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Kenai Beyond the Kings

by Terry Sheely

“We’ve got some of the best red and silver fisheries anywhere, and the trout fishing is outstanding. Once people get past missing the kings they’ll discover that this river is filled with alternative fish.”
-Mark Glassmaker, guide.

The Kenai River flows west from dripping crevasses in the crags and mountain steeples above Kenai Lake, a heavy current rolling 82 miles down the Kenai Peninsula flush with turquoise snowmelt running to saltwater and controversy.

It is a powerful anadromous arterial, broad enough to intimidate newcomers, and a rare river carrying the genes of giants; an international celebrity flagged in sport-fishing superlatives. It gave us the 97-pound, 4-ounce Anderson world-record Chinook and for decades filled glass show cages and flat walls with taxidermied 70- and 80-pounders, built bootstrap entrepreneurs into upscale businessmen, carpeted the best king runs with unbelievably expensive boats sprouting $400 high-tech rods that were bought with high expectations. The river’s native kings have created traffic jams, parking lot chaos, crowds of lucrative tourism from Cooper Landing to Cook Inlet and evidence that sport fishing is a heavyweight economic factor in Alaska. This content is available for subscribers only.

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