Fishing the Kasilof River for hatchery king salmon.


The Kasilof River often lives in the shadow of the adjacent mighty Kenai River, while the Kenai contains the largest genetics for king salmon in the world, the fish in the Kasilof are a close second.  The Kasilof river is now one of the only hatchery supplemented rivers on the Kenai Peninsula.  The supplementation of hatchery raised kings (chinook) allows us to target and retain hatchery kings but its also helping to rebuild wild stocks as well.


The season opens mid May, annually and will go through the month of July until it closes August 1st.  During years of low abundance Alaska Department of Fish and Game will commonly close king fishing or alter the regulations to reflect the low numbers of return.  The state issues what are called “Emergency Orders” which alter our regulations literally overnight.   


How do you tell the difference between a wild or hatchery raised chinook?  Adipose fin!  The hatchery fish have their adipose fin clipped off before they are released into the river.  Just like a wild fish the juveniles spend some time in the river before out-migrating to the ocean.  They then spend several years in the ocean, three to five on average and the longer they stay out the bigger they return.  The Kenai and Kasilof Rivers have the biggest king salmon in the world because of the genetic triat that keeps them out at sea longer than the average chinook, up to 7 years.  


These hatchery fish are almost indistinguishable from their wild cousins except for the adipose fin clip.  They often don’t attain the same size as wild fish but the color, taste and texture of their meat is identical to that of a wild fish.  People often confuse hatchery fish with farm raised salmon and they couldn’t be any more different.  Hatchery fish have only had help coming to exist, they are raised to a fingerling juvenile and then are essentially a wild fish for the next several years, diet and all.  Farm raised salmon are stuck in pens and have an unnatural diet and migration pattern, this leads them to have less desirable taste as well as appearance to their flesh.  Wild king salmon must be released unharmed immediately and must not be fully removed from the water, as stated by Alaska Fish and Game.


Hatchery King Salmon are targeted the same as wild fish on the Lower Kasilof River, this is a back trolled drift boat fishery.   We use conventional tackle and a variety of different lures to target these chinook salmon.  From the drift boat lines are sent out to work in the current as the boat sits stationary or almost stationary in its position on the river.  Bait, when we are allowed to use it is a great advantage over an unbaited lure.  Salmon eggs or skein is often the bait of choice for most boats while targeting kings, plugs with a sardine wrap are another favored lure.


The Kenai River is sadly closed indefinitely to king salmon fishing and retention for the foreseeable future.  The river still receives around ~14,000 late run kings annually but that’s a small portion of its historic returns.  With that, our attention has shifted to the Lower Kasilof River where angling opportunities as well as foraging opportunities still exist. 


Come fish with us on the Kasilof River!