Fishing the Russian River in Alaska

The Russian River general area is very well-developed, while maintaining a beauty that is distinctly Alaskan. There are trails, campgrounds, and restrooms. While most of the access points on the Russian River require climbing stairs and walking, there are also areas at Sportsman’s Landing specifically designed for the mobility impaired. There is fishing for everyone! The Russian River itself is fairly shallow with a nice, hard-packed gravel bottom, which makes it very easy to navigate. Waders are still required though.

Know the Regulations

Many sections of the Russian River/Upper Kenai are considered fly fishing only. This does not refer to the fishing rod or the fishing style, but to the terminal tackle. Specifically, fly fishing only zones require that you use a single hook with an attached attractor (attached hair, bead, yarn). This “fly” must weight less than 1/4 ounce and the distance between point and shank (the gap in the hook) cannot be greater than 3/8 inches. Any additional weight that is used must be detached from the fly and be at least 18” above the fly. Absolutely no bait is allowed.

Be Bear Aware

There are a lot of bears in this area. Always pay attention to the area around you, and make noise (talking, laughing, etc) so that you reduce your risk of startling a bear. All gear must be kept within arms length, so no leaving coolers on the riverbanks. Having bear spray is a good idea, but caution is always the best protection. If you see fishermen moving along the river in groups, it most likely means a bear is moving along the river. While anglers and bears share the same river and salmon, always give the bear its space! Learn more about what to do if you see a bearyou see a bear.

Know the Limit

There are two distinct red salmon runs which come up the Russian River. There is also a silver salmon run in the fall. The first run is the smaller of the two, and these fish are headed for Russian River and its lakes. The second run of reds go to both Russian lakes and Kenai lake. This is important, as many anglers will fish the Kenai River above the Russian during the first run, only to find that there are no fish there. This fishery is constantly monitored, and the opening of the sanctuary as well as fish limits change based on the strength of the run. The standard rules are 3 fish/day, but when the run is exceptionally strong, this may be bumped to 6/day. In the same fashion, the sanctuary may remain closed during a weak run, or opened early for a strong run. Please keep a close eye on current regulations and emergency orders. Luckily, since this area is very heavily trafficked, current regulations are often posted all over the trails.

Where to Fish

Red salmon will linger in deeper, slower moving water. This often happens behind large rocks, trees, or bends in a river. These areas are often close to the shoreline, so you’ll often have to cross the creek to fish the opposite shore.

  • First Run: Areas 1,2,3 on the map (see images)
  • Second Run: Areas 1,2,3,4 on the map (see images)

How to Fish

Read about techniques for catching Reds


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