It's for sure, spring is here and its time to get out there and catch a fish. I just called the Fish and Game sport fish recording (465-4116) and the guy on the recording even said it was spring and more important, that king salmon fishing last week was much better than usual for this time of year. Those Fish and Game reports are good with all the catch statistics and regulations and such, but I've been getting the same reports of hot fishing at the Auke Bay Post Office for at least the last three weeks.
Yes, that's the kind of place that real fishermen get their reports-at the post office or barbershop. I prefer the post office as one has a reasonable excuse to hang out their a few minutes each day. And every one in town goes to the post office. In just a few minutes you usually hear more fish stories than you can keep track of. These reports are actually much better than the fish and game reports because you get to know who caught what and where and more importantly on a social level, who didn't catch anything.
My lucky friends who have been able to put in a few hours fishing already this spring have found king fishing to be pretty good. Fish and Game's report of 31 hours per fish is really pretty good and if you go out there and fish right, you'll probably not need two-days worth of sandwiches and coffee to get your fish.
First of all, in order to really fish good you need to fish known productive places like the Breadline, Tee Harbor, Cordwood, Point Bishop, or Dupont. These are all coves or points where kings will tend to accumulate on different tidal movements or steep "edges" along which the fish tend to travel. Think about all the water out there and your one little bait and you'll realize that it's important to have your bait as close as you can to where the fish are.
The next thing is the bait which I always use this time of year. Use the best looking herring you can find. Fresh jigged is best, but it's a lot more convenient to use frozen stuff from the store. Use the herring whole, or cut it into a plug-cut or strip. The bait needs to have a rotating or wobbling action that will convince a big old king that it's a free lunch.
Typically, the plug-cuts and strips are fished slower than whole herring and I think that they fish better than whole bait. However, sometimes when the fish seem to be scarce, it may be better to use a whole bait and troll faster to cover more water searching for that hungry king. That is the real trick--just finding a hungry fish!
Most successful king salmon anglers have their own ideas on places, bait and troll speed, etc, however one thing they tend to agree on is depth. It usually isn't necessary to fish too deep-say over 50 feet this time of year. Seems like the more mature the kings get, the shallower they tend to swim. I really like to fish from my small boat this time of year with only a light rod and sinker and no downrigger. Later in the year, downriggers will be real important in consistently catching kings but they are not really needed right now.
As for catching a king the next few weeks, fish the right places, use the best bait you can, keep it working and clean and put in your time. Don't forget a couple of sandwiches and a thermos of hot beverage for good measure.
Dolly Varden are probably the next most popular local fish this time of year. They are showing up right on time at favorite local holes. Dollies have been overwintering in cold freshwater lakes on a slim diet and anxiously hit lures and flies that resemble small salmon fry or marine organisms. Here again its important to fish where the fish are. The best locations are at the mouths of streams where salmon fry are out migrating and in the heads of bays and estuaries where salmon fry tend to accumulate after they exit fresh water.
Several good local places are the mouth of Peterson Creek, Cowee Creek, Fish Creek, Echo Cove, Dupont and Gastineau Channel. Pixies and Krokodiles are probably the most popular spin-cast lures. Good selections of productive flies are available at fly shops both down town and in the valley.
Next time I'll hopefully have stories of several big kings landing on my own deck. Good fishing--I'll see you there.
Mike Bethers has been sportfishing all his life and worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for 22 years, before "retiring" in 1995 to become a fishing guide.