The Kenai River is famous worldwide for its amazing fishing. The Kenai River is in the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska. The river runs 82 miles westward from the Kenai Lake which is in the Kenai Mountains. The river starts at Kenai Lake and runs through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Skilak Lake to its outlet into Cook Inlet of the Pacific Ocean in Kenai.
The Kenai River, a melt water river, drains the central Kenai Peninsula region. The Kenai River’s source is the Kenai Lake. The Kenai River passes through Kenai Canyon, which is about 12 miles from Kenai Lake. The Kenai Canyon is about 2 miles of fast-flowing whitewater rapids. Several miles east of Cooper Landing, where the Kenai Lake turns into the Kenai River, the Russian River empties into the Kenai. The “Upper River” of the Kenai River is where the Kenai River enters Skilak Lake. The “Mid-River” is the portion of the Kenai River from Skilak Lake downstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge in Soldotna. The “Lower River” is the final stretch of the river that goes from the Soldotna Bridge to the mouth of the Cook Inlet and the flow of the river is much gentler.
The Kenai River is the most popular sport fishing destination in the state of Alaska and is even famous worldwide. The Kenai River is most popular for its King and Chinook salmon. There are two different runs of king salmon, silver salmon and red salmon each year. Every other year there will also be two runs of pink salmon. The Kenai River is where the world record king salmon was caught. It was caught in 1985 and weighed in at 97 pounds. The Kenai River is also called home for trophy sized rainbow trout and dolly varden.
Other Alaskan rivers are more prolific for their king salmon fishery, but the Kenai is known for its large fish. In the second run, beginning in mid-July, a typical king weighs 40-85 pounds. The “Lower Kenai” is well known for its run and sizes of its king salmon. The silver salmon runs occur after the king salmon runs and generally occur in early August and late September. The local fishermen favor the September run because of the larger size of the silver salmon. The red salmon runs are in late-June and late-July. Reds are considered to be the premier salmon for eating, canning and smoking. Then there is the pink salmon. The pink salmon run occurs in even numbered years only. Many anglers consider the pink salmon to be pests because they interfere with catching other species. They are also considered pests due to the fact that by the time they reach inland freshwater, their meat may be soft and oily compared to other types of salmon. They are still fun to catch though and on a heavy fishing day a casual fisher might catch several dozen pink salmon.
The Kenai River is also home to other wildlife as well. It is not uncommon to see moose, bears, caribou and multiple species of birds. In the spring, Beluga whales have been seen as far as six miles upstream from the mouth of the river to feed on schools of spawning Hooligan fish.