kenai national wildlife refuge fishing

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge & Kenai Riverside Fishing
Blog & photos by Dave Maternowski, Alaska Wildland Adventures

Fall combo trips: the Kenai Peninsula & Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

There’s no shortage of options when trying to decide where to fish in southcentral Alaska, let alone the whole state. And there’s no shortage of reputable outfitters that have their respective fisheries dialed in. Over the years at Alaska Wildland Adventures, we’ve nailed down a few different fisheries to give our guests the opportunity to try to for silvers and kings in Resurrection Bay, drift for trout and dollies in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and cast for silvers and sockeye up and down the Kenai River, all from our home base on the banks of the upper Kenai River. This versatility and all-inclusive nature is what makes a stay at our lodge feel like a very turn-key experience.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge fishing

Permitted for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge for the last several decades, a float down the Kenai River canyon to Skilak Lake is one of our most popular trips for guests and guides alike. I love having the opportunity to show people this productive and beautiful roadside fishery. As the only section of the river that prohibits motor use, the upper Kenai lends itself to a more intimate experience whether fishing from the boat, or walking the banks and back channels, picking through the feeding lanes and buckets for holding fish. The water and scenery below Jim’s Landing, in particular, rarely disappoints.

As the river moves away from the Sterling Highway, this section can feel more remote than it really is, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies that are good for a few fish if you know what you’re looking for. More and more I find myself dedicating extra time on my trips to the canyon section, capitalizing on these little pockets of water and enjoying the sights and sounds with my guests. Late August and September showcase this area as a spectacular place to tangle with trout and dollies, as well as silvers as the season presses on.

Kenai Riverside Fishing

Our guide staff looks forward to the days when the silvers begin to trickle into the Kenai, and when black tails are spotted on the upper, we begin the annual affair of digging out streamers, tying new flies, and cleaning lines in preparation. A trip to the middle or lower Kenai affords yet another way for our guests to target silvers. There are various techniques to pursue these nickel-bright fish, and each section of river offers its own unique opportunities. A trip below Skilak Lake in the fall provides an opportunity to cast for silvers, as well as some impressive, hard-fighting rainbows that we’ve all come to know and love.

Kenai National Wildlife RefugeI think our guests are just as impressed by their experiences in Resurrection Bay, catching silvers and occasional kings while enjoying the sights of the Kenai Fjords. This trip is a fishing and wildlife tour all in one, and many guests come back and fish with us year after year to experience the beauty and bounty of Resurrection Bay. We slowly expanded our fishing program to include Resurrection Bay in the formative years as an alternative to lower Kenai River silver trips, tapping into a reliable fishery that provided an option when the Kenai was blown out or when fish weren’t yet widespread in-river. It continues to be an alternative, and has grown into its own as a mainstay in our Kenai Riverside Fishing Program. Today, our custom saltwater boats are more robust and fine-tuned than they were in the early days of fishing in late August just outside the harbor, and the new boats provide a comfortable and fishy space that allows us to employ the techniques our guides have honed over the years.

resurrection bay fishingI encourage people to do some research to identify their target species, and find a local outfitter who can demonstrate both proficiency and hospitality. If you’d like to sample a variety of what Southcentral and the Kenai have to offer, we’d be more than happy to show you around for a few days. Stay in one of our guest cabins, share hot family-style meals, and have all of your transportation, fish processing and shipping taken care of. If you’re going to be passing through, join us for a day trip and get a sample of what’s happening on the Kenai or out in the salt.


Dave Maternowski is the Lead Guide for Alaska Wildland Adventures‘ Kenai Riverside Fishing program. Some of Dave’s favorite times on the river include sifting through the haunts of local trout and migrating salmon. Dave previously contributed to the article 192 Years of Trout Secrets in the December 2017 issue of Fish Alaksa. He can be reached via email at