Five Tips for Catching More Sockeye in Alaska

As many of our  guests know, TRL are very good at catching sockeye. Here are few tips when fishing for sockeye on the rivers of the Kenai Peninsula.

5) Pick a good spot!

Though this might seem obvious, positioning yourself in the right spot is crucial to catching sockeye. On the Kenai, we only fish sockeye from the bank. The key to a good spot lies in the bank profile and the current flowing along that bank. Some anglers prefer a more steep bank, others more gradual. Sockeye tend to move up the river rather quickly (1-2 mph in the Kenai), so corners and bends and the “paths of least resistance” tend to hold a majority of fish. However these paths the fish take will differ with changes in visibility and river discharge. If fishing near the ocean, the old saying of “2 hours before and after high tide” is definitely true. The further up from the ocean, more elongated the runs become and thus tide has little effect.


4) Use the right hook. 

When sockeye fishing, hooks tend to dull quickly due to the hook point repeatedly nicking gravel of the river bottom. Some anglers prefer using cheap hooks and simply switching out hooks when they become dull, other prefer a hardened steel “high mileage” hook such as an Owner of Gamakatsu. As long as they are sharp and the proper size, it should not really matter. As far as size, we prefer a 4/0 for fishing for sockeye. Of course if fishing the Russian River, a particular size is required by ADF&G.

3) Use the correct weight

Many times I will see tourists and even locals not catching fish despite everyone else around them nailing. While it is better to be on the heavier side when it comes to lead, most people tend to use too much. Using too much weight will also tire the arm and shoulder more quickly. The style of weight also can effect the rig’s effectiveness. For example, for the Russian I prefer large split shots due the large boulders frequently snagging angler’s lines. Along the Kenai, cannon ball and tear drop styles are favorable because they allow the angler to feel the bottom more effectively and are easily changeable.


2) Leader length is important!

As a general rule, the more gradual the bank profile, the longer the leader. The more steep the bank profile, the shorter the leader. We generally start our leaders at 5-6 feet. Remember when you are rigging up, it is always easier to make your leader shorter than it is to make it longer.

1) “Fish with Feeling”

This is Walter’s (aka Swissmiss) #1 tip when fishing for sockeye. The correct lead size weighs heavily on the correct feeling when fishing for sockeye. With each flip and sweep, one should feel the weight tap (not drag) along the bottom about 3-6 times. If you cannot feel the bottom either increase the weight or slow down the sweep. If it feels like you are hitting bottom too much, increase the sweep speed. You are looking for that perfect combination of sweep speed and weight that produces 4-6 contacts with the bottom. Despite what you might witness, there should be less of an emphasis on the jerk at the end of the sweep–only jerk if you feel something. Using a jerk at the end of the can lead to more foul hooked fish and a sore arm. The end of the sweep should be more of an abrupt acceleration than a violent jerk of the arm.  If you are fishing with feeling, you will learn to feel the fly enter the fishes mouth, then warranting a proper hookset.



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