As the snow melted and the river became ice free, it was evident that the global pandemic would severely impact tourism in Alaska. I thought, “ oh great, the Kenai River will have an epic run of salmon and there won’t be any visitors to enjoy it.”
Have I ever mentioned fisherman are optimists by nature?
Looking back, my lofty preseason expectations were not met. There were excellent days of fishing, but it was not an epic season. A fellow guide felt the same way and joked with me when he said, “I’m sure glad I didn’t have a lot of people to disappoint this year.”
Let’s recap the season.
The preseason forecast by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) determined the early king salmon run would make the escapement goal. That didn’t happen. On June 8th the fishery was closed. Uff da. That’s not how you want to start a season.
It was time to move on to Plan B: red salmon. With a record early red salmon run in 2019 (Russian River), expectations were high that 2020 would be a repeat performance. That didn’t happen either. There were fishable numbers, but the run barely made the low end of the escapement goal.
The river reopened to king salmon fishing July 1st and optimism was abound. Unfortunately, the second run was weak and on July 22nd the river was again shut down for king salmon fishing. On the days I fished for king salmon, the action was marginal. It was never hot, but if you put the time in, a few fish could be found.
I spent the rest of July (and early August) fishing for red salmon. There were great days, and some not so great days. Limits were density dependent.
August is always the fun month for me and it couldn’t come fast enough. It ended up being the only normal month of fishing on the Kenai River. Reds, pinks, and silvers were in typical, if not high, abundance.
My final month of fishing was September. Since August often foreshadows September, I had a good feeling about the second run of silver salmon. The first part of the month fishing was good. However, by the middle of the month the run had fizzled out.
WTF? (that’s guide speak for Where’s The Fish). It was an absolute head scratcher as to how poor the silver salmon fishing was at the historic peak of the second run. It is not how I imagined the fishing season would end.
To summarize the entire 2020 Kenai River fishing season in a letter grade, I would have to give it a “C”. Perhaps the only salmon species to meet expectations (and exceed) would be the run of pink salmon. It was large, and it lasted a long time.
So, enough about the past, how about the future? If you want my biased opinion about the 2021 Kenai River fishing season, well… it’s going to be a great one!
Have I mentioned before that people who fish are optimists?