By Stacey Sutherlin
Alaska being known as the great land, the last frontier and the land of many opportunities holds every bit of truth. The Kenai Peninsula itself offers endless opportunity for adventure to include hiking, hunting, foraging, fishing and much more.
On any given weekend in the land of the midnight sun it can be a challenge to decide what you want to dedicate your time to as there is so much to do! On this particular weekend we decided to head to Resurrection Bay and go after reds. Reds are also known as sockeye salmon. It was the first run of the year also known as the early run of reds.
Resurrection Bay is located in Seward a popular tourist and port town located on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Seward is much different than other areas on the peninsula offering some beautiful mountain views as the ocean and mountains touch each other literally, and is home of Exit Glacier, one of the town’s most popular attractions and is a fjord (inlet) of the Gulf of Alaska. Once again the views that beautiful Alaska presented as we made 70 mile drive southeast didn’t disappoint.
For this fishing adventure we would be targeting the reds with a method that’s called snagging. In Alaska snagging in saltwater is legal anywhere unless prohibited. Snagging provides the opportunity to literally hook a salmon anywhere on their body or even fins and bring them in.
You use an unabated treble hook with a weight known as a snagging hook. The specific hooks that most fishermen use for this are called an 8/0. Don’t let this method of fishing fool you it isn’t easy and can surprisingly be quite the challenge.
The early run of sockeye salmon begins in May and that’s when you find locals and tourists lined up snagging for their catches of the day. A popular term in Alaska when it comes to this type of fishing is called combat fishing. The nice thing about snagging for reds is it is a fairly mild combat fishing compared to the combat fishing you will encounter fishing areas like the Russian River.
The daily limit per person on Sockeye Salmon is a whopping 6 fish. Some years the sockeye run is strong enough that ADF&G issues an emergency order that doubles the limit to 12 fish a day. Be sure to check the current fishing regulations for daily limits and you can keep up on the emergency orders via the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s webpage. www.adfg.alaska.gov
Also, it’s important to know the possession limit is also six. If you’re going to be camping or staying for more than one day you’ll have to process your fish before going for your next limit. You can either can or freeze your fresh catch yourself or seek the services of some of the Seward retailers to vacuum seal and flash freeze your fish.
There are a couple of popular spots in Seward to snag reds which include Fourth of July Beach where the Resurrection Bay flows and meets the Resurrection River, Spring Creek Beach at the end of Nash Road and the waterfall near the Alaska Sea Life Center. Most fishermen headed out to snag, like to fish a couple of hours before and after high tide.
What you’ll need:
Sport Fishing License
Fishing Pole With Reel
30 Pound Braided Line
8/0 Lead Weighted Treble Hook
Since no bait is needed and you are literally snagging for the salmon, not much is needed as far as gear! However, keep in mind having extra snap swivels and snagging hooks is a good idea just in case your line gets broken off.
Once you make it to the area you plan to begin fishing, take a minute to see how the fishing has been and also evaluate the area you plan to fish for safety. Keep in mind you want to fish an area that offers an area to land your fish by walking it back to the shore as you reel. Even though Sockeye are the smallest of the salmon family, they put up a dang good fight. Set the drag on your reel pretty tight and you may have to tighten it more depending on if your fish decides to make a run for it.
Pay attention to what others around you are doing when it comes to casting and getting the technique down for snagging. Cast out ahead of you into the water, keep your rod tip forward and reel your slack then rip your rod backward as if you were setting your hook, bring your rod forward and reel your slack and repeat.
There really isn’t much more too it, as the schools of fish swim by when you rip your rod back you’ll feel when you’ve got one snagged. Make sure you rip your rod back firmly as salmon have some tough skin and you have to pierce it to be able to get a solid hookset.
You’re going to want to get your fish in quickly to avoid crossing lines and chasing your fish in front of other fishermen. The quicker you get your fish landed the less times it allows for the hook to work its way out of the salmon. Once your feisty fish is landed, club it, bleed it by ripping its gills and get it strung on your stringer then get your line back in the water!
Snagging isn’t for everyone. If snagging for reds just isn’t your thing or something you want to pursue, don’t worry, the opportunities in Alaska are endless, you can visit different areas on the peninsula where you could hit the river for king salmon, fly fish for trout or grayling, floss for reds or head out on the salt.