End of the Rainbow–“Winter Wonderland”

“…the snow is here, but never fear, the Rainbows didn’t seem to mind, at least the big ones didn’t!  With one more tank of gas left to burn up, I hit the snowy river and gave it one last shot.  I’m glad I did, really glad.  Early on I hooked into one of the biggest rainbows of my life and had a ball fighting it to the boat.  Shortly afterward, I had one hit hard that just about spooled me, all the way down to the backing as I drifted sideways downriver!  I started the boat up and chased this one up river a bit, then I sat back and watched this beautiful trout dance on the water and jump several times before joining me for a photo op.  As if that wasn’t thrilling enough, on my very next pass I hooked into the biggest one I’ve ever caught in my life.  It came to the boat a half dozen times, took one look at me, and screamed back upriver and away.  I finally managed to bring her close enough for a smile and a kiss before sending her back to the river for winter.  Hope to meet her again next year!”
Fishing the Kenai River for Fall RainbowsKenai River fall Rainbow Trout fishingCatch & Release Rainbow Trout fishing on the Kenai RiverJim's Biggest Rainbow Trout on the Kenai River Fall 2006

October 21, 2006–“One for the Mama”

“…it’s not over till…well, you know, till the Mama catches a big fat trout.  Look at this one, the larger of two very nice fish caught on my float plan, my fishing pole, my rigging, by my wife.  Arggghhh, I should have taken her up on her offer to let me fish for a while, but I knew there were big fish lurking, and I like a happy crew.  This was the day for it.  Drifting the Kenai under warmish blue skies on a late late fall day, no wind, and everyone on board for a family fishing adventure–even Rondy-boy our lab.  It was pretty uneventful at first, except for Taylor’s big catch (shown below), but after we roasted some hot dogs and ate some Grandpa cookies things seemed to heat up a bit.  The captain declared that we weren’t going home until the Mama and Jillian each caught a trout, and for a moment it looked like that may take all day into the night, but then a quick double header that turned into a double rainbow!  Nice fish, Jillian’s for the fry pan, and Mama’s was released, a medium sized brightly colored Rainbow Trout.  Then, it was time for the dreaded last drift of the day, and I decided to make it a short one, through a patch of river where the sun was still lighting up the water, and wham, this monster hit the Mama’s line and the fight began.  Well, it was kind of anticlimactic at first, as I underestimated the fish which was hunkering down and not showing itself.  Aniticipating that this was the last fish of the day, and possibly the season, I encouraged each of the kids to take the pole and fight it for a bit, giving them all a taste of the action.  Then, the Mama said ‘I think it’s a big one!’, and I saw it roll, and holy wah! it was a big one.  So I got the net out.  I started to sweat a little.  Then I saw my opportunity and was barely able to slide the net under the beast and fit him in it.  He measured around 32″ and was very girthy, and had a fat lower lip, indicating that he’d been caught and released a time or two before.  He posed nicely for a few pictures, then went back from whence he came to recuperate and prepare for the long winter ahead in Skilak Lake.  Hope to meet him again someday, you’d never forget his face!”

Cindy and a trophy Rainbow catch from the Kenai River
Releasing a Kenai River Trophy Rainbow Trout
Cindy's 1st Kenai River Rainbow Trout, October 2006

October 21, 2006–“First Fish of the Day!”

“…size doesn’t matter so much, especially when your a 5 year old young man and you have bragging rights over your twin brother, big sisters, your mom AND your dad, for the first fish of the day!  Just look at Taylor James and how proud he is of this fine Kenai River Rainbow Trout that he insisted we dispatch and serve him on a platter!  He was smilin’ and shoutin’ the whole time as he reeled in this fish, saying ‘I caught the first fish, look Dad, I caught the first fish!’  A very nice way to start ANY day.  You made Daddy proud TJ.”

Taylor James and his fine Kenai River Rainbow Trout

October 17, 2006–“Biggest Ever”

“…shortly after a hearty Moose Bratwurst, potato and fried egg breakfast on the Kenai River this morning, when I heard Gabe (a friend visiting from Portland, Oregon who works for Mountain Hardware and was up visiting Walter’s store Wilderness Way here in Soldotna) say he was down to the backing on his fly line, I knew he was into a nice fish–exactly the one we had rolled out of bed for at 0630.  I’d seen it splash a little on takeoff, and it looked like it had some size, but watching his line scream upriver I was certain it was either a Silver Salmon or one of the legendary huge Kenai River Rainbows…and Gabe couldn’t have smiled bigger when he saw it was the latter as it came close to the boat on one of several runs over the twenty minute battle.  On one run this behemoth ran for the prop, but Gabe saved it just in time as the fight raged on.  While you can usually, eventually yard in just about any trout you catch here, even on a #5 fly pole like Gabe’s, a big one like this takes quick action at the wheel, using techniques more similar to fighting a Kenai River King Salmon than a Rainbow.  Measuring approximately 36 inches, and weighing an estimated 15 pounds, this is one for all of our memories, and top of the list in Gabe’s record book.  Several other Rainbows, Dolly Varden and Arctic Char, like the one seen here caught by Walter, rounded out a nice morning on the river–hopefully not the last of the season afterall!”

Gabe's huge Kenai River Rainbow Trout
One of the Kenai River trophy Rainbow Trout, October 2006
Walter's Arctic Char on the Kenai RiverBreakfast on the Kenai River

October 14, 2006–“Silvers Sustaining”

“…with a cool, clear day to rake leaves, build a campfire, and get ready for winter, Jillian and I found that there are still a few big, fresh Silvers to be caught here on the Kenai.  This beauty was reeled in slowly by Jillian, as if she wanted the memory to last all winter.  Her brothers & sister all got to watch as she brought it to the boat 3 times and saw it splash and jump and make another run.  Finally, she said “Dad, we better put it in the net so we can cook it on the campfire!”  And we did.  Roasted over the coals as the sun faded on the horizon, the ending of a nice fall day.  Almost perfect.  We seasoned the fillets with olive oil, lemon pepper, garlic, and seasoning salt, roasted it on a rack above the coals, and then glazed it in the end with a Chipotle Mustard Barbeque sauce that we whipped up for the occasion.  This Silver Salmon will sustain us both in our bellies and memories as we drift into winter.”

Jillian's Silver Salmon, October 14, 2006
Sunset, October 14, 2006, 7:00pm

October, 2006–“Taylor’s 1st Grouse!”

“…we interrupt this fishing report with an emergency hunting update!  Taylor James, at age 5, shot his 1st Grouse of his life with Grandma’s .410 shotgun (with Daddy holding, but Taylor’s eye down the barrel).  It was a great shot, at about 50 paces, and the bird was down immediately.  Never before have I seen such unbridled, raw, energetic enthusiasm!  Taylor ran to the bird, jumping up and down the whole way (no exaggeration), shouting “I got him, I got him!”.  The bird flopped just as Taylor approached and he reeled around and started running back to me with a look of fear over his shoulder hoping the bird wasn’t now chasing him!  What a great way to start his hunting career.  Taylor-1, Birds-0.  Stay tuned for more, I think he’s hooked.  Brother Cooper James can’t be more than two minutes behind too.”

Taylor's 1st Grouse

October 9, 2006–“Rainbow Wonderland”

“…imagine a river with Salmon-sized Rainbows, no crowd, and fall leaves blowing in a Chinook wind…a real Rainbow Wonderland!  With snow capped mountains in the distance, and the blue green water of the Kenai all around, we drifted the Kenai River and hooked into some more beautiful bows, but with the weekend over, the crowd was gone, and for the first few hours we had this Rainbow Wonderland all to ourselves.  Memories of summer become kindling for winter days by the fireplace.”

Kenai River Rainbow Beauty

Rainbow Wonderland---Just Plain Fun

October 7, 2006–“River of Rainbows”

“…I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t lived it myself.  My pal Stavros (that’s Steve for you non Greeks out there) and I had to go check out the Rainbow & Dolly fishing up by Skilak Lake after seeing Mark’s big Bows yesterday, just to make sure he wasn’t stretching things a bit if you know what I mean.  Sure enough, the fish were there, and hungry for our secret potion, well it wasn’t a potion at all, but I can’t tell you what we used because you aren’t staying here at Kenai Riverfront right now!   There, that’s some incentive to book the B&B or Rental Motorhome or Rental Boat, eh?  Anyway, we had an awesome day, even with the rain, wind and snow dusted mountains; and, we caught more Rainbows & Dollies than we could begin to count.  I had three monster Rainbows break off my line and jump to show me their size, as if to say, nice try pal, but I did land this nice Dolly and Steve landed countless beautiful Rainbows and Dollies.  Obviously he’s done alot of fishing on those Greek Islands in Seward :).  Get Hooked, eh!?!

Jim & Dolly
Steve & Rainbow

October 6, 2006–“Gold at the End of The Rainbow”

“…Mark described it as the best day of Rainbow fishing ever at his “secret” spot on the Kenai River.  Scroll down, refocus your eyes, and you’ll see what he means!  This is the world famous Kenai River, and Rainbow’s like this are what make this river golden.  Good Fishin’ Mark, save some for us tomorrow, eh!”

Mark Cohen's Littlest Rainbow!

October 6, 2006–“The Fish are Waiting for You!”

“…our friend Steve arrived from Seward where he owns the best Greek & Italian Restaurant on the entire Kenai Peninsula (or anywhere in Alaska IMHO) Greek Islands, and his first Silver was hooked almost as soon as he showed up! 😉  Another was soon to follow…and even though the rain was pouring down on the fall foilage, a great time was still had here on the Kenai River.  We had the river to ourselves, not another boat to be seen from Beaver Creek to Poacher’s Cove!”

Steve Bangos Silver Salmon, Kenai River, NOT Seward!
Steve's #2 Silver, another fine Kenai River Hen!


September 3, 2006–“Big Kenai Silvers Are Here!”

“…the much anticipated second run of Kenai River Silvers, aka “The Super Silvers” have finally arrived…good news & bad I guess, since that means hibernation isn’t far off either. 🙁  The camp girls landed a couple nice one’s as you see here, both caught on spinners fair & square.”

Kenai River Super Silvers

(We apologize for the gap in our Kenai River Fishing Report, we’ve been so busy catching fish that we haven’t had time to update it between July 16-September 1st, we’ll get to it this winter during hibernation!!)

July 17, 2006–“First Oklahoma King”

“…not to be outdone, Henry’s best half, Laurie, found herself sunning on the bow of the boat today as we drifted the Sonar bluffs with fresh cured Salmon Roe as bait (though Laurie herself was likely the lure that caused the ensuing commotion), when all of a sudden without warning a huge Kenai River King Salmon took the bait and made here reel sing, her pole bend, and her body shake!  The fight was on! And, dinner would soon be served (see photo below for Cedar Planked King Salmon). Before it was over we’d see this King jump clear out of the water, run under the boat, and do just about everything to get off the line.  At one point we had to hand her pole over the canopy as she raced from bow to stern to get into a better position for landing the behemoth.  Her husband and son (Zack, who caught a smaller version of the King not long afterward–see photo–) were both on deck to help Mom hold it together!  She did great, especially for an Oke who had never seen such a fish.  Way to go, come back and do it again soon!” **Note**While Henry is actually holding the fish, the record should clearly reflect that it was his fair maiden who caught it!**

Laurie's Big Kenai King
Penix Family King on the Kenai River
King is Served!

Zach's Kenai River King Salmon

July 16, 2006–“First Sockeye Salmon”

“…there’s something special about that first Sockeye Salmon, or the first time you catch any Alaska Salmon, you’ll never forget it.  You’ll remember who was with you, the way the fish fought, and if something crazy happens like you drop the fish in the water after you catch it.  Now, that didn’t happen here, but what did happen was truly awesome.  Henry and his wife Laurie, visiting from Tulsa, OK, came by for a quick taste of Red fishing on our bank, after a long day of indoor activity, it was time to experience the refreshing power of the Kenai River.  It didn’t take long till the two of them had their lines in sync, flipping up river, then drifting downriver, right along shore, hoping for the promising strike of a salmon.  Now here’s a guy & gal on their first trip to Alaska, on the ground for just a day or so, thinking they can just walk down and catch a Red Salmon. Pretty bold, eh?  Well, you’ve gotta have faith, and it turned out to be Henry’s destiny to catch his first Alaska Salmon tonight, and he fulfilled it nicely.  The strong Sockeye raced out into the swift current immediatly after Henry hooked it, and would run several more times, as all the while another guest had a digital camera capturing the ENTIRE play by play of the catch. With just seconds to spare on the camera’s time limit, friend Scott Romain slipped the net under the fish and the gig was up.  Then came the celebration, first the photos, then the Sashimi and Cajun blackened fillet, a smoked salmon caesar salad, a song about fishing in Alaska to dine by, and bliss.  Can’t wait to see Laurie catch that first King Salmon on Tuesday…”

Henry Penix 1st Red Salmon
Sashimi Time!
Dinner Bell!

July 8, 2006–“Bare Naked Hen!”

“…what a beautiful evening for a quiet Kenai River Dinner Cruise/Salmon Fishing adventure with friends.  After running out of fresh eggs several days earlier, we resorted to fishing a bare naked spin-n-glo recently named “Bud’s Big Bite”, and while “Lady Blacktail” took the first hit, resulting in a line break caused by an untimely knot on a fresh spool of line, it was the bare naked approach that took the proverbial hook, line & sinker as Walter battled this bright 40 pound hen–a welcome relief to our egg famine in camp!  The bold hen swam dangerously close to the “can opener”, a big swirling rock patch known to slice open boats, but Team Ward-Nelson managed to stay calm and bring the fish to the net.  With lines all over the boat (Walter was mid-way through repairing the bad spool when the fish hit), we went to work restoring order to the vessel before heading back upstream.  Not long after getting back on step, our engine failed and we faced the unsettling “dead boat drift” down the clipping Kenai River….since I’m writing this you can assume we all survived…and the rest of the story will be told by campfire.”

Walter's nice Hen

July 2, 2006–“Big Buck Beauty”

“…in true form, like she’s done so many times before, queen of the Riverfront Cindy bounced some eggs for just a moment down at the pasture, a couple hours before high tide, and hooked into the biggest fish of the year.  How is it that the rest of us fish for hours and hours for a chance at a hookup of any fish, while she just lures them in with one drop in the water?  This Big Buck Beauty will feed us all well for some time to come, and was just shy of being a wall hanging.”

Cindy's 55 lb Kenai River King Salmon
Cindy's King Salmon
Cindy's 55 pound Kenai King Salmon
Cindy's King

June 30–“Just 55 Minutes More…”

“…with the slot limit set to expire at 12:00 midnight on June 30, Scott M. hooked into a monster King at 51 inches and had to let it go at 11:05 pm.  This King smacked one of our favorite plugs just above Kenai Riverfront near the island and took us for a ride downriver.  Here’s one of the only photos we were able to capture of this beauty before she slipped away…nice fight Scott, better luck will come the next time you meet the Kenai face to face.”

Scott's King Salmon Release

June 28–“Success of the King”

“…the morning started perfectly, with a slow rising sun on the turquoise clear waters of the Kenai, and few boats in our neighborhood as they all seemed to be downriver chasing the tide.  We took two passes and hooked these two nice Kings, a 1st Kenai Kings for both Dan & Jim from down south where the rivers of traffic are more common than rivers of fish like these. Welcome to the Kenai men!  It’s good to be King, eh?”


June 27–“Boys & Trout”

“…the trout were all over this morning, and a couple of keepers sacrificied themselves for our panfry breakfast.  Scott & Jim caught these nice ones, and Taylor & Cooper had a good time showing them off too!”

June 27–“Camp John”

“…after graciously letting quite a few Kings go to the kids and others, it was time for John to hang a King on the King pole.  This nice fresh King will be good eating, giving John the super human strength that will be required to land his big one in July…watch out Kenai Kings, Camp John is on the water!”

John Herrle's first Kenai King of 2006

June 25–“Karen & Kennan the King”

“…it’s good to be the King, Kennan would agree, but it’s also good to see the Queen catch the King, which is EXACTLY what Karen did today!  On our last drop, fishing near Big Eddy, Karen smacked this King around until it willingly came into the boat.  This fish would become the most photographed fish of the season as Kennan & Karen Ward, both highly acclaimed wildlife photographers (and fishermen) let the megapixels fly in some of the most creative photography we’ve ever seen.  What a treat to fish you guys, nice fish, beautiful fish.”

Karen Ward's Kenai River King Salmon

Jim & Karen with her beautiful Kenai River King Salmon

June 15–“Kenai King Lovers”

“…what started out as a rain drenched adventure, turned into another happy ending for these Kenai King lovers, Jay & Tracy, renting a boat, and now holding the title of “First Fish of the Season from a Rental Boat”, though they’re still out fishing in broad daylight at 10:30pm and this might not be the only one caught tonight at their hands.  Stranded in a gully washer just this afternoon, checking into the B&B Suite just so they could strip and jump in the Sauna to stave off hypothermia, they are now officially “Friends of Kenai Riverfront”, at least we think so.  With the opportunity to go back out, and some fresh eggs in hand, as well as hand picked colors and riggings, they hit a King as we fished side by side, even before I could get that lucky.  It was more than luck for them, even though we all know the boats with a gal on board outperform the male contingents on this river of dreams, it was shear perseverance and desire.”

Tracy & Jay, Kenai King Lovers

June 13–“Chilkoot Gold & Kenai Chinook”

“…Bob & Doug McKenzie (aka Keith & Ross) took a road trip sojourn from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and joined us for a great day on the Kenai, in search of the Kings this glacial fed river is so famous for.  They weren’t singin’ the blues for long, after each of them had their chance at fighting a Kenai King, but Ross sent his back in hopes of a bigger one, leaving Keith to keep the “insurance” fish to make sure the family back home got a taste of fresh Kenai Salmon.  The boys will have to come back to finish the job, since the big ones didn’t cooperate today…next year…next month…soon we hope, thanks for a great day on the water laced with smarties, Chilkoot Gold, and Old Dutch Ketchup Chips, very nice, eh?!”

Keith Clarke  of Yukon with Kenai King Salmon

June 11–“First Red Salmon Success”

“…if there was a fish in the river, we knew he’d catch it!  John H. from Oregon, in camp for the summer, hit the bank earlier this morning and cashed in on the first red salmon of the season, and the first in recent time from those jet propelled first run fish headed for the Russian River upstream!  He fished alone.  He fought alone.  But we’re all cheerin’ now.  He walked the fish down from mid bank to the boat launch since he didn’t have anyone to net it.  Thankfully, the water is rising and made a natural landing up the launch…great work John!”

June 8–“Sweet Spot”

“…back on the water today, with Kennan and Walter, plying the early morning glacial blue waters of the Kenai, searching for a world class King.  After trying several of our favorite and most productive stretches of river nearby, we finally returned to ‘The Sweet Spot’.  A quick cup of coffee, a toss of the thermos, and wham! FISH ON….way to go Walter!”  At 42 inches, it slipped in just under the 44 inch slot and hit the fish table, yielding a bounty of fresh fillets & fresh eggs to cure for more fishing in the coming weeks.  ‘The Sweet Spot’ comes through again…”

Photos Courtesy of Kennan Ward, Please visit his website for some of world’s finest Wildlife photos.

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