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Ask the Pro's: Kenai River Fishing - Lower, Middle & Upper Kenai River

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  • Planning to spend a week on the Kenai Peninsula next summer and want to fish the Kenai River. We're experienced fishermen but definitely planning on getting a fishing guide. I was reading there were 3 different sections of the Kenai River Lower, Middle & Upper.

    Do the guides usually just work one part of the river when you book a day trip?

    And what sections would you recommend if we're looking to target Rainbows & Salmon on the fly? We'll probably spend 2-3 days on the Kenai so we could hit a few sections if that's possible. We're planning on mid-July.
    - Jesse

  • Hi Jesse,

    We look at the Kenai as a three to four section river, the Upper, Middle, Lower Middle and can view these three sections of the Kenai River on a map here. The Upper section runs from Kenai Lake to Skilak lake, this section is mostly in a National Wildlife Refuge, so there are no homes/cabins along most of it with a ton of public access. This section will offer the best walk in option. The Middle/Lower Middle runs from Skilak Lake to the bridge in Soldotna. This middle sections will require a boat, as there is very little access on foot. The Lower section runs from the bridge in Soldotna to the ocean. This section has a few public access points that are good for salmon fishing.

    Kenai River fishing guides operate on the entire river. The Upper river guides have to use drift boats/rafts, as this entire section is float only. The Middle and Lower sections will have a mix of drift and power boats.

    Your timing is going to put you right at the beginning of the second run of sockeye salmon. The Middle and Lower will be your best option for fresh sockeyes during the time you will be here. The Upper should have some fresh sockeyes but will mostly be older fish from the first run. The Upper should offer good trout fishing, including fishing on the Russian River (Dries/Nymphs should be on during that time).

    If I was only taking one guided trip and salmon was on the table, I would probably look into Middle river guides. The middle still has some uninhabited lands that will offer nice scenery and gravel bars to get out on. Once you get about 4 miles down from Skilak, cabins and homes begin. I would probably recommend a guide on the upper as well, just because the river is big and it will provide you with access to all of it. You can walk in to a ton of places though and can work individual gravel bars. You can walk the Russian on your own with out any issues, beside an occasional bear sighting ????.

    Please let me know if you have more questions or need anything and I will do my best to help you out.

    Thanks - Mike

    Mike Brown - Owner of Mossy's Fly Shop in Anchorage, Alaska
  • Congrats on your upcoming Alaskan trip! You are correct there are 3 sections of the Kenai River. Most Kenai River fly fishing takes place on the upper river and middle river. You are also correct that different guides and guide services are only permitted for particular sections. There are a few outfitters that are permitted for the entirety. With chasing fish on the fly I would recommend a couple days on the upper, there are 3 sections Kenai Lake to Sportsmens, Sportsmen's to Jim's Landing, and then Jim's landing through the Canyon and across Skilak lake. I would also recommend a day or 2 on the middle as that is where (typically) the largest fish are found but can be tougher, different fly fishing. Good luck and tight lines!

    Cheers - Adam

    Adam Cuthriell - Part owner of FishHound Expeditions. His wife Kathryn Cuthriell and business partner Dave "Reps" Repta make up the rest of the company as well as their dogs Hatch, Rado, and Pike. They fish, live, and guide in Alaska year-round. When not guiding on the rivers they guide ice fishing on Alaska's numerous lakes. Originally from Colorado, he began guiding at the age of 19 while receiving a degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership. Adam is also a current state of Alaska EMT.
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