22 July 2011

Sockeye Fever

Sockeye fever is simple.  People want to fill the freezer, and with a limit of 3 fish per day it can happen quickly.  It means 3 am mornings, standing thigh deep in glacial melt swinging ounces of led and a snagging hook with an 8wt  for hours on end.

Regulations say you can't use a bare hook but it wouldn't matter for catching them

A good wide gap and short shank make for great hooking and holding power
Pound for pound sockeye (red) salmon are the hardest fighting fish out there.  The first run salmon average about 8 lbs and we use 25 lb mono to construct a 9' leader.  With the drag cranked these guys still peel line.

I put this one through my finger

The pliers come in handy for removing hooks (from fingers)
and the scissors I use to bleed the salmon before knocking them
The second run of reds started in just the last 2 or 3 days.  By now there are over 700,000 salmon in the Kenai River and working their way to its headwaters.  The Kenai River automated fish count reports can be heard at (907) 262-9097.  The fish in this run average 14 pounds or so and put everything into the fight.

This is sockeye fishing at it's worst.  Combat, shoulder to shoulder,
what ever you call it I prefer trout

These salmon run the gauntlet as they battle upstream to their spawning grounds
There are places where the crowds dissipate and fish still hold.  They way to access these little places is by hiking a little or using a drift boat to get to gravel bars along the Kenai.  There are a dozen ways to prepare salmon, from the grill, smoker, canner, hung dried, cold smoked, etc.  They are all delicious.

The pay-off is a smoker full of fresh salmon.
The second run of King Salmon is in hard as well. About 1,000 to 1,500 kings enter the Kenai every day  now.


  1. Sweet! Looks like a great time, aside from battling the others that have the same goal.

    There will be a day when I can fish for sea-run sockeye. All we have in Utah are kokanee in a few lakes and I have yet to catch one of those, but my time is coming.

  2. LOAH- Those Kokanee can be tricky. They're actually land-locked sockeye that enter the moving water to spawn. I had a big learning curve with them a few years back in Co. Try anything red, maybe big. Don't bother hitting them over the head if they're anything but chrome; spawning spoils their meat and they lose their fight too. I'd wait until that trip to Alaska to take your spoils.