by Klondike Kid
Salmon Viewing Opportunities on the Kenai Peninsula
Salmon is the name of the game in Alaska. And nearly every river and stream on the Kenai Peninsula which is connected to the sea supports some or all of the salmon species found here.
Most spawning areas are closed to fishing so check the fishing regulations closely before attempting to fish in any area.
1) If you are driving down from Anchorage to the Peninsula, the first place to stop is right outside of town at the Potter Marsh Observation area. A small run of King salmon enter the outlet of Rabbit Creek from Cook Inlet and move through the marsh and up the creek to spawn. Fish can often be seen milling around in the waters right next to the highway.
2) Next stop along the Seward highway would be Portage River located at the end of Turnagain Arm. This glacier fed river supports a run of sockeye salmon in late July and August. Several viewing areas are available as well as kiosk type information boards explaining the life cycle of this particular species. It is a clear water stream that provides good picture taking. Use a polarized filter on your camera to cut the glare and enhance the colors of these brightly colored fish. In their spawning colors they will have green heads with scarlet red bodies and are the most colorful of the spawning salmon.
3) If you are heading to Seward, Trail Lakes Hatchery is a private, non-profit operated facility located on Moose Creek immediately adjacent to Upper Trail Lake. It is here that the Bear Lake coho begin their life cycle prior to begin returned to Bear Lake. Tours of the hatchery are available.
4) Moose Creek runs under, and is immediately adjacent to, the Seward Highway at Mile 32.5. There is a turnout and an interpretive Forest Service sign explaining the life cycle of sockeye salmon which spawn here. These fish, which have reached this area via the Kenai and Trail rivers, are usually present in August.
5) Ptarmigan Creek crosses the Seward Highway at Mile 23.1. This creek supports spawning sockeye and King salmon. Feel free to photograph thes fish, but remember that fishing for adult salmon is closed in these types of tributary spawning streams.
6) Grouse Creek is a small stream that runs adjacent to the Seward Highway just outside of Seward. Opportunities to view spawning sockeye (July-August) and coho (September-October) are available in this creek. There are several small turnouts available for parking.
7) Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association operates a weir on Bear Creek near the outlet of Bear Lake. This weir is used to count sockeye and coho salmon smolt emigrating from Bear Lake in the spring and sockeye and coho salmon adults returning to the lake during the summer and fall. The weir is located off Bear Lake Road just outside Seward along the Seward Highway.
8) Back on the Seward highway at the Seward "Y" (Tern Lake), a small campground and parking area provide platform viewing of sockeye salmon spawning in the outlet stream of this marshy lake. An interpretive board explains the life cycle of this species. The turnoff is difficult to spot so keep a sharp eye out just where the two roads merge towards Kenai.
9) From mid-June until the end of August, the Russian River has 10's of thousands of sockeye salmon migrating up this stream to the Russian Lakes where they spawn. This is a clear water stream with a large campground and excellent fishing. The first half of each of the two separate salmon runs are comprised of fish fresh from the ocean and are excellent table fare. Towards the end of the runs the fish have begun to transform into their colorful spawning cycle and their eatting quality is poor. You can watch fish run up this stream if you wear polarized sunglasses to cut the glare on the water.
10) Hiking up the Russian Lakes Trail will take you to the Russian River Falls where salmon stack up waiting to take their turn leaping up this moderate obstacle. Photo opportunities are good and this area does have brown bears visiting this section of the river.
11) In the Kenai/Soldotna area, one small stream is available that provides viewing king salmon spawning right next to the road. Slikok Creek crosses Kalifonsky Beach Road a few miles out of Soldotna where Gas Well Road enters. Fish can be seen spawning near the culvert on both sides of the road. Since this is a critical habitat area, you are asked not to wander along the banks of this very sensitive stream. All viewing can be done next to the road. This run will be present during late June and early July.
12) Traveling south from Soldotna towards Homer you will cross several lower Peninsula streams which support several species of salmon runs. King salmon enter these streams during late May and early June and always have some fish spawning in areas near the highway during early July. These are all small streams which make it easy to spot the dark red kings in the riffles and deeper holes. A very limited fishing season is provided on these streams during the early summer. Consult the fishing regulations for appropriate dates. The streams are the Ninilchik River, Deep Creek and Anchor River.
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