
                I got up and made coffee at 5AM to get ready for fishing with Bill at 6AM.  Lisa and Carolyn got up shortly after 5 and we had coffee together.  We were going after salmon I had taken my spare fishing vest and set it up with the Pixee spoons I had purchased from Walmart last night.  I loaded the spare vest with all the needed items, clippers, hemostat, pliers, water, and snacks.  I almost forgot my license that I had in my fly fishing vest…this is one item I need to remember to move from vest to vest.   Bill was running a little behind schedule he had been up until 2am working on trays for making salmon jerky.  He had some minor cuts on his hands from the pans that we taped up with some electrical tape…his first aid tape was not doing the job.
                We left Walmart around 6:30.  The creek was Fish Creek off Knik Goose Bay Rd about 30 minutes from Walmart.  The best fishing is 2 hours before and after high tide which was at 8:30 this morning so we were in good shape with our timing.  We parked in a small parking area next to the creek and followed a short trail to the fishing area.  The fishing area was in the tidal area of Fish Creek.  Lots of fluff mud and steep banks.  We were able to cross the creek that allowed us more movements.  There were several other people fishing on the creek with only one on the other side.  Within 30 minutes Bill caught a nice silver salmon about 10 lbs.  One person on the other side caught two shortly after Bill caught his fish.  We could see a few swimming upstream.  We fished until 11:30 and the only action was another silver was caught by someone fly fishing.  When the tide was high our movements was limited, we had not worn wader but used our muck boots with rain gear.  The water was too high for the muck boots but that did not stop Bill from moving up and down the creek.  As the tide receded and we realized the one was our limit for the day I took the fish from Bill and found a crossing in some clear water and cleaned the fish.  Bill stayed behind to try just a little longer.  As I was cleaning the fish other fishermen started moving down stream and several of them had caught a few fish upstream from us.  As I finish cleaning the fish here comes Bill with another fish.  Someone had given him a chum salmon that they did not want about 5-6 lbs.  We cleaned the chum and took both fish back to camp.  We were both covered in fluff mud (Bill had both boots full of mud and water) but we had a great time.

8/22/16 Monday  Walmart Wasilla AK               upper 50’s rain
                One propane tank empty
                Met up with Bill this morning and we were off for silver salmon again on Fish Creek.  The weather this morning is cool and rain.  We suited up with our muck boots and rain gear.  We got to the creek a couple of hours before low tide.  There were only a couple of other people fishing…I believe the locals knew something that we did not, the run maybe over in Fish Creek.  We fished from 8:30AM to 12:30 a complete change of the tide from low to high back to low.   A few fish were caught but Bill and I when home empty handed wet and muddy.  This time it was me that when in over my boots.  During high tide I was testing the waters at the edge of a drop off.  I was using my wading staff to get the feel for the depth when my foot slipped off the edge and into the water I went.  It was not that deep but one boot did get some in it but my rain gear kept me dry…for the most part.
                The rain continued all day.  Back at our camper Bill and I started looking at options for our next possible venture.  Bill is planning on moving towards Glennallen and I am undecided either Glennallen or Soldonta.  I called Michael (friend that I met in Delta Junction) and he is in Soldonta and is catching fish. 

8/26/16 Friday  Edgewater RV Park Soldotna, AK   upper 40’s clear 
                Met up with Michael late yesterday and as I suspected he is in the RV/Trailer Park on the opposite side of the river.  I went over to see the park and check out the fishing dock.  The park reminds me of the one in Atlanta on Yellow River…run down and tired.  The fishing dock is in fair shape it sits on the bank at the river’s edge and runs several hundred feet with steps leading up to the campground spaced all along its length.  Michael showed me the rig they are using here it looks similar to a Carolina rig for bass in lieu of a rubber worm they add a pink streamer(or bead) on the hook.  The weight is not a bullet but a barrel weight with several pink/red beads placed a couple of inches above the hook.  Michael had gone charter fishing for halibut earlier in the day and had caught a 20lb and 50lb halibut.  Two halibut is the daily limit so he limited out.
                Talked with the manager of Michael’s campground and he said just move over he was not going to make me pay twice.  I will move in the next few days, I did do some fishing on the dock and caught a large pink salmon.  The one salmon was snagged in the tail and not a legal fish so back to water for my first salmon.
                Michael had purchased some fire wood from a local family and they offered him some canned pink salmon to try.  They told him if he liked it they would give him a case if he gave them replacement jars.  We opened the canned salmon and it was great.  I purchased one case of mason jars wide mouth pint size for about $9.  When we delivered the case of jars they gave us the case of salmon and told us we could get another case if we want it.  So back to the store to purchase another case of jars.
                Michael has only been here a couple of weeks but he had made a lot of connections.  He found one of the stores had over ripe banana for $5 a case but Michael got two cases for free.  So now we are working on banana bread.  He had also found two nice T-bones steaks that he cooked for our dinner.  His wife is currently in NY visiting family due back on Tuesday.

8/27/16 Saturday Edgewater RV Park-River Terrance Soldotna AK   clear skies today 74
                Baked a loaf of banana bread this morning turned out pretty good.  The recipe I decided to use called for sour cream and I had no sour cream.  Back to google and found that it is easy to make sour cream with buttermilk but no buttermilk.  In the end I made buttermilk with milk and lemon juice then sour cream with fake buttermilk and butter…it worked out good.
                Fished for a little while with my coach and fishing mentor James from FL.  He helped me with rig setup and presentation.  He caught several and I learn a lot. 
                I moved the camper from Edgewater on the west side of the Kenai to River Terrace on the east side in site 119 next to my fiend Michael.   I am backed up to the Kenai River on a bluff about 15-20 feet above the river with a set of steps next site over that leads to the river.
 I fished most of the afternoon after moving camper and picking up some tackle.  I hooked several nice salmon I did not land any but several good fights.  I hooked one that when straight to the middle of the river and in the process I over tighten the drag and the line broke.  Thanks to my trusty range finder the river is 130yds wide here, it is a large river.  James came back down to the river and setup close to me and pulled in pink males (humpy’s) almost every other cast.  I continued to get a strike every now and then.  Michael came down and he fished for a short time and had no luck.  I did find that I purchased 2/0 hooks I thought that is what James had but it turns out he is using 4/0 so back to tackle shop tomorrow. 

8/28/16 Sunday  River Terrace Soldotna AK  60clear-  74
                Today should be an easy day but I have got to take advantage of this great potential fishing opportunity.  I will pick up some 4/0 hooks and confirm my pink bead is the same shade of pink as the one James is using.
                Another beautiful day.  Michael (from FL) and I rode around looking for potential public access to the Kenai River.  We found one that Michael had fished before but it was loaded.
                In the afternoon I went down on the dock at the campground and done a little fishing.  I only put one humpy on the dock but I had several good hook ups.  I hooked one with my rod that was spooled with 15 pound and 15 pound leader he took off to the center and broke the leader, later I had one break the 15 pound main line after I increased the leader to 60#...I have to question the 15# line.  I switched to Paul’s rig that has 20# line with a 60# leader.  I was not long before I hooked into one, unsure of what it was looked like a male red salmon.  I got it to the dock and reached for the leader to pull him in, he wanted no part of that. He took off downstream and ran out a couple hundred feet of line before I could stop him.  At that point we were at a standoff if I tried to walk down the dock and reel in he would take every inch I would give.  This went on for several minutes went the hood pulled out.  The gear held but where ever he was hooked ripped loose and he was gone.
                I fished from about 4PM to 7PM.  After I left I looked down I see my friend James catching one humpy after another.  There were several others fishing but James was the only one catching anything???

8/30/16 Tuesday  River Terrace Soldotna AK  upper 40’s clear 70ish clear
                Michael and toured the area looking for new fishing spots.  We located Crooked Creek and a local fisherman told us that it was good for silvers mornings and evenings.  He also gave Michael a silver he had caught earlier.  We drove out on the beach at Kasil River and Cook Inlet tried casting a few times with no luck.
                We had a good turnout for the late evening dock fishing.  There was quite a few pinks caught most were foul hooked and released.  I caught 3 nice pinks (one Humpy) all foul hooked but fun evening fishing.
8/31/16 Wednesday River Terrace Soldotna AK 39 clear  70 clear
                The low seventies here is setting record highs for late August.  Local new/weather personalities are warning people to not forget summer is over.    
                Moved camper from site 119 on the river to 156 just across the drive, I now have no shade to effect solar panels.  Site 119 was nice but I was not receiving enough sun shine even with the clear days.  This time of the year there is 14 hours of sun but it never gets too high in the sky.  It is more like a winter sun in SC positioning.
                Lost an eye on my 8’ spinning rod the third from the tip.  I checked all over town and no one carries replacement or installs eyes tips only.  So I opted to clean up the old eye area and continue using the rod. 
I had dinner with Michael and Joan today grilled silver salmon Michael did a great job with cooking it.  After dinner I went down to the river to check out the modified rod after I removed the damaged eye.  The rod worked fine.  I caught 6 pink salmon four were humpy’s.  I had something hit my line and head for the center of the river before I realized I may have a large fish the 25# line snapped sounded like a 22 rifle going off.  I had my drag set for hauling in the 5-10# fish I had been catching and just lifting them onto the dock.  Whatever it was even if the line would not have broken I probably would not have landed it.  I legally hooked one of the pinks and put it on the stringer about a 8# fish.  Cleaned the one fish and put it in the freezer.
With the new location of the camper I received sunshine most of the day and fully charged the battery bank.

9/1/16 Thursday River Terrace Soldotna AK  39 clear   70 clear
                Another clear warm beautiful day in the forcast.
                Fished several different times during the day and evening with no luck.  I was pretty much the only one fishing. 

9/2/16 Friday River Terrace Soldotna AK 37 haze  70ish clear
                                Got up early and tried fishing at first light 7AM time frame but like yesterday no luck.  Lost a lot of tackle and no fish the last couple of trips to the dock.  I went out a picked up some more hooks and leader supplies. 

9/3/16 Saturday River Terrace Soldotna AK 40ish haze  upper 60’s cloudy light rain
                Rain forecast for this afternoon and the next few days and cooler temperatures.  The last few days have been beautiful but I still have my rain gear.
                Rain was off and on most of the day but light never very heavy.
                Tried fishing in the morning and mid day with no luck.  Went back in the afternoon and caught 3 humpy’s.  Michael came up with a planer board to use off the bank.  He rigged it with a lure and a strip of herring.  He caught one large silver and a humpy with the planer board rig.  I tried the planer board for a time but went back to my flipping rig.  In the time Michael caught the two fish I landed 2 humpy’s and hooked 3 more fish that did not make it onto the dock.

9/4/16 Sunday River Terrace Soldotna AK  50ish rain  60ish
                Michael and I tried the planer board rig again this morning with no luck.  I tried my old standby the flipping rig and no luck with it either.
                Picked up some pint jar in preps to canning some of the pink salmon I have caught.  I used my small pressure cooker for the canning and did not have a rack to support the jars.  I made a rack for the pressure cooker using 5 standard lid rings held together with zip ties.  I was using wide mouth jars and standard size rings for the rack.  I processed 4 pints today that is all that would fit in my cooker.  The process everyone used is pretty much the same fill jars to about an inch of the top cook for 90 minutes at 10 PSI weight.  The seasoning is all over the place, I put ½ teaspoon of salt in all of them, two of them I also added ½ teaspoon of both liquid smoke and vinegar along with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.  The vinegar is supposed to help break down the bones of the fish.  I kept them on for 100 minutes.
                Went back to the dock this afternoon around 6PM after dinner with Michael and Joan.  Michael used the planer and I stuck with my flipping rig.  I caught a 16 inch rainbow, 1 nice silver 4-5 lbs, 2 pinks about 6 lbs each.  Michael had no luck with the planer.  I hooked a couple more but did not get them in.  We fished for a about 2 hours.
9/5/16 Monday River Terrace Soldotna AK 50ish overcast  60ish rain
                                Michael and Joan came over and we had spaghetti for dinner.  Fishing after dinner in the rain.  I stuck with the flipping rig Michael, and Joan used the planer board with lures.  No one caught anything.  Rained pretty much all day and cool.

9/6/16 Tuesday  River Terrace Soldotna AK 50ish rain  60ish rain most of the day
                Sad day today Michael and Joan are packing up heading home, Bill and Kathy has also started home and I will next week.  It has been a great summer and I have made a couple of new friends and seen a lot of beautiful sites and caught a lot of fish.  I have waded fly fishing is some beautiful streams and caught record size artic grayling while camping off grid, fished the great Kenai River and caught salmon and rainbow trout.  Snowed on in Montana and Dawson Creek in May on my trip to Alaska.  The weather here in Alaska at least this year has been a bit wet but cool the entire summer.  When I was off grid in the White Mountains area there was a couple of 80 degree days but other than that it has been in the low to mid 70’s for highs with a lot of 60ish highs.  I saw a lot of 40ish nights this summer.
                It rained most of the day and cleared up late afternoon.  The battery bank has been holding in the 80-90 % range with all the rain.  With the little breaks in the cloud cover it is keeping the battery bank in reasonably good condition.  I have been limiting the inverter time this help conserve energy.  The next two weeks has rain in the forecast for every day except this Friday and Saturday.
                I had planned to take the day off and no fishing until the rain stopped and there was blue skies and sunshine.  I tried flipping for a while with no luck and saw very few fish passing the dock.  I then got out the planer board and put a silver and pink lure out in the water for over an hour and got no hits.  But it was still a great day I got to bed early no fish to clean.

9/7/16 Wednesday River Terrace Soldotna AK mid 40’s partly cloudy 60ish clear afternoon
                The morning started cloudy and overcast looking like another rainy day.  But the afternoon cleared up and it was a beautiful day.  Tried fishing several times today but it looks like it is over not the first hit.  My neighbors also tried different lures and jigs with no luck.

9/8/16 Thursday River Terrace Soldotna AK 40ish clear 60ish clear rain late evening
                Checked out the public access on the Kenai River about 5 miles upstream from the campground.  There was no activity neither people or fish, so I am going to put the fishing gear away and prep for next move.  I did try the planer for a short time at campground, I used a piece of tubing to secure the line onto the tip of the planer and it worked much better.

9/9/16 Friday River Terrace Soldotna AK  40ish partly cloudy  Mid 60’s clear
                Rained most of last night but clear and cool this morning.  The birch trees on the river bank has pretty much completed a color change and a lot has already fell off the trees.  Looks and feels like fall is here in Alaska.  Still watching the northern lights forecast but no siting yet.
                Went down to the river today and met a gentleman that was fishing with the hot shot planer like I have.  His name is Clod (like a clod of dirt) he lives in the trailer park that is part of River Terrace.  He has been fishing this river for 20+ years and has caught his share of fish including the late run silvers.  With a little coaching I get my rig in the water.  As we were talking Clod gets a strike and runs back to his rig to retrieve a nice (~8#) Silver Salmon.  We continue talking and I get a hit I set the hook actually the fish set the hook.  As I was reeling it in it did not feel right like there was no fish then there was a fish….I had hooked a humpy that was pretty much played out just no energy left.  I released him and he was able to move on up river.  Ted another resident of the park came down and fished with us for a while but we caught no more fish.
                After we ended our morning fishing I set out for additional tackle and bait.  I was told the local hardware store had a sale so I hit it first and sure enough there was a sale but all the good stuff was gone.  I then moved on to Sportsman Warehouse and found the lure and magic string I needed to fish for the late run silvers according to my new coaches.  I also stopped at Safeway and picked up three shrimp that will be flayed and attached to the “kwikfish K13x” lure…not a K14 or K12 but K13.  The shrimp will be attached with the magic string.
                I went back out to try my new setup around 4PM.  I got one hit but missed the fish.  Clod showed up 5ish and we fished until about sun down with neither of us catching anything.

9/10/16 Saturday River Terrace Soldotna AK  37 Clear
                Up early and on the river at first light 7AM.  Fished the kwikfish with the planer board until 9:30AM without any action.  The city park on the other side of the river had about 14 people fish using bobbers, they caught one fish early.  As the morning progressed the 14 dwindled to 4 or 5 fishing and still the one fish was all I saw caught.  Clod came down as I was leaving the river at 9:30 he fished for several hours with no luck.
                When back to the river 4:30 and fished until 7:30 with no action.  Steve came down and jointed me at 6ish and he was still fishing when I left.  The hot spot across the river had 6 or 8 people fishing and we saw one person throwing a spinner jig catch one. 
                It has been great but at some point you have to admit fishing is over time to get ready for the trip back to the lower 48...

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