Spring sport fishing fix: How and where to sport fish this spring

A nice rainbow alongside Kody Frantz's fly fishing reel. Photo credit: Kody Frantz

Spring is starting to look a lot like summer in the Anchorage area, giving avid Alaskan fisherman the shakes for some long awaited reel time. The majority of sport fishing in Alaska takes place on rivers and tributaries over the summer. All of the salmon species take their turn crowding the currents of the Kenai River and Little Susitna River, as well as many others during summer months. Although, late May seems like so far away for some fishing fools in Alaska.

“I’ve been fishing all winter as well,” Shane Hertzog, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) employee said. “If fish need to be caught, they contact me.”

Hertzog grew up fishing in Alaska and said in the dead of winter, his slowest week still means fishing two times a week all day. Places like Sand Lake, Jewel Lake, and Little Campbell Lake are all Anchorage locations Hertzog hits during the spring.

“Ice-out is a great time to fish lake trout, they like getting out from under the ice and moving around,” Hertzog said. “If I’m fishing grayling, I usually fish the parks highway tributaries, the lakes we stock are hit or miss, but I almost always catch them in the rivers.”

Hertzog touched on some upper Kenai River spots for fishing monster spring rainbows up until May 2 when season closes for spawning. According to Hertzog, the Kenai Lake bridge to either side is always filled with casting lines. The water stays open all year where the lake flows into the river creating a huge crowd of fisherman.

“Concentrate all your efforts on the mouths of the rivers. That’s where they are gonna be, as far as lakes go, any open water. That’s where the fish will bite,” Hertzog said.

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Fly or spinning rod can both be successful in the rivers, according to UAA student and geology major Kody Frantz. Frantz recently got his captain’s license from the coast guard to begin guiding at Sportsman’s Lodge this summer. Frantz has been fishing the rivers of Alaska since he can remember and is an avid fly fisherman.

“I started tying my own flies to save money but the satisfaction of catching fish with your own gear is something special,” Frantz said.

Kody Frantz takes a photo with his Rainbow Trout before releasing it back into the Kenai River. Photo credit: Kody Frantz

Tying ones own flies was something Frantz emphasized as importance to your spring fishing results. Being able to establish what works best in familiar locations and creating flies to match what the rainbows are eating can increase chances of success on the river.

Frantz spends time on the Kenai River and Russian River during the winter and spring time fishing rainbows.

“20-30 inches is a good sized fish for the Kenai,” Frantz said. “Fishing is just something you have to love to do in order to be successful.”

Frantz openly offered up a few of his own favorite spring locations to fish, such as the mouth of Skilak Lake and what he calls the “guardrail hole” near the mouth of Kenai Lake.

Stopping by a local sports store, such as Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse are great places for advice on what gear to buy and what type of lures or flies can be effective.

Dale Hunter, an active Kenai Lake fisherman landed two 20-plus inch rainbows near the Kenai Lake bridge using stone flies. Hunter said that earlier in the week he had success on a store bought stone fly, but the hook was a little large for the mouths of the rainbows he was catching. Hunter went home and tied his own stone flies and achieved added success.

“I usually fish 3-4 days out of the week and these [stone flies] seem to be what’s working in the peninsula,” Hunter said.

These avid fisherman all had their own slightly separate fishing must-haves, but three of them seemed to always be necessary. One for certain was a camera to take pictures of their catch and release trophies. The next must-have mentioned by all three fisherman was chest waders to be better able to walk out — very carefully — into the river in order to reach the deepest holes. Lastly, the third must-have item was a few cold beers to celebrate the day’s catch with good friends.

As the school semester winds down, some students who may not be able to stay in Alaska for the summer can hit up some of these fishing hot spots. Contrary to popular belief, some fisherman will share their secrets. They enjoy watching others be successful in an attempt to cultivate growth of the sport. ADF&G advocates for this belief and encourages you to make a trip to their offices in Anchorage before making a journey to the lakes and rivers. Fishing can be dangerous if people aren’t aware of where to be and where not be and stopping by their offices will alleviate some of the stresses as well as provide the tips that could make it a more successful and exciting fishing trip.