Kenai River Fishing Excursions

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Kenai River Fishing Experience?

About the Kenai River:

The Kenai River is one of the most beautiful rivers in the state of Alaska and one of the most prolific salmon and trout fishing rivers in the world.

The Kenai Peninsula has nearly unlimited sport fishing options, from halibut and lingcod to salmon and trout, the area is encompassed in water and that water is teeming with life.

The Kenai River is home to 4 of the 5 species of Pacific Salmon and holds the world record king salmon at nearly 100 lbs!

With that many salmon comes incredible trout fishing as well, the salmon eggs and flesh are consumed by the trout every year, getting them to incredible sizes!

An image of a fisherman releasing a fish back into the Kenai River.
An image of a fisherman releasing a fish back into the Kenai River.

Fishing the Kenai River:

The Kenai River starts at the bottom of Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing, which is fed by glacial runoff.  The river flows over 80 miles before it enters the North Pacific in the town of Kenai.  The Kenai river also passes through a large body of water called Skilak Lake, in Sterling Alaska,  which is almost 20 miles downstream of Kenai Lake, bordering Skilak is the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. 

The river then flows freely for another 30 miles before entering the saltwater, 400 feet of elevation change from Kenai Lake to the ocean provides a swift current and fun boating along the way. 

The “upper river” refers to the section of the Kenai that is between Kenai Lake and Skilak Lake, “middle river” refers to the section between Skilak Lake and the Sterling Highway bridge, the Lower Kenai is everything downstream of the highway.  The Kenai river has several major tributaries, Funny River, Moose River and the Russian River are a few of the larger bodies of water that come to join the Kenai River. 

kenai river drift fishing
salmon fillets
kenai river fishing in the fall

Seasons of the Kenai River:

June is the start of most angling opportunities on and around the Kenai River, trout season opens and the weather improves to the point where we start thinking about trout and salmon fishing again.  June is a great time for king salmon, they are first to return to their home rivers usually starting in May.  Fish are right out of the ocean in June and are as fresh as they get!

Trout fishing in June can be a great time of year to fish dry flies, streamers and mouse patterns, nymphing is also an effective technique for trout before the salmon show up.

Before they are distracted by eggs in the fall, Alaskan Rainbow Trout are truly carnivorous eating baby salmon, lamprey, sculpin and even terrestrial rodents!

There are several bug hatches that occur in the month of June and the weather warms to provide a great opportunity to throw dry flies to rising trout, stoneflies, caddis and mayflies are all present in different systems.

 July is the nicest weather month of the Alaskan summer and provides the best opportunity for bringing caught and processed salmon home with you.

Both king salmon and sockeye salmon are available during the month of July and offer great table fare.  King salmon fishing regulations vary by year and season, these days it’s common for kings to be closed even during prime season, so checking up to date regulations can be useful before going fishing or booking a charter.

The Kenai River flourishes as it fills with sockeye in July and the value of the fishery is truly disclosed as banks line with anglers to fill coolers and bring this delicious source of protein back to the lower 48 states.

August marks the start of silver season and the annual salmon egg drop, resulting in epic trout and dolly varden fishing.

Sockeye salmon are still running strong at the beginning of August but king season has come to a close.

Alaskan steelhead also begin to return to the coastal streams during the month of August but peak months later.

The trout and silver fishing are the major draw during this month and offer a great opportunity for fly fishing. Silvers in the Kenai reach great size, some up to 15 lbs.

September marks the beginning of fall and all-out trout and steelhead mayhem!

The leaves are turning colors and we’re transitioning into cooler shorter days.  Dead and dying salmon line the banks of the rivers and silvers remain the only edible salmon left in the river systems.

frozen kenai river
fall steelhead
kasilof river
october silver salmon
kenai steelhead
alaska rainbow trout

October is Big Trout and Steelhead!

Trout have gorged all fall on eggs and flesh.

October signifies the onset of winter, the days get shorter, the temperatures start to drop below freezing, but with that the number of anglers and boats drastically decreases and the trout fishing is only now peaking!

Trout don’t get any bigger than they do during the month of October, all of the salmon that have entered the river will be consumed by something, bears, eagles, and especially rainbow trout.  Kenai trout gain so much girth through the season they appear to be as big around as they are long by October.

Alaska Salmon fishing is mostly over by this time but some fresh silver salmon remain in the rivers until the end of the year.

Steelhead have been entering the river for the last two months and are in their highest targetable numbers of the season.  Alaskan Steelhead winter in the rivers and lakes and are targetable as long as the weather is tolerable, the smaller coastal creeks of Alaska close sooner than the onset of winter and regulations should be used as a reference.

fat fall trout
fall steelhead and salmon

Photos from our Kenai River Fishing Adventures

An image from an Alaskan fishing adventure with Outgoing Angling.
kenai late fall
An image of fly fishing on the Kenai river.