o fishing thrill matches the feeling you get when a King Salmon strikes and your reel starts to zing as the big fish takes line at will. Your heart jumps to your throat as the giant leaps from the water and you get the first glimpse of your Kenai River King.
See our Russian River Fishing page.
The Kenai River King Salmon are the largest in the world. The record caught in 1985, was over 97 pounds. In addition to the big Kings in June and July, the Kenai River boasts a huge number of Sockeye (Red) Salmon in July, and in August and September there is a good run of the acrobatic Silver (Coho) Salmon. Dolly Varden and Rainbow Trout are also numerous.
The river is for everyone’s enjoyment – there is no such thing as a personal fishing hole. Courtesy and common sense make everyone’s experience more enjoyable. Fishing regulations may change annually or by emergency order, so check current regulations before fishing. Complete harvest records immediately for king salmon or rainbow trout you keep.
Different fishing methods are popular in different river reaches – please don’t buck the trend. Drift fishing through backtrollers, or backbouncing or backtrolling in the middle of an occupied drift is not only discourteous, it is dangerous. It may cause confusion, tangled or cut lines, hot tempers and accidents.
Landing a salmon on the Kenai River is a challenge in itself. A net held in the air, or in an upright position, means that someone in that boat has a “fish on”. Help those lucky enough to hook one by pulling in your line and steering your boat out of the way.
Fish experience shock when caught. Treat a fish you intend to release carefully and release it before it is totally “played out”. Remove the hook while the fish is in the water and if it cannot be released easily, cut the leader. An exhausted fish may need to be gently supported in the water. Breakaway sinker rigs greatly reduce gear lost to snags and help prevent disruptions to others. It is illegal to gaff fish on the Kenai River or to lift any fish you do not intend to keep out of the water.
Fish & Game Dept.:
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a great website for Kenai River areas to fish, regulations, and loads of maps.
Alaska Dept. Fish & Game Website
Where to Start:
From Anchorage – The famous Kenai River is just 90 minutes south of Anchorage on the Sterling Highway. Halibut and other saltwater fishing is within a three hours drive of Anchorage. Prince William Sound (Whittier) is just over an hour away; Resurrection Bay (Seward) is 2.5 hours; and Kachemak Bay (Homer) is 5 hours south. (There are quick commuter flights to both Seward and Homer.)
Fishing in Bear Country:
You are responsible for your own safety in Kenai River bear country. In any outdoor activity – fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, hunting, picnicking, berry picking, even going to work – you may encounter bears. Be aware of your surroundings and conditions, especially in times of low light and areas of low visibility. Look up and around every few minutes. Check the immediate area for fresh bear signs. Consider moving to a different spot if such signs are encountered. Make plenty of noise. Go out with a friend or a group of friends. Let someone know your trip plans.
Don’t make it easy for bears to find food – garbage, birdseed, picnics, fish, or game, for example. When you catch a fish you intend to harvest, immediately kill your fish, then bleed it into the water. Bleeding into the water quickly clears the blood from the fish, thus improving quality. It also reduces the chance that blood, which may attract the attention of bears, will get onto clothing or the stream bank.
If you see a bear:
When you are fishing the Kenai River and you see a bear, and if the bear approaches you, give the bear plenty of room to move on. If the bear continues to approach, stop fishing and move away. Give a splashing fish slack, or cut the line. Take your equipment and fish so bear does not associate angling activity with food. See our bear safety page for more information.