I didn’t write a Hooked Up column last week because of the wildfires happening right now. My favorite fall fishery is down south on the Kenai River and the streams south of Kasilof in which is not reachable right now because of the fires down there. Cooper Landing has just stage two of evacuation, which means everybody should be packed up and ready to leave, if need be, with even some of the residents and businesses further south already evacuating.
These are the worst forest fires I’ve seen since I moved up here some 10 years ago. We had heavy rain a few weeks ago down in that area but even though they appeared to “be out” they never really were because of the hot embers under the earth. The videos I have seen from people having to travel past these areas look like something from a disaster movie with flames on both sides of the road and sometimes zero visibility from the smoke. My best advice is to be safe and do not travel past Cooper Landing if it’s avoidable. Fishing is not worth risking your life. I’ve written about a few of these before, but I will remind you again so you know where to fish in the mean time.
Seward will kick off with the snagging season for Coho Salmon very soon with some being caught already. It is 100 percent legal to snag off the beaches in Seward. There has already been a healthy stream of pinks this year in most of the creeks out there with some silvers being caught already.
Silver Salmon at night will travel very close to shore. If you go to the right of the boat basin on the beach between the basin and the culvert and walk the beach with a headlamp you will be able to see coho running very close to shore throughout the night time. Given that it is dark out makes it a little harder to judge your cast to be able to snag them. My best advice would be to pull about 5 feet of line out and as soon as you spot them just flip it past them and give a tug. Last year around this time of year I was literally catching them about a foot to two feet off the beaches in the middle of the night. The smoke in the area has been variable depending on winds at the time. Some days have been fairly clear while others have been full of smoke. Traffic is starting to back up past the Kenai cut-off from the Seward Highway, so if you are headed to Seward you can almost expect to have a delay because of the fires.
Another option, which I have written about before, is Whittier. As soon as you get through the tunnel there will be a turnoff to your left where there is a campground and a beach. The best time to go is during incoming tide. The beach drops off fairly quickly there so be cautious and take your time while moving around in the water. Whittier is also open to snagging so there is really no need to fish anything else if you are after subsistence fish. The type of fishing in both areas with snagging open is fairly simple — it’s a weighted treble hook attached to a swivel on your line. You cast out as far as you can past the schools of fish and then give it a good tug and make a few reels then tug again. You do this over and over again until you run the hooks through a school of fish. There is a ton of spawning pinks in both areas still so I would suggest if it is salmon you are not going to keep, keep the fish in the water for the release.
There are also still a few silvers to be caught in Campbell Creek. I haven’t fished it recently but have seen pictures on my Facebook feed with some edible coho salmon from Campbell. A lot of the smaller streams are reaching the end of their runs right now so take your time and have some patience and search the stream with polarized sunglasses to locate the remaining fish there. Trout and Dolly Varden are still in the streams and lakes if you don’t want to hassle with finding fish.
Saltwater fishing remains decent with halibut and salmon still being caught in decent numbers. Most charters out of Whittier and Seward are having to travel a bit further since the halibut are starting to travel to deeper waters so plan on a full day’s trip if you book a charter right now.
Honestly though, I wouldn’t plan on traveling South of Cooper Landing for a while unless you absolutely must or you live down there. I hope we get some rain soon. This is prime time for a lot of Cooper Landing lodges and businesses and for people to experience the epic fall fishery on the Kenai. I really hope everybody stays safe down there and nobody loses their homes.