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Additional Reading About Alaskan Kings;

Posted 03-16-2017 at 01:10 PM by Ard Stetts

Larry posted this article to AK. general Discussions: https://www.adn.com/alaska-life/we-a...i-king-salmon/

If you were to read that it may provide some context for something I wrote into a PM to send to another member. The writing below refers to part of my own experiences on different rivers.


The article about the kings in the Kenai & Kasilof Rivers pretty much details what has happened all over Alaska. Every season, whether I am fishing alone or have a couple guys out trying for kings I am in a competition with a fleet of large guide boats I call The Meat Fleet. This fleet consists of at least 5 and sometimes 6 boats all outfitted with seats and gear for up to 6 passengers maximum but they generally have five. The meat fleet guides are all making money and pretty big money at that. They host day trippers, most people who buy a ticket are half day trips. For the boat operators this is really good. Half day means you launch at 5:30 AM and are done at 11:45. At 11:45 the boats all return to the launce and pick up the afternoon customers.

Seats on the boats run 150.00 on average and each boat generally has 5 people plus the 'Guide' on board on every trip up the river. Just like the article described, each person is there for one reason, to catch a king and take it with them when they get back to the launch. The guides know every resting spot of the fish as they make the 100 mile trip up this river and they jockey for position and first presence in each pool or run.

When the boats are fully booked the guide is grossing $1500 / day and they work seven days a week during the king returns. For the most part they tolerate me and the 2 Spey rod guys I have with me a couple days each week. But it is obvious they would love it if I were to disappear. I know the drill and I tell anyone fishing with me to arrive at the boat launch at 4:30 AM so that I can get them up river and on a good run before the Meat Fleet launches at 5:30. Because the fly guys are C & R fishing I tend to keep them on one run if I've picked a good spot and that effectively locks up that spot, that would be why (if any) of the meat boats resent my being on the river.

When the fishing is good a meat boat will limit out in a couple hours. Do that twice a day and each boat takes 10 Kings from the fishery. Multiply the take by 5 boats and they may average 40 fish each day. Of course there are outer less successful guides who only have 3 people aboard but they too are there to see the paying customer take a king. I am presenting an average of 40 fish per day in an effort to be fair, allowing that not every customer is successful but when the bite is on they have a very high success rate I think it's safe to say.

I had a nice chat with a younger fellow who operates a meat service last year. It was during this chat that he learned that for all the years he had been seeing me and those guys with the really long rods that no one had ever killed a fish. He had always wondered he said, because we always stayed out from early morning until well past his last trip of the day. He was actually surprised that there were people who would pay just to fish and not require that I kill and fillet the fish they caught.

Of course there is also a huge monetary gulf between our days and he had ask about that. I charge 450.00 for two anglers for a day. We leave by 5 AM and we return when they say they are ready, sometimes this means we fish until 6 PM. We do lunch and on long days I do move them from run to run, usually around noon while the meat boats are down river picking up their second set of fares.

Every year it is harder for me, every year there are fewer fish, but every year the meat fleet is there and if you talk abundance of fish? To a man they will point the finger at Fish & Game and the commercial fisheries. Not once has anyone ever suggested they may be killing off all the largest of the brood stock themselves for the sake of money.

Harkening from that article Larry posted, 2 years ago I was scouting a day in advance of a trip. I had two guys wanting to catch a king the next day so I went out to see what I could find. When I have anglers on the river I am not allowed to fish due to regulations. So..... I stop at a favorite run and tie on this huge blue & black Intruder that a guy had given to me. I made a single cast across and swung the fly down past a downed spruce tree and I got a fish on the line.

Almost half an hour later and over 150 yards down river I finally dragged the male into a soft water eddy. Besides the size of the fish what made this memorable was that it was in full spawning color, being deep red from massive head to tail. All I have are blurry shots but below is the tail grasp by my left hand.
Click the image to open in full size.

For a sense of scale I can tell you that the left hand holding the fish can still palm a basketball, it is a truly large paw. I estimate the fish to be a fair 50 pound and possibly a bit more. I've weighed enough 35 - 45 pound fish to know when I'm looking at something larger so I was happy that it was a very good fish for that river.

What makes that worth mentioning? The date was June 14th and that fish was in full color. This would mean that this particular salmon had entered the river in the earliest days of may to have attained the full change in color and morphology by mid June. It is not the first early king I've ever seen there but now I begin fishing for them myself about a week after ice out because I know they are there. The numbers are low but you are fishing for the largest fish that may come on any given year. The only good news is that if a meat boat were to catch a totally turned fish the guide may advise the happy customer that the meat may be past its prime. There is always the chance a 60 pounder will get bonked just for a trophy but I like to hope they go uncaught.

That is the largest king I've ever caught. Hard to land, almost too large for the salmon net I dragged with me as I fumbled my way down the river following him and I was using an 11'6" seven weight rod. I had no idea I would hook anything that size. How big? I estimate 50 because that's safe I left him go and had no way to weigh a live fish of that size.

On the Kenai they killed them whether they were "dime bright" or blood red, a king is a king has been the rule there since I first fished it in 1989.

Anyway since you commented on the article I figured to send you this story to go with

Ard[/QUOTE]
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