The Kenai River is the most heavily fished river in Alaska. The Kenai River is a glacially-fed river that drains the central Kenai Peninsula and is often referred to as “The Might Kenai” ‘due to its enormous size, powerful water, and high discharge rate. The Mighty Kenai is home to world-class fishing and has at one time held world records for nearly every species of salmon and currently still holds the world record for King Salmon and Sockeye Salmon.
Kenai River Guided Fishing Options
May 15 - Jul 31
Aug 1 - Sep 30
May 15 - Jul 31
Jun 15 - Aug 20
Kenai River Fishing
The Kenai River is home to 4 species of salmon as well as trophy-sized rainbow trout and dolly varden. Millions of king salmon, sockeye salmon, silver salmon, and pink salmon return to their Kenai River spawning grounds each summer.
The Kenai River is 82 miles long, has two lakes called Kenai Lake and Skilak Lake, and flows through the beautiful towns of Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna, and Kenai.
The Kenai River is divided into 3 sections: The Upper Kenai, Middle Kenai, and Lower Kenai River. We fish all 3 sections that make up the 82 miles of the Kenai River.
Upper Kenai River Fishing
The Kenai River begins at Kenai Lake near the town of Cooper Landing. Kenai Lake is huge by any standards at 22 miles long. The upper section of Kenai River is drift boat only. Motors are often used to get across Kenai Lake from the boat launch to the start of the river but once we hit the river, the “kicker engine” is lifted out of the water and it’s drifting only through the entirety of the 17 miles of Upper Kenai River.
The upper Kenai River is home to a number of important tributaries as a large majority of the first run of fish are headed for the tributaries of the Upper Kenai River. This includes the very famous tributary called the Russian River.
There are only a handful of places on the Upper Kenai River that are easily accessible for fishing. Certainly, the area near the Russian River Ferry is one as it’s often cited as the home of “combat fishing”. Because of the limited access point and lack of hiking trails to access the river, it’s advisable to fish this section of the river with a guide from a drift boat. This creates many more opportunities to fish without crowds.
If you have experience with drift boats, Alaska Boat Rental & Guide Service has drift boats available to those with knowledge and experience. Even if you have experience on other rivers we strongly encourage you to do at least one day of guided fishing with us prior to renting boats and to get an upper Kenai River orientation, where and how to fish, considerations of “The Canyon”, and what to know about Skilak Lake.
Middle Kenai River Fishing
The Middle Kenai River stretches from the outlet of Skilak Lake at river mile 50 to the Soldotna Bridge which bridge at river mile 21. The middle section of the Kenai River flows through the Kenai National Wildlife refuge. Under the protection of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the middle Kenai River is beautiful Alaska wilderness. Not only will you see amazing Alaska scenery but the wildlife love it here as well and you’ll encounter a wide diversity of waterfowl, bald eagles, beavers, and more. It’s not uncommon at all to see moose and bears along the shorelines.
Like the upper Kenai River, the middle section of the Kenai River has limited road access and limited hiking access so enjoying this section of river from a powerboat or drift boat is encouraged.
In addition to great salmon fishing, both the upper Kenai River and middle Kenai River have an excellent trout fishery. This is particularly true in the fall when trophy-sized rainbow trout and dolly varden have been gorging on salmon eggs and salmon flesh from all the spawning salmon that have been coming up the river all summer.
Lower Kenai River Fishing
The Lower Kenai River begins at the Soldotna bridge which is located at river mile 21. The world record king salmon was caught on this section of river on May 17, 1985 weighing in at a whopping 97 lbs 4 oz. That record still stands today. Then Kenai River is also the current record holder for the sockeye salmon at 15 lbs 3oz caught by Stan Roach on Aug 9, 1987
It is estimated that 40% of the late run Kenai River King Salmon spawn between Eagle Rock (river mile 12) and The Soldotna bridge (river mile 21). It is also estimated that another 28% of Kenai River King Salmon spawn between the Soldotna Bridge and the Kenai River confluence with the Moose River. With nearly 68% percent of King Salmon spawning in the Lower Kenai River section and slightly upstream it’s no surprise that the Lower Kenai River has the most fishing pressure.
The Lower Kenai River offers a blend of scenery, houses, good access to the river, city parks on the river, and more. With 3 boat launches (Eagle Rock, Pillars, & Centennial Campground) bathrooms and other resources are never far away. The Lower Kenai River also has far more public-accessible and road-accessible fishing spots than any other part of the river. It’s primarily for this reason that the lower Kenai River and the areas surrounding Soldotna see the most number of anglers each summer.
Let's Go Fishing!
Interested in booking a Kenai River King Salmon Fishing trip or a Kasilof River King Salmon Fishing Trip. Select from one of our dedicated King Salmon fishing trips below or select a combo/multi-species salmon fishing trip available on selected dates.