Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fishing the Russian, Part VIII - For Further Reading

AOJ Run Charts: Alaska Outdoor Journal is the best all around fishing resource in Alaska. Of particular importance are their Russian and Kenai River salmon run charts. These present data from a sonar counter at the mouth of the Kenai River and a human counter at the weir above the fishable portion of the Russian River. The comparison of the salmon counts to past years will help you understand whether the run has started and how close it is to its peak. If you're coming in from out of state, you may not have the flexibility to wait for better number is the count is anemic, but if low numbers on the charts are reflected by little success on the river, it may be a sign that you should turn your attention to the rainbows and leave the sockeyes for another year.

AOJ also has a message board where anglers leave fishing reports. These can be very helpful in trying to sync up what the Kenai sonar count shows and what happens dozens of miles upstream at the Russian--a distance which the fish will cover in ten days or so.

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The Alaska Fish & Game web site has a tremendous amount of valuable information about the Russian River (and every other fishery in the state). You'll want to check in there to figure out your licensing options, where to buy it, fishing regulations, bag and possession limits, unusual closures and openings, and the latest scoop on the bear situation.

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Gwin's Lodge: Gwin's is a very important landmark in the Russian River universe. It is a) the closest place to buy tackle and fishing licenses, b)the closest place to buy ice when you're done, and c) home to a very nice halibut sandwich. In fact, the food is generally very good (they always seem to understand that an egg over medium is not the same as over easy or over medium well).

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The Russian River Campground, run by the US Forest Service, is a pretty dreamy place to camp, but you have to plan well in advance. Prime fishing season dates may book up six months in advance. On the other hand, you can sometimes get into some prime dates in early August with little notice (locals start to lose interest/freezer space by then).

For those not so into the whole fishing scene, there is a lovely walk up to the Russian River falls, where you can see salmon leaping up a waterfall just like they do on the danged TV! A little further takes you to the picturesque Lower Russian Lake, which is an easy 5-6 mile round trip from the parking lot. Backpackers can keep going to Upper Russian Lake and even on Seward (21 miles). The Forest Service maintains cabins along the trail: Aspen Flats, Barber, and Upper Russian Lake. You can book online by following the link above.

Parking is also available for day trips and for those who believe in sleeping when dead.

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Fish Alaska Magazine presents a good rebuttal to my "Sockeyes don't eat in fresh water" thesis. I don't buy it for various reasons, but you should get all points of view. Main problem: why does no one ever seem to report seeing a sockeye in slack water rushing to hit their fly? Why do the sockeyes 'hit' the fly only when the fly is moving in a current rapid enough for it to 'hit' the fish?

That said, I have heard somewhat credible reports of very experienced fishermen irritating sockeyes into striking in slow or slack water. I've just never witnessed it. Would love it to be true, but wishing don't make it so.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can give you a sense of how high the water levels are. Wow! That internet just gives and gives!

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Sockeye Dictionary: This is an only partially successful attempt at Alaska fishing humor. But leaving the comedy aside, it contains a lot of terminology that you will want to know during your trip.

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Guide Mark Glassmaker has a similar account of how to catch the Kenai/Russian Reds at If you don't trust me, you can take it from a real guide.

1 comment:

brennan basnicki said...


I see you don't use your domain anymore, is it for sale? My parents met windsurfing at a beach called "Northwinds" in Collingwood Ontario (Canada). I'd love to do something with the domain in the future.

I am now into "kitesurfing" and hoping to meet my future wife someday at the same beach!

Thank you,