Journals, Photos and Videos

A shot at salmon fishing

After doing a bunch of research and a bit of shopping, Fred was ready to try some red salmon fishing. We talked with a few of the locals to determine the rules, the techniques and the equipment required to get his fair share.

Red salmon (sockeye) are amazing. These spawn in lakes in and around Cooper Landing. When ready, they swim down the Kenai to the Cook Inlet and off to the Pacific. During their 4th year, they have this compulsion to return to their spawning location and repeat the process. This means that, from the middle of the Pacific, they head back to the Kenai River and head upstream.

When they get to Cooper Landing, they have a decision to they continue up the Kenai or head up the Russian River? If they had been spawned in the Russian, that is the choice. This means that they have to negotiate the Russian River Falls, and this is what they do. This life cycle is truly mind numbing. How can it be accomplished? (Look for picture on the day we returned to the Russian River to see the salmon swim upstream and to look at the video.)

Another quirk of the red salmon - once it reaches fresh water, it stops feeding. So from the mouth of the Kenai River to its final spawning lake, it is totally focussed on the journey.

The odds are certainly against them when only considering the navigation. Now add clever anglers (with a 6 fish limit this year), hungry brown bears, an occasional bald eagle and you’ve got an incredible gauntlet for these fish to deal with on their return. The anglers are 9 feet apart when fishing and this is called “Combat Fishing”. As you can imagine there are lots of “accidents” fact, the clinic has a large sign outside that advertises “Fish Hooks Removed Here”....and inside they have a life sized poster of a person and they place the fishhooks on him in the same place they removed them from the real person. We have been told it is quite a site by the end of the season!

But wait - how can the clever angler land a fish that doesn’t feed? The answer is - it must be snagged. Legally it can only be kept if it is snagged in or around the mouth. Somehow this is done with regularity. They just had to reduce the limit to 3 because of the lack of fish taken out of the first run.

Let’s add one more factor, the locals are allowed “subsistence fishing”. These rules change from location to location and fish to fish, but here in Cooper Landing, for the reds, they can be caught using “dip nets” with a limit of 25 and 5 per member of the family. This is done near the Falls and is a non-trivial exercise. The dip nets we have seen are from 4-6 feet in diameter! We will explain more in depth when we go and watch our friend Rudy “dip netting”.

After taking us to the river for a casting tutorial, we were ready to get our licenses and get the rest of our tackle. In the morning, we (the shuttle crew) dropped Fred off at the Russian River Ferry (scroll down to Opening day of salmon fishing to see the Ferry) to catch our dinner.

When we came back to get Fred a couple of hours later, he was fish-less and had a broken reel. A loose screw on the brand-new Penn reel had fallen out and rendered it unusable. Fred was a bit taken aback with the snagging approach. The salmon meal would have to wait until another day.