Being an owner of a fishing lodge means quick lessons on fishing, which includes learning new vocabulary and the rules and regulations for the Kenai Peninsula.
One of the first terms I learned is “combat fishing.” When I first heard it I thought it is a description of how hard the salmon fights when hooked. But I’ve come to realize that the term really describes how much elbowing anglers must do to get a prime spot on the river bank. According to the Alaska Fish and Game website, more than 1,000 anglers a day can be fishing at the Kenai and Russian River confluence near Gwin's Lodge. The accompanying photo is at one end of the extreme.
There are several varieties of salmon that make their appearance in the Kenai and Russian Rivers near Gwin’s Lodge. The King or Chinook salmon usually returns to the Kenai Peninsula in two runs – May-June and then July-August. These salmons are kings because of their size – up to 120 pounds. Sadly, due to over fishing, the King salmon fishery is on the decline. On the other hand, a type of salmon common in the area is the Sockeye or Red salmon that many consider to be the best-tasting variety due to its rich flavor and firm deep red flesh. Sockeye salmon season starts on June 11 in our part of the Kenai River. The later and more productive Sockeye salmon run in the Kenai River is early July to mid-August. When Keith and I were in Cooper Landing in early September when we were first checking out the area, the Russian River was still full of Sockeye salmon that were near the end of their lives having advanced their species to another cycle of life. One could wade into the Russian River and pick up a now flaming red Sockeye salmon near the end of its life. The Coho or Silver salmon is prized for its milder taste and can be up to 15 pounds. The Pink or Humpback salmon is the smallest variety, weighing only about 5 pounds.
The Chumor Dog salmon can weigh up to 10 pounds. The Chum is the most valued of the five varieties, because of its size and flavor. The eggs make particularly good ikura— the fat, bright-orange pearls often found in sushi rolls.
I also learned that fishing near our parts is strictly fishing with lures, which are artificial bait used to get the fish on the hook. Using real bait like worms is unsportsman-like, frowned-upon, and illegal in these parts. To fish for sockeye or silver salmon, you have to use artificial lures that provoke the salmon to strike. When the salmon come up the river to spawn, they have stopped eating, so the lures are primarily designed to attract their attention, and to “get them mad.” This would entice them to bite the lure and get hooked. Snagging the salmon, which means jerking the rod and the line to hook a salmon on a part of its body instead of provoking it to strike and hooking its mouth, is illegal and the fish must be carefully unhooked and returned to the river. These catch and release fish cannot be taken out of the water at all, even for a brief photo op. Sadly, I've seen too many people try to snag the salmon rather than to do it properly.
The proper way to fish for salmon on the Kenai River is to cast out the line upriver and allow the fast current to carry the lure downriver, gently "floss" the lure back toward you as the lure is traveling down river, and bring it back all the way to repeat casting upriver again.
For the first time, I learned about “salmon beads” also known as “trout beads.” These are little round beads of various shades of pink, coral, and orange colors and sizes that are used to lure trout. It appears that when the salmons are busy laying their eggs, the sneaky trout are in their midst gobbling up the eggs. To have good results, fishing enthusiasts need to have many different colors on-hand so that what they use closely match the condition of the salmon eggs that are currently in the water. These “beads” have a hole and thus look like beads that I may use to make jewelry. Perhaps salmon bead bracelets could be an item we carry in our store!
Looking forward to more education!
Copyright 2018 Wei Wei Jeang. All rights reserved.