On the Kenai River, we have a large run of sockeye salmon that come through toward the end of June and the end of July, and everybody’s always asking me, “How do I catch them?”
It’s actually quite simple.
Sockeye salmon usually run very close to the riverbank—as close as three to four feet if the water is fast. If I’m standing on that bank, I keep an extra supply of hooks in my pocket instead of carrying them around in a tackle box or a fanny pack, because the trick to catching sockeye salmon is changing hooks often.
After casting out your line, your hook will be hitting rocks and ripping through the water quite a bit, which means it can get dull within 10 to 15 minutes. Changing hooks is a tactic I always tell my guides to help their guests with so when they do hook a sockeye salmon, there’s no chance of escape. In case you’re wondering, I use a 4/0 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Octopus hook.
Fishing is like anything else—you want to play like everyone else is playing.
One of the questions I always hear is, “What size weight should I use?” That ultimately depends on the current. I like to use the lightest weight possible. Typically, a good weight is a large split shot weight. This allows the hook to gently tick across the bottom of the current and prevents it from sticking. You only want to feel the hook stick on a fish. When you use too heavy of a weight, you’ll feel it stick more often to the bottom and mistake it for a fish.
Another question I get asked pretty often is, “What size line should I use?” The sockeye salmon here in the Kenai River are usually only six to eight lbs, but they can really pull when they’re channeling inside an eight-knot current. This is why I usually advise a 20 to 25 lb test.
Many times, you’ll hook these fish in the back while they’re running downstream through the current, so a higher-pound test can prevent them from stringing your line out. You don’t want to fight a fish with 100 yards of line out while jumping over rocks and dodging trees every time you hook one. There are other fishermen out there, and it’s common courtesy to not interfere with their area.
If you have any more questions about how to fish on the Kenai River, feel free to give us a call or visit us online. We’d be happy to help!