Throwback Thursday: ’15 Kenai Red Fishing

Today’s post comes from the archives, courtesy of our recent photo organizational efforts. Back in July of this year, we moved up to Homer. At the time Little B was just over a year old, we knew Mama B was pregnant with number two, and the prospect of the family making a 60 hour drive (assuming no breakdowns) sounded miserable for everyone. So Mama B and Little B flew, and I drove. Thankfully, I have two great friends who were willing to drive with me. When the request was made, I thought I might need to sweeten the pot a bit and offered a guided fishing trip if we made the journey successfully. Little did I know we would be turning down other wannabe drivers and the guys would’ve said yes in a heartbeat even without the prospect of a free day of fishing. Live and learn.

We (ok, I) really wanted to get out on the ocean for some halibut and salmon, but I didn’t make any reservations. Having never driven the Alcan, I didn’t want to commit money to a fishing excursion before reaching Alaska. Even with a buffer, unforeseen delays were a very legitimate possibility. I didn’t want to lose my own money or take a booking away from a captain that may not have been able to refill it. Once we made it to Anchorage, I hit the phone. I called anyone and everyone I could find in Homer, Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Kenai, Soldotna. I even called around in Seward. Nothing on the ocean for the following day. But in Kenai/Soldotna, there were plenty of options to get on the Kenai River. So that’s what we booked.

We arrived in Homer the afternoon before our day on the Kenai and quickly unloaded everything from the bus. The house was one pile of boxes after another. Boxes boxes, everywhere. After a bite to eat in town, we tucked in for the night. I enjoyed the comfort of a futon, but the guys slept (uncomfortably, I imagine) on couch cushions in the living room. After breakfast at Duncan House, we drove up to Soldotna. It’s probably worth noting here that Mama B had not arrived yet; she was due to arrive in Anchorage that day and would be picking up our vehicle which had been shipped. The three stooges were rolling around town in our 40′ bus/RV, now empty except for 2 rows of seats up front. This bus:

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After finding a place to park near the resort we booked through, I traded money for fishing licenses, waders, and directions to the guide’s boat. The plan for the day was to troll for king salmon, and move to reds later. If I recall correctly, the king fishing closes at 5pm or something like that, so we had a hard limit on when we could do that. We trolled for a while, moving up and down the river looking for hot spots. I remember it feeling rather busy at times, but our guide described it as a relatively slow day. The next day was a Saturday and word had traveled that the Dept of Fish & Game was slated to allow the use of bait in king fishing tomorrow. Our guide assured us that the combination of it being a weekend, and the easing of the bait restriction would make for a crazy day on the river.

We had one king salmon bite in the 3-4 hours we were all trolling, and it bit early. It hit my line and put up a good fight before I had it next to the boat. The fishing regulations limit you to one king per day on the Kenai River and if you take it out of the water, you have to keep it. It was relatively early in the day, and I was greedy, so I let it back. More than anything, I wanted to keep fishing. I didn’t really care about the fish’s size – I was out for food and fun, not trophies. Fun won out over food in that moment, probably because I hadn’t yet seen grocery prices up here.

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After throwing back our only king salmon, and spending a couple hours with nothing to show for it, we switched to reds. This meant getting out of the boat, and into the water. The general strategy is to cast upstream of you, bring the rod tip downstream with the current, and then yank the line toward shore when it gets about to you or just passed. The goal is to hook the fish in the mouth as you rip the line towards yourself/shore. If the hook hits in the mouth, you can keep it. If it hits anywhere else, it goes back. There’s a gravel bar where the guide wanted to bring us, but it was packed. So he took us to a more secluded area and we gave it a go for a while. Nothin’.

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Truth be told, I was becoming a bit antsy at this point. I wanted some fish! But even without, it was hard to complain about a beautiful, sunny, warm day on the water with friends. After a little more of this, we went back to the gravel bar and found room to squeeze in. After about 30-45 minutes there, all three of us had our red limits. I snapped a picture before heading back for my last one.

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Back at shore we dropped off our fish to be processed, and met up with Mama B and Little B. They had made it into Anchorage, picked up our vehicle, and were rolling through Soldotna just as we were finishing our time on the river. All in all, another great day in Alaska!

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