© Nigel Fox, Alaska Drift Away Fishing

by Nigel Fox

This summer marks another pink year on the Kenai River, which means a couple million pink salmon will return to spawn from August through September. If you are primarily a trout fisherman you are probably doing back flips right now. Coho fishermen, on the other hand, have another view of pinks. They are bothersome and generally not that tasty to eat. In this article I am going to go through a few techniques that I use to be more productive when targeting silvers.

Spinner Fishing for Silver Salmon

Throwing spinners on a non-pink year can be super productive. It doesn’t guarantee that you will not catch pinks, but it gives you the ability to be mobile and more flexible. This means that you can move to different spots to find holding silvers. Generally, pink and silver salmon hold in the same kinds of water, but you can pick out the silvers in a group of pinks. When I am guiding clients I will try to find a large group of silvers holding with the pinks and pitch directly to them. It is easier to cast to a pod of silvers then to one or two silvers holding with a big school of pinks. If you are persistent you should be able to put a few in the box and move on to finding another pod of holding silvers. With this method you want to fish slower, eddy-type water.

Plug Fishing for Silver Salmon

Plug fishing can be a little tricky on a pink year. Pink salmon love biting plugs with or without a sardine wrap and it seems like they will hit any color you put in front of them. It can be super frustrating if fishing plugs is the only technique you know. I try to fish my plugs two ways: 1) Casting them like spinners or 2) trolling them. Always wrap your plugs with a piece of sardine and keep it pretty fresh. If clients are casting plugs I will present them just like I do spinners, finding pods of holding silvers amongst the pinks and cast directly to them. When trolling plugs, look for moving silvers in moderate current flow. I will troll pretty fast, down stream; it seems like the pinks will not bite them as frequently this way.

© Nigel Fox, Alaska Drift Away Fishing

Fly Fishing for Silver Salmon

Fly Fishing for silver salmon can be exhilarating and is my favorite. It is the most difficult out of all of the techniques I mentioned and if you are new to fly fishing it can be frustrating. However, it also can feel the most rewarding at times. With this method you want to fish slower water. Look for large groups of holding silvers and fish big, articulated flies. My clients will cast beyond them and strip slowly right past their faces to entice a bite. You will have to weed through the pinks and might not catch as many silvers as the other two methods, but it can be a secret weapon when nothing else is working.

These three methods are not the only ways to catch silver salmon among pinks as there are many different techniques or tweaks, but these are going to be your most effective. The next time you’re on the river you should give them a try. It could turn a day of catching pinks into a day of catching silvers.


Nigel Fox has been partners with Jeremy Anderson and Nick Ohlrich at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for more than over a decade years. He is a lifelong Alaskan and has been fishing on the Kenai River since he was a young boy. More than fifteen years have passed since his first guided trip, and each year he learns more about the intricate world of catching trophy fish on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.