Kasilof River King Salmon Guided Fishing

Most people that think about visiting the Kenai Peninsula and doing some fishing usually head immediately for the world-famous mighty Kenai River. At 82 miles long and paralleling the sterling highway, it’s literally in your face from the minute you hit the town of Cooper Landing. Nearly begging you to grab your rod. It’s delighted visitors for decades and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.  But a little-known gem right down the road is definitely worth your time. The Kasilof River would be a lot more famous if it weren’t sitting so close to the Kenai River. We invite you to take a look and better yet, take a fishing trip on this beautiful, lesser-known, far more wild, and rugged river, just a few miles south of the Kenai River. 

Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing

Full Day

May 15 - July 31

Kasilof River King-Sockeye Combo Fishing

Full Day

July 1 - July 31

Kenai River King Salmon

Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing

May 15 - July 31

Our guided Kasilof River king salmon fishing trips can begin each year as early as May 15 and continue through July 31st. Kasilof River king salmon fishing ends by state regulation July 31st each year as does the King Salmon fishing throughout the entire Kenai Peninsula

Just like the Kenai River, The Kasilof River king salmon run is two distinct runs. The early Kenai River king salmon run starts May 15 and continues until June 30. The late Kenai River king salmon run starts July 1st and continues until August 15th when the last few remaining king salmon make their way into the Kasilof River. But, as mentioned above, fishing for Kenai River king salmon ends annually on July 31st. 

Kasilof River King Salmon Early Run

May 15 - July 31

It’s a little bit tricky to understand the Kasilof River fish counts. The Kasilof River has both a wild run of king salmon and a hatchery run of King Salmon. The fish counts shown here only represent naturally produced king salmon. The hatchery fish show up much earlier than this but since hatchery fish are not counted we can only go past experience.  

May – June is definitely a busy time on the Kasilof River. The hatchery king salmon are “imprinted” near the Crooked Creek hatchery which is located near the Sterling Highway bridge. The Sterling highway bridge is the separator between the Upper Kasilof River section and the lower Kasilof River Section. During May – June we typically work the lower Kasilof River because the Crooked Creek hatchery king salmon will not go above that point of the river.

Crooked Creek King Salmon Fish Counts And Escapements
Kasilof Hatchery King Salmon Vs. Kasilof Wild Salmon - Adipose Fin

Kasilof River Crooked Creek Hatchery - King Salmon Enhancement

The Crooked Creek hatchery was established in the early 1970’s and was a hatchery for more than just king salmon. In fact, the first king salmon were not released until 1975. Over the years the hatchery stopped rearing sockeye, coho, and steelhead and now, only produces king salmon. More than 110,000 hatchery king salmon are released into the Kasilof each year.

When the hatchery first started there was no way to tell a hatchery king from a naturally produced king. This made it difficult to estimate how well the river was doing on its own, how many naturally produced kings were returning vs. how many hatchery kings were returning. And many other factors. Soon, the idea of clipping the adipose fin on the hatchery Kasilof River king salmon was introduced. With the clipping of this fin, it’s now possible to track metrics associated with only the naturally produced Kasilof River King salmon. And to even implement different harvest rules for them.

Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing - Methods

There are so many great things about fishing the Kasilof River. It’s far less developed than the Kenai River. There are only a handful of public access points so once you’re in the drift boat you’re in the middle of nature. Wildlife abounds. May and June king salmon returns, due to the hatchery, make this great fishing while we wait for the Kenai River returns to show up. And we’re generally allowed to use bait.

Using bait significantly increases the catch rate for these monsters. We’ll use Kwikfish wrapped in sardines and spin-n-glo lures with balls of cured eggs. We’ll even just back bounce eggs – this can be incredibly effective.

The wild run Kasilof River king salmon will travel into the upper Kasilof River but the hatchery fish will not go above the bridge and they’ll stay on the lower section. For this reason, we usually spend most of May and June targeting both wild and hatchery Kasilof River king salmon on the lower section of the river. 

Once July hits and the main wild run starts to arrive along with the tens of thousands of sockeye headed for Tustumena Lake we’ll move more of our attention to the upper river but we’ll still fish many days on the lower Kasilof River as well. 

Spin N Glo With Cured Eggs For Kasilof River King Salmon
Kevin & Daniel Release A Big Wild King Salmon

Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing - What To Bring

Once we hit the water on the Kasilof River we’re committed. We’re in a drift boat and we’re committed to the end. We’ll make stops along the way but we have no choice but to continue downstream to the pullout.  Both the upper Kasilof River fishings trips and lower Kasilof River fishing trips take between 6-8 hours. It’s important to come prepared.

  • Fishing license & king salmon stamp
  • Clothing appropriate for the day’s weather. This may need to include warmer clothes for the morning, and t-shirt’s in the mid-afternoon, and rain pants and rain jacket by late afternoon. Seriously, Alaska weather can change dramatically throughout the course of the day so please do a careful review of the predicted weather and plan accordingly so you can be comfortable.
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Lunch, Snacks, and Drinks. Adult beverages are allowed. 
  • A waterproof cell phone case is always a good idea. We don’t expect your phone to be dropped in the water, but rain is always a possibility
  • A great attitude!  No one wants to catch fish more than us! We’re in this together.

Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing - What To Expect During Your Day

The Kasilof River is a drift boat only fishery and one of our favorite rivers to fish in all of the Kenai Peninsula. We will often fish the upper river for sockeye but most of our Kasilof River king salmon fishing will be done on the lower Kasilof River starting at the Sterling Highway bridge.

We’ll meet at the Kasilof River Recreation Area which is located right at the Kasilof River Bridge on the Sterling Highway about 12 miles south of the town of Soldotna. Our day will begin around 6:30 AM when we put in and we’ll start fishing for Kasilof River Kings almost immediately. As the day progresses we’ll continue to work ourselves downstream until we reach the pull-out approximately 8 miles downriver. On days when we can do both Kasilof River sockeye fishing and Kasilof River king salmon fishing we’ll step out of the boat on various gravel bars as we work our way downstream and fish for sockeye salmon from the banks.

You can expect that we’ll be professional, friendly, passionate, and great people to spend the day with. Whether you’ve fished all over the world or never fished at all, we’re always excited to share what we know and learn what you have to share. And you can expect 100% of our effort all day

Kasilof Drift Boat Trips King Salmon Fishing
Kasilof River Drift Boat

What Are The Chances Of Catching A Kasilof River King Salmon?

The Kasilof River king salmon fishery is one of the more productive areas to catch a big Alaska king salmon. While not as famed as the nearby Kenai River the Kasilof River consistently delivers 50 lb king salmon every year. But, it’s all about timing. 

The majority of the Kasilof River king salmon are caught during the early run when both wild and hatchery Kasilof River king salmon are returning to spawn. Hatchery king salmon are typically available for harvest 7 days a week and wild run king salmon can be harvested on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The majority of these fish are caught before June 10th every year so for anglers really interested in catching a Kasilof River king salmon we recommend dates between May 15 and June 10. 

One of our favorite parts about this fishery is that, unlike the Kenai River, anglers are not required to stop fishing after harvesting a king salmon. Another great attribute is the consistency in fishing that this river brings every year due to the hatchery.

Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing - Do We Need A Guide?

We strongly suggest getting a guide for at least 1 day on the Kasilof River. The help of a guide is needed more starting in late June and the first part of July than in the early run of May and June. The Kasilof River does not have very many public access points but has some great fishing that can only be accessed from a drift boat. As the water level rises it becomes more difficult to target king salmon from the bank and it’s always better from a boat regardless.

If you’re comfortable with a drift boat, Alaska Boat Rental & Guide Service has drift boats available. If not, getting a guide for a day is a great option. It’s also a good idea even if you have previous experience. We can help you understand the river, point out the right drifts, teach techniques and help prep you for your own days on the water and be far more productive.

During the early run, The Kasilof River king salmon fishery can be accessed from the Crooked Creek Campground area. Fishing during this time is actually pretty productive. However, the water rises every single day starting May 15 and by the time July 1st has arrived the water level is high and this makes fishing for kings from the bank pretty difficult. 

Kevin & Daniel Release A Big Wild King Salmon

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