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Alaska Fishing Lodge
Kenai River, Alaska
King Salmon - Silver Salmon - Sockeye Salmon - Halibut - Rainbow Trout
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Jimmie Jack’s Blog

February 25, 2015

Jimmie Jack Welcomes You!

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February 25, 2015

Jimmie Jack on September on the Kenai River

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10/17/2013

Highlights of 2013

 

Highlight #1 he biggest highlight for me this year was the Moku Voyage to Homer. Dad and I had the trip of a lifetime bringing Moku from Seward to Homer. You will have to see our JJF facebook for photos of the epic 6 day voyage. This was a great challenge for dad and I as captains. Some said to put Moku on a trailer to bring her to Homer, but I said, “just let me leave the harbor!” See more photos of the Moku Voyage here:


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Highlight #2: Another highlight was bringing on our saltwater boat, Big Iron! Captain Art Miller did a great job in spearheading that project. I am very thankful that he kept us on the water daily, and took very good care of the equipment. We saw lots of halibut come over the rail in Cook Inlet. My highlight was my opportunity to fish with Captain Big Jim, and Captain Mark Hendsbee for some end of season fun. Mark nailed a monster lingcod, and we hit nice black rockfish, and some big yellow-eye too. See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th6KROtDqfA

 

Highlight #3

My old friend and training partner, Todd Riech, came to visit for the 5th time, and brought some family. Todd’s nephew, Addison Mueller, landed not one, but 2 Trophy Kenai River Rainbows. We had an epic day with 5 trophy class rainbow trout.

Highlight #4

Our first KTUU fishing Report on the saltwater with Kari Bustmante was a success. We cut a great report, and Kari even pulled up a 50 pounder for the show!

 

Highlight #5

We had a super silver salmon season on the Kenai River. We were catching big second run silvers right to the end of September!

Another great season for the history book. JJF since 1995, and on to 2014…

Jimmie Jack Drath

05/29/2013

Big Iron with Captain Art

We are very grateful to have Captain Art Miller at the helm of the Big Iron. Captain Art has had his 100 ton Master’s Captain License since he was 18, or just after the stoneage! He has chartered many boats around the world on deliveries, and fishing charters. Captain Art showed up and did not blink, snatched up my JJF credit card, and set out to bring the Big Iron back to fully outfitted for the Ninilchik halibut grounds.

He and his nephew (deckhand), James, have been hauling in the big flat ones during the month of May, and have a very full schedule ahead for the summer. Get on board, and fill your freeezer, and have some fun with Captain “Moochie” Art!

03/01/2013

Vacations Help Families Bond

A friend once said that a family vacation isn’t a holiday, it’s just a trip with the kids.

Today’s modern family is perpetually stressed out from long work hours, busy after school schedules and endless demands on time.

While it’s nice to think of a family vacation as lazy days lounging by the pool, leisurely walks along the beach and spontaneous activities, the reality is that family trips can be sometimes be stressful. Let’s face it, you still have to cook and clean and make plans with military-like precision to ensure everyone is entertained. But new survey shows that traveling with kids is actually good for the family dynamic.

According to a Disney poll conducted by Kelton research firm, which asked 1,000 parents with kids age 5-17, 97 percent of parents say that their children have gotten to know new things about them while taking family trips. The survey also found that the whole family tends to be more excited, silly and affectionate while on vacation.

Another benefit of taking a family trip? Parents reported eating nearly double the number of meals with their children while on vacation.

“Parents are desperate for more quality time,” Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions told FoxNews.com. “We’re really feeling kind of disconnected from our kids.”

The survey also showed that 71 percent of parents would love more time with their kids, and almost all respondents (96 percent) would give up at least one thing, such as sleeping, a hobby, even coffee, for a year to spend just one extra hour with their children.

McCready says if you can’t get away for a couple days, make an effort to incorporate bonding time into your routine.

“On a daily basis, spend some time with your kids, just one-on-one, doing something that they like to do. That really creates those emotional connections,” McCready says.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/02/21/survey-finds-vacations-help-families-bond/#ixzz2LqqHTrhW

10/10/2012

Seward “Multi-Species” Fishing Trips

Hi everyone,

Yes! Jimmie Jack Fishing in Seward! I am pinching myself. Can you believe it? So awesome!

Join us for our “Multi-Species” trips for silver salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and halibut in Seward in 2013.

We are excited to be fishing Seward! Come fish with us aboard our 33 foot Hatco Marine vessel, the “Big Iron”.

These are full day trips which will leave the dock at 7:00am and return at 6:00pm.

This is our Combo Trip that will be featured in our NEW “Best of Alaska” fishing package for 2013!

Come rip some lips in comfort. The “Big Iron” features a deluxe back deck, full stand up head (bathroom), and top notch fishing gear, with the latest electronics.

You will have the opportunity to catch 3 silvers, 2 halibut, 1 lingcod, and 4 rockfish. Try and catch a Yellow-eye, because I love to eat Yellow-eye…

Stay tuned for awesome full back deck loads of fish pictures!

Fish for fun,

Jimmie Jack

www.JimmieJackFishing.com

08/22/2012

Fishing at Jimmie Jack’s in September

Fishing in September on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers: The Pros and Cons

September brings with it colder weather, longer nights, and a sudden realization that everything on the river is slowing down. That’s not to say it’s time to hang up the tackle box. On the contrary, fishing the Kenai River in September provides some of the best, back-to-basics angling in Alaska. The buzz is gone, the regulations once again favor the angler with a limit of 3 per day for silvers, and something magical awaits those who remain. Silver salmon are extremely acrobatic, and will hit the top of the water as soon as they are hooked!

Anglers fishing the Kenai River down from the Upper Killey River may continue to enjoy the lax regulations of August and use bait on multiple hooks to gobble up silver salmon (coho) as they continue their magnificent run, but up from the Upper Killey it’s back to unbaited, single-hooked lures.

With the red salmon (sockeye) run over, anglers on the river may feel at a loss for what to hunt aside from silvers. The early fall is an excellent time to fish for rainbow trout. Using lures that imitate salmon roe rather than insects, the clever upper river angler may find September to be the best time to catch rainbows. In this regard the Kenai has a distinct advantage. One rainbow per day may be kept on the Kenai from Skilak Lake down to its mouth. However, this is a trophy catch and release fishery for big rainbows!

Rainbow trout average 1-5 lbs. with trophies up to 15 pounds. The Kenai River produces some of the largest rainbow trout and char in the state. We have had many fish caught in the 24″ to 28″ range with the largest to date being 33″. We estimated this fish at 18 pounds! Nutrients provided by the returning salmon runs have developed a healthy food chain and the trout and char benefit from this. The Kenai mountain range provides a scenic backdrop for a float trip on this beautiful river.

Fishing in September appeals to many anglers for the same reason as fishing in May: low angler density. As people go back to school and work, anglers all but disappear, leaving the Kenai River open and peaceful. The angler who shows up in May in order to catch a king salmon (chinook) may very well return in September to catch some silvers. While he misses out on the social aspects of mid-summer angling, he may find all the excitement he needs watching the leaves turn and listening for the cries of bull moose in rut.

If, however, you find the now slower pace of the freshwater frustrating, don’t despair. There is still plenty of fighting to do just beyond the river mouths. The deep saltwater of the Cook Inlet offers an exciting alternative to freshwater fishing in September. While halibut makes for great fishing (and even better eating) from May through October, these bottom fish are an excellent way to keep your September fishing trip from slowing down.

To recap, there is still plenty of work to be done cleaning up the silvers on the Kenai River and not as many anglers around to do it. Go upriver in September for some of the best rainbow trout fishing of the year.

Jimmie Jack Drath

www.JimmieJackFishing.com

04/15/2012

Fishing at Jimmie Jack’s in August

This article will explain how the onset of August changes the face of fishing on the Kenai River. The beginning of August is still a very popular and very exciting time to fish, but for very different reasons than in July. August means king salmon (chinook) season is over, and with it the chance to catch the whopper. In the kings’ place, however, comes a new fish and new fun!

It’s time for the silver salmon (coho) run, but don’t forget to land a red salmon (sockeye) or two. They’re still running strong until the middle of the month. The infusion of silvers fighting fresh from saltwater toward the late stages of the reds’ run breathes new life into the Kenai River.

Silvers typically run around 10-lbs., but on the Kenai River trophy fish in the order of over 20-lbs. are possible. Silvers are more aggressive than their cousins and readily strike your baited hooks. That’s correct, hooks. Starting August 1, anglers fishing downstream of Skilak Lake are permitted to use multiple baited hooks on the coming onslaught of silvers. The limit on silvers in August is 2 per person.

That’s another difference when fishing the Kenai in August: many anglers keep themselves confined to the 50 river miles on the Kenai down from Skilak Lake to stay within bounds for kings, but with the king season closed anglers should feel free to go explore the remaining 32 river miles of the Kenai. Not only is the upper Kenai dazzlingly beautiful with its glacial green hue, it allows the angler density to spread out so as not to feel as crowded as July. Be sure to get some fly-fishing in for rainbow trout when fishing silvers on the Middle Kenai River.

The Kenai River has one of the larger classes of rainbow trout in all of Alaska. The season kicks off hard in mid-August when the kings start to drop their eggs while spawning. When the eggs drop, the game is on, and it is easy. Drifting the right bead through the kings can produce multiple hook ups at once, and leaves all anglers scrambling for the forceps at the same time. It is very common to hook up 100+ rainbows and dolly varden with a boat of 4 anglers in a day of fishing. There are many trophy bows caught in the 22”-28” range caught daily. This fishery continues to heat up all the way through the fall. August is only the beginning! Rainbow trout fishing is catch and release, although 1 fish under 18” may be kept daily.

To recap, fishing in August on the Kenai means no more chances for that 70-lb. jaw-dropper, but the addition of silver salmon and trophy rainbow trout introduces some of the best fights and most rewarding sport fishing on the planet. Fishing in August also means it’s time to go exploring the upper parts of the rivers for silvers and trophy rainbow trout.

Jimmie Jack Drath

www.JimmieJackFishing.com

02/25/2012

Fishing at Jimmie Jack’s in July

Fishing Alaska in July is packed full of action on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. This is the main event! July marks the start of the late-run of king salmon (chinook) and the start of the massive red salmon (sockeye) run. The reds add variety to the rivers at a time where the numbers of large kings alone provide plenty of excitement.

Let’s begin again by looking at what the Kenai and Kasilof have in common. Water levels are much higher than they were in May or early June. This means further variety to fishing techniques and strategies. Many fly-fishermen begin to appear in July, hoping to land some tasty sockeyes from the banks on a 9-10 wt. rod.

Also common to both rivers is a huge increase in fish count. Even the sonar counter on the quieter Kasilof is beginning to count fish not in the hundreds, but in the thousands every day. Of course, all these fish bring out more anglers. Angler density is typically at its highest in July and remains high through mid-August. 2009 was a notably slow year for non-resident anglers in the Kenai Peninsula. Nevertheless, 4,500 angler-days were still spent on the Kasilof River by non-resident anglers and 17,000 angler-days on the Kenai. The bulk of those angler-days come from July and early August.

July also brings increasingly complicated regulations to both rivers; so, going out with a guide becomes an even better idea. Your guides will know these rules like the backs of their hands, but if you’re going out alone it’s very important to know what fish you can pull from the water and what you can use to do it.

Taking a look at the quieter Kasilof River, we see the bag limit on kings fall from 2 per day to 1 per day. Non fin-clipped (adipose fin) or “wild” king salmon may be kept on any day. Rainbow trout ) steelhead are, as always, catch-and-release only on the Kasilof down from the Sterling Highway. Rainbow trout in the Kenai River is catch-and-release in theory, but you may keep one rainbow under 18 inches per day in the lower river.

Over on the bustling Kenai River, angler density is at its peak. You may begin to feel the party atmosphere on the water. That is, until you forget all about the other anglers while in the fight of your life with a 50-lb king or a wily sockeye. King salmon during this second run average 40 plus pounds, and sockeye salmon enter the river at 20,000 plus per day! Another consolation to anglers on the Kenai River is the lifting of the bait ban. In July anglers are allowed to cast a single, baited hook, which can dramatically improve results.

It is also worth noting that silver salmon (coho) season opens on July 1 on the Kenai. Even though the silver run doesn’t begin until very late July, knowing that three types of salmon are now up for grabs adds to the excitement.

To recap, when fishing in July angler density is higher on the Kenai River than on the Kasilof River, but so is the fish count. The king salmon are running larger and in greater numbers. Sockeye salmon put up fantastic fights daily on the Kenai River. Fishing on the Kasilof River remains a perfectly acceptable, more secluded, alternative to fishing on the Kenai.

Jimmie Jack Drath

www.JimmieJackFishing.com

02/19/2012

JJF Alaska Show a Hit in Brazil!

The Alaska show has been a huge hit in Brazil. We just received news that they aired the show again this weekend during Carnaval! (Sidenote: Rosy’s brother is throwing another huge party to watch the show at his neighborhood bar in Campinas.) They have been showing both shows multiple times since October.
It started out that I asked my hot Brazilian wife, Rosy, to see if she could make contact with a Brazilian fishing show. She was shocked when she heard back from Globo Television. I, the gringo, did not understand the magnitude of this project. Well, we hosted a reporter and camera man in July last year, and the show first aired in Brazil in October and showcased Alaska to all of Brazil.

Well, now, Rosy’s Facebook has lit up, and she posts photos of our life here in Alaska, and her Brazilian fans love it. She has been interviewed by her home town paper, and now a large magazine from Campinas where she lived for 15 years. And, if you fish with us this next season, you will probably here some Portuguese, because the Brazilians are coming!

02/12/2012

Fishing at Jimmie Jack’s in June

Every year, fishing the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers becomes two very different experiences in June. Because of differences in regulations, angler density, and fish count, these rivers begin to look like two different worlds. In some respects, fishing Alaska in June feels like fishing in late-May, only everything is on the rise: water levels, air temperatures, and numbers of king salmon.

Let’s start by discussing the few remaining similarities between the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. The early-run of king salmon is going strong and both rivers are seeing significantly higher fish counts. In June the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) sonar counter near the mouth of the Kenai River now detects 200-600 kings leaving Cook Inlet every day. With the increasing fish count comes increasing angler density on both rivers as well. Since their source glaciers are now belted with up to 19 hours of sunlight a day, the water level is rising on both rivers, too. This means fewer obvious places to set up an ambush near deeper water channels.

Got all that? Good, because more fish, more anglers, and more water is all the Kenai River and Kasilof River share in June. The Kenai River is now teeming with moderate-sized kings at 25-40 pounds, but if you want to land one of these fish, you must do so with a single-hook, unbaited lure. The ADF&G also stipulates that once you retain a king 20” or longer on the Kenai, you may not fish on that same day for any species downstream of Skilak Lake (at and above which fishing for kings is closed). Also, kings between 46” and 55” must be released. Remember that fish that you intend to release must remain in the water. This regulation is in place to allow you the opportunity to catch the next world record 100 pound king, but keeps anglers from taking any 6 year-old kings out of the gene pool.

So if you get a lucky strike early on, fishing for kings on the Kenai in June may make for a pretty short day. The good news is you’ll have plenty of people to talk to once you’ve wrapped things up. Angler density on the Kenai is by no means uncomfortable in June, but it’s up. You may consider this a drawback, but many anglers enjoy the buzz of excitement surrounding the presence of other anglers sharing in the experience.

Meanwhile, over on the quieter Kasilof River, a happy angler in a driftboat has just landed a 23 pound king. His guide has it safely stowed for him and he sets his bait back in the water for king number two. What makes him even happier is that on the Kasilof River he can continue to catch and release, and possibly keep another king. On the Kasilof the bag limit is 2 kings longer than 20” (provided that only one is a wild king). The only thing that makes him happier still is that he’s out with his guide on Sunday or Monday, something else that he couldn’t be doing on the Kenai River.

Also remember that on the Kasilof, 1 of your 2 king bag limit on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays, can be a non fin-clipped king. You just got lost, I know. Let me explain. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you may keep 2 kings, but 1 of your 2 may be non fin-clipped or as we say “wild”. This means that the adipose fin (on the dorsal side, near the tail) exists. On any other day, other than those three days, both kings in your limit of 2 must be fin-clipped, or as we say “hatchery”. These fin-clipped fish have no adipose fin. Got it? If not, please have your lawyer call my lawyer. We will go fishing and let them figure it out!

To recap, in June, anglers begin to split up into two groups. Those on the Kenai have the opportunity to fish for larger fish on a river that is increasingly full of excitement, but also increasingly full of other anglers and motorboats. Those on the Kasilof must accept fewer and smaller fish in exchange for the opportunity to keep up to 2 kings a day, and fish on a drift-only river.

Jimmie Jack Drath

www.JimmieJackFishing.com

02/09/2012

Fishing at Jimmie Jack’s in May

Fishing in May on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers: The Pros and Cons

Most anglers plan their trips for later in the summer, but fishing in May can be very rewarding, depending on what you consider to be a successful fishing trip. Generally speaking, if you are looking for a trophy king salmon, you might have a tougher time finding one in the freshwater in May. If, however, you want to sit in stunning solitude and observe the wildlife of Alaska as it shakes off a long winter, this is the time of year for you. Although, remember, the world record 97 pound monster king salmon was caught in May! All things are possible.

Fishing in late May means catching the early-run of the king salmon (chinook). These may not be the massive kings of the late-run, but these moderate-sized fish run on both the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and provide anglers with plenty of action.

Not only are early-run kings smaller, they run in smaller numbers. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has a sonar counter about 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai. It is often only in the final days of May that more than 100 kings a day swim past. As a rule, the Kasilof offers more, but smaller fish than the Kenai.

The upside to fishing in May comes from the glacial origins of the two rivers. Both Kenai and Kasilof are glacially fed, and in May both rivers are relatively low. So, while there may not be as many fish, there aren’t many places for them to hide either. A good guide will know how to exploit running channels on both rivers, and set up ambushes for the early kings. Just because the numbers of fish are relatively lower in May doesn’t mean you’re off the hook; a 20 to 35-lb king salmon can still put up plenty of fight.

Remember to keep the regulations in mind when fishing the early run kings. The Kenai River has a “slot” limit during this early run. Kenai kings between 46” and 55” must be released through June 30th. The Kenai will begin with no bait allowed, while you can fish with bait on the Kasilof River beginning May 16th. On the Kasilof River, there are adipose fin-clipped kings, a.ka. “hatchery kings”, and then there are unclipped kings a.k.a. “wild kings”. On the Kasilof in May and June, the wild kings may only be kept on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Another reason to consider fishing Alaska in May is the low angler density. Most sport fishers will wait until July before descending on the Kenai Peninsula. Fewer anglers mean less competition and more river for you. Add in the Kasilof River’s driftboat-only policy and you have a recipe for true peace and quiet. Many days on the Kenai River, you will find only a handful of boats in site.

Another great option for kings in May is to charter a halibut trip out of Ninilchik. Many halibut captains offer combo trips for halibut and kings in May. You can spend some time trolling the inshore saltwater for schools of ocean fresh kings that are headed for the Kenai or Kasilof, and then drop down for some big halibut as well. This combo could make for a great barbecue!

While you are on the river in May, be sure and take your eyes off the water. This month is marked by abundant wildlife that just can’t be seen at busier times of the year. Moose cows are showing their calves the ropes, while bears and eagles eagerly await the return of the fish.

To recap, fishing in May can be a rich experience. Expect good numbers of fish that are fresh and full of fight. Exploit skinny running channels while the river is low, and enjoy the freedom afforded by low angler density.

Jimmie Jack Drath

www.JimmieJackFishing.com

12/16/2009

How to catch Sockeye Salmon on the Kenai River

Red salmon fishing is easy when there are 50,000 plus running by your feet in the middle of July. You gotta be brain dead and on life support not to at least get one on by simply whipping your line through the water just off the bank. So how do you catch them when there are very few passing by, or when you want to get your limit and get back to the campfire? And how do you hook them in the mouth?

I like to use a 9 foot rod whether it is a 9 weight fly rod, or a stiff tip salmon rod. That helps me get a more powerful hookset when I decide to swing the metal into its lips. I always keep my hook sharp. I replace hooks or sharpen them constantly. In the main stem of the Kenai River I use a 4/0 Gamakatsu Octupus hook, and on the Russian I use a Russian river hook (specific size – see the regulations). I place 3 chartreuse 6 millimeter beeds on my 20# test green or clear monofilament leader and tie on my hook. Most of the time I have leaders ready, and use an eggloop knot, but you may find me tying a simple clinch not just to get back in the water. You can break your line easily if you snag the fish in the wrong mouth, like the tail mouth. It’s power can either run you out of line, or you can point your rod at the fish, and hold your reel to break him off.

Okay, so some of you are saying why 20 pound test? You say, “I am a sportsman, and I can land that 8 pound fish with my 5# Stren!” Great! Go for it Mister Wizard. You gotta understand that you are going to fight 6 – 8 knots of current, and one crazy fish with at least of few friends downriver. Well, when your fish strings you out, and you begin to move like a monkey, climbing trees, and passing your rod around your buddies, and running downstream you may think twice. OR& your friends, hoping they are still friends on your 4th trip past them in 20 minutes, may let you know that you’re messing up the fishing for everyone downstream. So just be aware that everyone else is using 30# test, and their drags are set on “stun.” Have fun, and most important, make friends by following the trend of the anglers around you.

I usually place a split shot or twist lock weight about 3 – 4 feet from my hook. The amount of weight will depend on the speed of water you are fishing. You want your weight to lightly tick the bottom as it swings downstream. You will have to adjust your weight accordingly. This is also dependent on the type of swing you are making. First, I find it helpful to figure out where the line of fish are swimming. Red salmon usually follow a beaten path, and you find that path by watching others, or swinging your beads through the water in front of you. Red salmon are found in the water in front of you, about 3 to 10 feet from the bank, depending on the water speed and depth. There is no need for you to cast, and no need to be in past your ankles. Simply pull out some line and flip. The faster the water, the closer they swim, and the tighter line they will run. (There is a big hint here if you want to target them easily) So you definitely do not want to fish the frog water where you see them boiling, unless you just want to snag them in the dorsal fin. The reason you fish them in fast running water is because they will all be facing forward for your presentation, and there will be a constant flow of fish in a line. Too easy right? Absolutely!

Now back to the weight issue. It is important that your terminal tackle enters the water at the same point because of the water speed issue. Then once you get your weight correct, and it is ticking along the bottom you will need to keep your entry point (a matter of degree, and distance from shore) the same. If you do not stay consistent you will continually be struggling to have your weight tick the bottom. It is very important that your weight does not stick on every rock or float above the bottom. The Sockeye are on the bottom. As your weight ticks across the rocks it will eventually be picked up by a Sockeye. It may take it hard, but most likely the fish will just stop your hook. It feels like caught the bottom.

When a red salmon grabs your hook it will just stop your hook on its mouth, and you must JERK like you mean it. Keep your sunglasses on and watch for other anglers. To hook the fish in the mouth you jerk up, and to hook them in the side you jerk sideways. Remember that a snagged fish, or one not hooked in the mouth must be released, or you may run into another friend&the fish and game officer. Remember to bring some extra hooks and weights, pliers, sunglasses, and a hook sharpener before you walk down to the river. Have fun with one of Alaska’s most powerful fighting fish, the Sockeye Salmon!

Rip some lips,

Jimmie Jack

November 3, 2014

“Slaying Kenai Silvers” by Chuck Heath Jr.

Slaying Kenai Silvers
BY LAST FRONTIER MAGAZINE ON NOVEMBER 3, 2014
Photo by Chuck Heath, Jr.With nothing but the sound of slow moving river water lapping at the sides of our securely anchored boat, I found myself beginning to nod off. In a heartbeat, that all changed. “Watch your rod tip!” our guide Jimmie exclaimed.

Instinctively, I reached to pull the rod from its holder. With the tip furiously darting back and forth, I grabbed the rod and gave a mighty jerk. “No!” said Jimmie.

Too late. Whatever was on the end of that line was gone now. In my haste to set the hook, I had ripped it right out of the fish’s mouth.

That’s not the way silver salmon fishing works on the mighty Kenai River. In the next few hours, I would learn the art of patience, and experience the rewards that that patience brings to those who wait.

Like many Alaskans, the impending end of summer can be a bit depressing for me. In mid-August, that familiar feeling started to set in. I’d had a full summer … gold mining, fishing, white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, etc., but as fall began to set in, I found myself trying to squeeze in a few last adventures.

My family grew up fishing the waters of Lynn Canal in Southeast Alaska, the Copper River in Southcentral, and the Talkeetna Mountain drainages of the Matanuska Valley. We occasionally visited the Kenai Peninsula to fish the Russian, Anchor, Moose, and Kenai Rivers, but I was just a kid and my memories of those times are a little hazy. I do remember catching lots of fish, but Dad was usually the one setting the hooks for us and coaching us on how to land them.

I also recall the time as a high school freshman fishing the Russian River with a group of other students. We were combat fishing at the time, i.e. standing shoulder to shoulder with a hundred other fishermen trying our best to keep our lines from tangling with others … not the kind of fishing I was used to or enjoyed. Two of the kids in our group were fishing beside me. When one of them walked back to his tackle box to switch out lures, the other one drew her rod back to cast. Unbeknownst to the “caster,” her hook, a large treble at the end of a Pixie, had embedded itself in the cheek of the other kid. The kid with the pole thought her hook was snagged on one of the tree limbs behind us and started jerking on the line in an attempt to free it. The boy with the hook in his face was in so much pain that he couldn’t even scream! When the happy hooker realized what was happening, she dropped her pole and ran to the friend’s aid. Cutting the line, but leaving the hook where it was, the boy was quickly transported to the local clinic where it was removed.

That’s a fairly common experience in the combat fishing zones of the Peninsula waterways. The Kenai medical clinic actually keeps a life-size felt cutout of a salmon on its wall, on which hangs every hook they’ve removed from unlucky fishermen that season.

But that’s not what this story is about. My wife and I were able to experience a much more exciting (and less painful) type of Kenai fishing trip this last September.

While brainstorming new Alaska adventures, I remembered that an old family friend of ours, Jimmie Drath, operates a sport fishing outfit on the Kenai River. I made contact with Jimmie and asked him if it was worth heading down to the Peninsula this late in the season. I figured that the main salmon runs were probably over by now but Jimmie surprised me by saying that the second run of silvers were in thick, and that they were catching lots of “fatties.” (Anything over twelve pounds is considered “fat.”) He told us to head on down and he’d set us up with a room and a day of fishing. We didn’t hesitate. If “fat” silvers were still running, we were going after them!

On a rainy, mid-September Monday, we loaded our gear and headed down the scenic Seward Highway towards Kenai. Fall colors exploded along the mountainsides. To our left, a few Dall sheep dotted the cliffs above the highway, and on the right, a pod of beluga whales lazily made their way up Turnagain Arm. Abby and I were both struck by the lack of traffic. The summer tourist season was at an end, which made it much easier for us locals to get around. I’ll bet if those tourists could see the beauty of Alaska during the fall, there’d be a lot more of them up here.

After three hours of driving, we pulled up to Jimmie’s business, Jimmie Jack Fishing. Located on the shores of Cook Inlet, his lodge offers gorgeous ocean and mountain views, as well as great food and comfortable beds.

Abby standing by the cabin. Photo by Chuck Heath Jr.
Abby standing by the cabin. Photo by Chuck Heath Jr.
Situated a quarter of a mile from the main lodge, our cabin was a refurbished log structure aptly named, “The Miner’s Cabin.” Although it appeared rustic (but charming) on the outside, the inside was clean, inviting, and provided all the conveniences of home.

After unpacking our gear we headed up the road a few miles to grab a bite to eat. We took a chance and pulled into a new establishment called The Flats Bistro. Overlooking the Kenai Flats, this artsy restaurant was a very pleasant surprise. Great Alaskan food, friendly staff, and an awesome view made for a perfect dining experience.

We returned to our cozy cabin, and after a couple of games of Yahtzee, retired for the night with the sound of light raindrops pitter-pattering on the tin roof.

The next morning, we hustled to pack our gear, grabbed a quick bite, and drove to the Kenai River Launch where we met Jimmie and began our fishing trip.

Let me say this about a quality guiding service: it’s pure luxury! I’ve been fishing my entire life but I’ve never been out with a guide before. I was in for a real treat.

Everything about Jimmie’s outfit is first-class. His boats, manufactured by Willie Boats in Oregon, are considered by many to be the finest on the river. Very stable and smooth, our party of five cruised down the river in comfort. There’s a 50 horsepower motor limit on the Kenai River, and the surprisingly quiet four stroke Yamaha outboard on our boat provided all the power we needed.

The trick to successfully catching fish on the Kenai is in knowing where the fish hang out. That’s why booking a trip with an experienced guide is so critical. The river water is murky … it’s impossible to see the deeper holes and channels where the fish congregate. Years of experience and hundreds of trips on the river (some of Jimmie’s guides will do an excess of eighty trips a season) have given the guides an intimate knowledge of the water. An average fisherman would have a very tough time competing with these guys.

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About a mile down river from our launch site, we anchored the boat and proceeded to be spoiled again. As with everything else in his operation, Jimmie’s fishing equipment is the best in the business. Jimmie personally baited our hooks with his own cured salmon eggs (secret formula; even his guides don’t know how he makes it!). We were using a double hook set-up, with a Spin-and-Glo. A plastic diver was attached a foot and a half up the line to keep our hooks submerged. Once we were baited up, we dropped our lines in the water and let them run out approximately 50 feet. The rods were then placed in rod holders. This is not done for the fisherman’s comfort; it’s done to prevent the inexperienced Kenai salmon fisherman from instinctively jerking the hook out of the fish’s mouth when he first feels the fish hit it.

Kenai silver salmon bite differently than most fish. They’re kind of like a cat on a mouse. They seem to play with it at first … nudging it forward, lightly gumming it, leaving it for a few seconds and then returning to it. As I mentioned, an inexperienced fisherman would probably try to set the hook after the first bump. That’s a mistake with these fish. You have to be very patient and wait for them to actually swallow the bait. You will know when this happens because that’s when it gets really exciting! The Kenai silvers are great fighters. Once the bait is taken, your rod tip is going to severely bend, your reel drag is going to scream, and the fish is going to acrobatically fly into the air in an attempt to throw it.

While we waited for our first strike, Jimmie shared some fishing stories with us and told us a little about his life, too. He’s a very interesting guy. A former world class pole vaulter … he cleared 18’5” and competed in the 1996 Olympic Trials, he obtained his masters degree in counseling and used that knowledge to do missionary work in South America; something he still occasionally does. Jimmie began fishing the Kenai at the age of thirteen, and started his guiding business in 1995. His father, Jim, is a master Kenai fisherman too, and Jimmie hired him as a guide thirteen years ago.

After a fifteen minute wait, Abby got the first big bite. We all watched the tip of her pole bounce up and down while we waited for the fish to swallow the hook. It would take eight separate bites before she hooked her first fish.

The September limit for silvers on the Kenai goes up to three, as opposed to two during the August run. The advantage of fishing for silvers in September, besides the extra fish, is that the second run fish are usually larger, and there are much fewer people on the water.

I was fortunate, I guess, to hook and land the first three fish of our trip, all beauties between nine and twelve pounds. I say, “I guess” because once you’ve caught your limit, you’re required to put your pole away. Oh well, I shouldn’t complain about that! It was still fun watching my boat mates, Abby, Stan, and Meg catch theirs.

For some reason, it took Abby longer to land her first fish. When it finally took the bait, she quickly grabbed the rod from its holder. The fish exploded from the water near the boats stern, and Abby screamed, “What do I do?!”

“Keep that tip tight and reel!” I exclaimed. There’s a fine line between keeping the hook secured in the fish’s mouth and ruining your reel. You want to keep tension on the line, but if you try to horse the reel, you’ll wear it out pretty quickly. The trick is to keep it tight, and when the fish swims towards you giving you a little slack, reel as fast as you can. Abby did everything right and proudly landed the first silver of her life.

The salmon on this river, like most rivers I’ve fished, seem to come up in bunches. You may have an hour of no activity, and then, bam! You can have multiple fish on at the same time. It happened on our trip a couple of times.

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After six hours on the water, everyone had limited out except Abby … she still hadn’t caught her last fish. We stayed anchored in the same hole for another hour, but no luck. It was nearing the end of our eight hour trip so Jimmie pulled anchor and said he wanted to try one last spot before we called it a day.

We boated upstream a mile and headed for the opposite shore. This is where an experienced guide is so helpful. We anchored up very close to shore in an area that looked no different than any other part of the river. Jimmie explained that there was a deep channel here, and he’d had success fishing it in the past.

He baited Abby’s hook and she let her line out. Within a minute, her rod tip furiously bent downwards. We all yelled, “Fish on!” and she started reeling. This fish didn’t surface so none of us got a look at it, but by the bend in Abby’s rod and the grimace on her face, we figured it might be a big one. Jimmie grabbed the net and leaned over the starboard side to wait for the fish. After a long fight, we got our first look at it. “Fatty!” someone yelled. “Holy moly!” I exclaimed.

Even an experienced fishermen like Jimmie was impressed with the size of this fish. “Right on, Abby!” he said as he heaved it into the boat. “That’s the biggest silver we’ve caught on my boat all season.” After a lot of whooping and hollering, Jimmie weighed it. Over seventeen pounds! Now that’s a fatty!

What a perfect way to end a great day on the river! We pulled anchor for the last time and returned to the landing. Once we arrived, we were spoiled again. Jimmie and his father took all of our fish to their cleaning table and filleted them for us. This is definitely a luxury; no one’s ever done that for me before.

I doubt Abby will ever forget her first silver salmon fishing trip … I know I won’t. The pictures we took, her gigantic fillet on the grill and the smile on her face, all made this a lasting memory.

So remember this: just because the summer comes to an end, it doesn’t mean the salmon runs have ended too. Silvers can still be caught into October. Get out there and go for it … but stay away from my fishing hole!

Other services Jimmie’s outfit provides: rainbow trout fishing on the upper Kenai, king salmon on the Kasilof and Kenai, Cook Inlet halibut fishing, and a combination salmon-lingcod-rockfish charter out of Seward. They offer multi-day packages where you can experience all of this. Visit http://www.jimmiejackfishing.com to see all they offer, and be sure to read the testimonials of those who have fished with him.

Story & Photos by Chuck Heath, Jr.

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