To be honest, I’m not a big fan of forecasts, but there are indeed some strong trends and signs that give us a lot of insight in regards to what we can expect during the 2024 fishing season here on the Rivers of the Kenai Peninsula. Let’s take an honest look at each fishery and take our best educated guess at what we have to look forward to for the upcoming summer and fall!
Kasilof River King Salmon
In general, king salmon have had a difficult stretch over the last several years. This is true just about everywhere king salmon are found, and in fact, many storied king salmon fisheries around the world have closed or are a shred of their former selves. The Kasilof king salmon run is one of the few king salmon fisheries in the whole state that has remained open, and continues to produce some epic fishing if your timing is right. The Kasilof River is blessed with hatchery supplementation provided by the state of Alaska, and those hatchery grown smolt that travel the ocean for 2-4 years and make their way back to the Kasilof River are what keeps this awesome fishery going. The peak of the run takes place during the first 3 weeks of June, and on a strong run good fishing can be found during late May and late June as well. On smaller runs there is still a very strong peak to the fishery, but it lasts about 2 weeks rather than a full month. To get your best chances at putting a chrome silver bullet in the cooler, stick with dates between June 1st and June 18th. You’ll be glad you did!
Read more about the Kasilof River here: “Give Me The Kasilof”
Kenai River Sockeye Salmon
Strong runs of Sockeye salmon have become very predictable on the Kenai River for the last decade. 2023 was no exception, and there’s no reason to assume 2024 will be any different. The one twisted benefit of weak king salmon runs is that they correlate with heavily restricted commercial fishing, especially set-netting in Cook Inlet. As a result, the bulk of the sockeye salmon run get to enter the river unimpeded. This is the expectation again in 2024, so all indications point towards another epic Kenai sockeye season coming at us!
The first run of sockeye enter the Kenai in early June and a few can be intercepted along the lower and middle river. These fish are all headed to the upper Kenai River and it’s famous tributary of the Russian River. The upper Kenai area opens on June 11th and recent runs have been massive. In 2023 we saw increased limits and it’s likely that’ll be the case again in 2024.
The larger 2nd run of sockeye start entering the Kenai in July and the run peaks from mid-July through mid-August. In recent years the run has extended into late August, so it will be interesting to see if this trend continues in 2024. Limits start at 3 per person and because of the huge runs we’ve experienced over the last several seasons, limits typically raise to 6. This is a great fishery both because it’s an effective way to harvest lots of healthy protein for the freezer, and also because it’s a ton of fun!
Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon
Thank you Kasilof sockeye salmon! This fishery has become a go-to trip for us and one of the most popular trips we offer. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that the run just seems to get bigger and bigger with every passing season. In 2023 we experienced ANOTHER record setting run on “the ditch,” so even if we see a slight decrease in 2024 (not likely) the run will still be epic! This trip is also popular because it’s a drift boat fishery in a quiet and scenic stretch of the Kasilof, perhaps the most underrated salmon river in Alaska. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the Kasilof sockeye fishery, I highly recommend that you get on the schedule for 2024.
Kenai River Silver Salmon
The Kenai River silver salmon runs have been extremely consistent for the last several seasons, but regulations and river conditions can sometimes make for tough fishing through the early part of August. With king salmon runs below escapement goals, managers generally restrict bait for the first 2 weeks of August, at the beginning of our silver fishery while king salmon are still present in the river. This keeps us on the gravel bars chasing sockeye salmon in early August, occasionally wandering into the back eddies to cast spinners with occasional success. However, since 2024 is an even year, the lower Kenai river will also be full of pink salmon during early August, so spinner fishing is a great choice providing plenty of action with a variety of species to be caught (silvers, sockeye, and pink salmon). This is probably the most dynamic time to be on the river because of the mix of species, and as guides we absolutely love it! Our guests do too, which is why it’s such a popular time of the season to book a trip on the river. Once we get into late August and September, the regulations are usually loosened and bait is employed. This typically increases our silver salmon catch rates for the remainder of the season as we bounce back and forth between the lower and middle stretches of the river to chase down the fish. Check out a previous Fishology Blog about silver salmon here: Are Silver Salmon the Perfect Salmon?
Kasilof River Silver Salmon
The Kasilof River is a sneaky silver salmon river that I highly recommend you give a try. Around the 2nd week of August waves of chrome bright silvers start to invade the lower and upper sections of the Kasilof River. The Kasilof enjoys relatively liberal regulations, and so when the Kenai is closed to bait in early August, the Kasilof benefits from bait being allowed. As a result, the fishing can be hot if you time it right. As an added bonus, there’s very little competition to contend with, no motorized fishing boats zooming around you, and the views are magical. As we fade into the fall, the upper Kasilof is a must-see. But don’t tell anyone! Let’s keep this fishery out of the limelight and just between us 🙂
Kenai River Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden
If the Kenai River was a stream flowing from the Rocky Mountains, every trout angler on Earth would easily put it at the tippy top of their bucket list. Thankfully, this river is right here in our back yard, and although it deserves more notoriety, it remains relatively unknown to the world of trout fishing enthusiasts. Last trout season was yet another one for the books, and even though we experienced a glacial dam burst and flood levels on the river right during the peak of our trout season (September) the trout didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, the trout bite may have been at its very best when water levels were at their peak. 2024 will bring a massive pink salmon run, which extends the peak of our trout season as the amount of trout food in the river increases dramatically. From late August all the way through September and beyond there will be a salmon species spawning (kings, then pinks, then sockeye, then silvers) and a hot trout bite will undoubtedly follow. If you like to catch lots of trout, and big trout, then book a trip with us in August or September of 2024. You won’t regret it.
Want to read more about the Kenai River Trout Fishery? Check out this Fishology Blog: Rainbow Trout Fishing on the Kenai River