subscribe iconKing Salmon Run Summary

Area Sport Fishing Reports
Northern Kenai

April through May Season

Don’t forget: your fishing license expired Dec. 31! A sport fishing license makes a great gift -- lasts all year. (Neither the ADF&G Permanent ID license nor the ADF&G Disabled Veteran’s license expire.)

The sport fishing regulations are good through April 15 of the new year. Look for new booklets around March or early April.

To protect spawning rainbow trout, many flowing waters are closed to trout fishing, or closed to all fishing. Check the regulation booklet, or click on the fishing reports for the winter months.

The Upper Kenai and Russian River area are open June 11 through May 1 (closed to all fishing May 2 through June 10).

Just want to try out that new fishing rod? Parts of Kenai Lake and all stocked lakes remain open to fishing for rainbows the entire year. The Kasilof River is open to fishing for rainbows the entire year. Downstream of the Sterling Highway bridge, the Kasilof is catch-and-release only for rainbows.

River Conditions

Although river conditions in May can be highly variable, count on low to extremely low water levels in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. If we've had an unusually warm spring, water levels may rise closer to normal. Lake ice begins to recede, and is pretty much gone by Memorial Day weekend, except on higher-elevation lakes.


King salmon represent the only Upper Kenai Peninsula freshwater salmon fishing opportunity for the month of May. In the Kasilof River, small numbers of king salmon are usually available beginning mid-May, with the run building through the month of May. Through May 15, only single-hook, unbaited, artificial lures are allowed. After May 15, bait and treble/multiple hooks are allowed. Crooked Creek remains closed to king salmon fishing, and opens to all other fishing August 1.

Small numbers of king salmon begin to enter the Kenai River in early to mid-May, with increasing numbers through the end of May. The Division operates a Chinook salmon sonar site upriver, and sonar estimates are generally available by the end of May on the Sport Fish home page. Most waters of the Kenai River in May are open to king fishing. There are some closed areas, so check the regulation booklet carefully. Legal tackle is single-hook, unbaited, artificial lures/flies. Be sure to understand the early-run king salmon length regulations found in the regulation booklet as well.

Kenai River shore anglers may find success fishing the flooding tide from Cunningham Park in Kenai, or near the Warren Ames Bridge. Upriver in Soldotna, shore anglers cast from the boardwalks at the Soldotna Visitor's Center, or from the City of Soldotna's Centennial or Swiftwater campgrounds. Another opportunity is surf casting into salt waters at the mouth of the Kenai. There's a City of Kenai parking area on the north shore, off Spruce Drive. Bait and treble/multiple hooks may be used in salt waters year-round. In the fresh waters of the Kenai, no bait is allowed until July 1, and treble/multiple hooks are not allowed until August 1.

The early run usually peaks in early June. Popular freshwater lures include single-hook Spin-N-GlosTM, PixeesTM, and VibraxTM. Popular plugs for fishing from boats include KwikfishTM and Wiggle WartsTM. A single hook has only 1 point (with or without barb). Whichever lure you choose, be sure it's heavy enough to reach the deeper channels, where Chinook prefer to run. Average size of a Kenai River early run Chinook is about 30-45 pounds. Occasionally, Chinook up to 75 pounds are caught. 35-lb. monofilament line is the minimum recommended.

The early run of kings to the Kenai is managed under the terms of the "Kenai River Early-Run Chinook Salmon Management Plan" (5 AAC 56.070). Escapement goal range is 5,300 - 9,000 king salmon. The number of kings that have escaped is determined in part by a sonar estimator near River Mile 8.6. Sonar estimates are posted on-line, as is more information about the Kenai River sonar program. Creel surveys and test netting are additional methods used to determine the number of kings that have escaped harvest.

Most Kasilof River shore anglers head for the Alaska State Parks' Crooked Creek State Recreation Site, off Cohoe Loop Road. Many also fish from the Kasilof River State Recreation Site just upstream from the Sterling Highway bridge.

The run to the Kasilof also peaks in early June. Beginning May 16, bait and treble/multiple hooks may be used in the Kasilof (downstream of the Sterling Hwy. Bridge only). Before May 16, only single hooks and no bait are allowed. Popular lures include Spin-N-GlosTM, PixeesTM, VibraxTM, Okie DriftersTM, and yarn flies. Lures are often sweetened with a chunk of preserved salmon roe Average size of Kasilof early run kings is about 15-25 pounds. 20-lb. monofilament is the minimum recommended.

Rainbow/Steelhead Trout and Dolly Varden

Spring is the spawning season for rainbow/steelhead trout. Fish become very vulnerable while spawning, and must be protected from overharvest. Eggs are also extremely fragile in the first few weeks, and spawning beds must be protected as much as possible. Spring is an excellent time to observe trout and to reflect on the conservation of this natural resource.

In May, many of the flowing waters of the Upper Kenai Peninsula are closed to fishing for rainbow trout, or closed to all fishing, in order to protect spawning rainbows. Close attention to the regulation booklet is required. The Kasilof River presents the only flowing water opportunity for rainbow/steelhead during May. The Kasilof is catch-and-release only for rainbow/steelhead, and fish may not be removed from the water prior to release. Through May 15, only single-hook, unbaited, artificial lures are allowed. After May 15, bait and treble hooks are allowed. The steelhead run is extremely small, so expectations of fast and furious catch-and-release action are unrealistic.

Dolly Varden often begin their spring migration in May, and present a good light tackle opportunity.

The best opportunity to fish for rainbows in April and May are the 25 stocked lakes, and carefully selected portions of Kenai Lake. The smaller lakes are usually ice-free by early May. If the ice is not completely off the lake, try casting out to the edge of the ice. Fish sometimes feed off scraps falling into the water from melting ice.

A free pamphlet describing these lakes is available from Department of Fish and Game offices in Anchorage, Soldotna and Homer. Also check out our Fish Stocking Updates page and our Stocked Lakes Map page.