Kenai Peninsula Steelhead blog by Nigel Fox
Photos by Jeff Murray
Kenai Peninsula Steelhead: Deep Creek, Anchor River, and more
When you think of the Kenai Peninsula, salmon fishing is the first thing that comes to mind for most; possibly trout and halibut fishing as well, but mostly salmon fishing. The Kenai Peninsula has a hidden gem and those anglers that know of this hidden gem consider its streams incredible sportfishing destinations. The steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), sometimes called “steelhead trout,” is an anadromous (sea-run) form of the coastal rainbow trout. In this blog I’ll cover technique and a few streams on the Peninsula that hold these hard-fighting chrome bullets.
Alaska steelhead fishing is quite different than in the rest of the Pacific Northwest. The Kenai Peninsula has only one run in the fall and mostly holdovers for the spring fishery. Steelhead fishing in most parts of Alaska is catch-and-release. Also, most of the Kenai Peninsula streams we can steelhead fish are small except for the Kasilof River and Kenai Rivers.
The Kasilof River has an amazing fishery; it boasts an incredible sockeye salmon run, as well as good king and silver salmon runs. It has a decent steelhead fishery to boot. Most of the steelhead fishing on the Kasilof is done at the confluence of Crooked Creek in the spring. You can walk in right in from the Crooked Creek State Recreation Area and most anglers wade fish using spin and fly gear. For me, the most effective technique has been bead fishing with an indicator, a long leader, a couple of split shot and single hook on a fly-rod setup, but you can fish this technique on a float-rod setup with a spinning reel, too. It is the same technique I use on the Kenai River to catch trout with my clients. You can have multiple-fish days on the Kasilof, but most of the fish are post-spawn fish heading back to the ocean, with a few fresh fish just coming in to spawn. The Kasilof is a great fishery for beginner fly anglers to catch steelhead, with defined runs to fish and easy wading early in the season.
Deep Creek is south of the Kasilof. It is one of the more well-known steelhead fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula and is one of my favorite streams to fish for steelhead. This bog-stained stream has healthy numbers of steelhead and coho (silver) salmon at the same time. I generally start fishing Deep Creek at the end of August through the first couple weeks of October, with the best fishing being the last two weeks of September. Indicator fishing with a fly rod does best here, but you can use spinning gear and do well. Large beads and flies, dead-drifted, are very effective. It is not uncommon for an angler to have a double-digit day here; it’s well worth the stop.
About 40 minutes south of Deep Creek is the Anchor River—probably the most popular steelhead stream on the Kenai Peninsula. This clear-flowing stream has great numbers of returning steelhead and silver salmon, and like Deep Creek, it fishes the best at the end of September. Again, a fly-rod setup is very effective, but you can also fish it with a spinning-rod setup and do well. Large beads—10 mm and 12 mm—work very well, but I like a Glo Bug egg pattern, and I also swing streamers in the classic steelhead runs this stream has. The Anchor River is easy to wade and fish, but it can be crowded during the weekends. If you find a run with fish in it, you’ll generally want to keep fishing it for a while.
I have only listed my favorite-three streams on the Kenai Peninsula because they have the highest catch rates. One could argue the Ninilchik River or the Kenai River could be right up there, but both those streams and a few others are much harder to fish.
Steelhead are one of the most underappreciated sportfish on the Kenai Peninsula, but are tops in my book. Hopefully, this blog will encourage Kenai Peninsula anglers to target them more often.
Nigel Fox has been co-owner/guide at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for close to two decades. He is a lifelong Alaskan and has been fishing on the Kenai River since he was a young boy, and each year he learns more about the intricate world of catching trophy salmon and trout on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.