Spotlight: Upper Kasilof River
There’s no question that the Upper Kasilof is the least utilized stretch of boat-able water on the central Kenai Peninsula. The question is why? I still haven’t figured that out myself, and at the risk of advertising this “secret” stretch of water, I can’t help but promote all the great things it has to offer… incredible scenery, seclusion, the peaceful nature of drift boat fishing, great wildlife opportunities, and some darn good fishing!
The Upper Kasilof River starts at Tustumena Lake, the largest lake on the Kenai Peninsula at 73,437 acres. Public access is at the end of Tustumena Lake Road, which is one of the major reasons the upper river is underutilized in my estimation. The road is almost 10 miles long once you turn off the highway, and can be very bumpy at times, but once you reach the launch it’s all worth it without question!
The 10 miles of river that make up the Upper Kasilof contains a couple miles of slow relaxing water, some occasional small rapids, tons of birds and other wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and lots of great holding water for Steelhead, Sockeye, and Silvers. A full day trip is generally needed to experience it all the right way.
The first and last species we target on the Upper Kasilof is Steelhead. These fish are present in the system when they enter the river in September through the late fall, and then again in the early spring around April and May when they start backing their way out of the system and back to Cook Inlet. Did you know that the Kasilof River holds the northernmost documented run of Steelhead in North America?
The first salmon that the Upper Kasilof sees each season are Sockeye. The Kasilof has a mix of both wild and hatchery Sockeye, and recent years have produced record runs! Mid-June through late July is the time to get after these tasty morsels, and when you hit it right the action can be amazing. Not to mention the unparalleled scenery you get along the way…
The first half of the Upper Kasilof stretch is part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and there are no homes or structures of any kind along the riverside. Add the fact that this is a drift boat fishery, and you have one of the most enjoyable settings imaginable.
Mid-August through October is Silver Salmon season on the Upper Kasilof, and this is an extremely underrated fishery… Fresh bright Silver Salmon can be caught on spinners, flies, under a bobber, back bouncing, trolling plugs, and even on jigs. You might try a half dozen methods in a single trip, and it’s not uncommon to catch them all using one method one day, and all using a completely different method the next day… the bottom line is that it’s a ton of fun!
Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the incredible Upper Kasilof!