Kenai River Silver Salmon Fishing

Alaska’s  Kenai River silver salmon fishing is one of the best times to be fishing in Alaska. We target the same areas for silver salmon as we do for king salmon. There are a few subtle differences but the biggest is simply when we fish for them as the silver salmon start to show up in the first part of August just as the king salmon and sockeye salmon runs start to subside. 

Alaska silver salmon fishing on the Kenai River is one of the best times of the year for fishing on the Kenai. The rush of the summer crowd has diminished, the river is at a good flow rate, fall colors begin to show themselves all over the river, and one of the best fighting fish begin to show in consistent numbers year after year.

Since many of the locations and techniques are similar to how we target kings, it’s a good idea to be familiar with that before diving in on silver salmon fishing as we will primarily describe the differences in techniques and timing we use to target these acrobatic fish. 

Alaska silver salmon fishing - Kenai Riverside Resort customer, Sagy, holding up a big Kenai River silver salmon

Kenai River

Early Run:  Aug 8 – Oct 5

Average Size:   10 – 12 lbs
Upper Size:       15 – 18 lbs

World record (Caught in NY):  
33 lbs, Sept 27, 1988

Kasilof River

Early Run:  May 15 – June 30
Late Run:   July 1 – July 31

Average Size:   15 – 25 lbs
Upper Size:       40 – 50 lbs

Alaska Silver Salmon Fishing

Like all salmon fishing, Alaska silver salmon fishing is all about showing up at the right place at the right time. You can’t catch what’s not there so the #1 rule is to show up when the fish do! We always try and be as scientific and data-driven as possible but silver salmon fishing on the Kenai River is a little less data-driven than king salmon and sockeye salmon. Due to a variety of factors, it’s not practical, or possible, to get a good silver salmon count coming up the river like we can we king salmon or sockeye salmon. 

Although we don’t know the exact historical fish counts for silvers like we do for kings and sockeye, we do know that the silvers experience a bi-modal run (first run & second run) much like the king salmon. The first run of silver salmon begin to show up in late July to early August and the first silvers we catch of the season are usually caught while we’re targeting kings and sockeye. It’s possible to catch silvers while flossing/flipping for sockeye and it’s equally possible to catch them while back-trolling for kings. The late run of silvers salmon start to enter the river in late August and go until October with some of the best and strongest fishing taking place in mid-late September.

One of the nice parts about silver fishing on the Kasilof and Kenai is that the rivers have already come up in flow rate for the summer so the entire length of the river is available into October.

Silver Salmon Biology and Behavior

Silver salmon, like all salmon spawn in the freshwater, migrate to the saltwater for a number of years and eventually return to the same spawning grounds. Like all salmon, as their biology begins to change entering the freshwater they undergo the same processes as all other salmon with an extremely reduced diet and a strong desire to focus on getting to their spawning grounds.

Unlike sockeye salmon, silver salmon are really aggressive towards lures and bait, second in aggression to only the pink salmon. Why silver salmon are so aggressive towards lures and bait when compared to sockeye salmon, for example, is not understood but it makes for fantastic fishing when the silvers are in and moving up the river. 

Targeting Silver Salmon

We target silver salmon in exactly the same manner as we target Kings, using bait-wrapped Kwikfish and eggs on Spin-n-Glo lures, or back-bouncing eggs but we can also add some new techniques for targeting silvers. As we explain on our Kenai River king salmon fishing page, king salmon tend to move in the deepest parts of the river so this is where we will troll for kings. The silver salmon are usually not quite as deep as the king salmon and therefore we will move our boat closer to the bank’s edge where the water is a little less swift and a little less deep. We’re looking for slightly slower moving water, medium depth, and where we can get good action on the Kwikfish after anchoring up, which is something we can’t do while targeting kings. It makes for a very relaxed day of fishing. 

Since anchoring is now allowed, we will anchor with a quick release & buoy that will allow us to come off of anchor if it is a particularly big silver salmon and we would like the flexibility of fighting it with the help of the boat. Many times this is unnecessary but it is very nice to have the option.

One thing we can do differently with silvers is target them using casting spinners which is a really great way to stay involved and active while fishing.

Alaska Silver Salmon Fishing Regulations

Silver salmon regulations are far more relaxed than king salmon regulations. This is primarily due to less pressure on the silver salmon fishery that has consistently made for healthy runs of silver salmon. Some of the (general) changes in regulation between king and silver fisheries are:

  • Anchoring the boat is allowed
  • Treble hooks are now allowed unless restricted by emergency order to protect later arriving kings
  • 2 fish per day until Sept 1 when the limit becomes 3 fish per day

Silver Salmon Rods, Reels, Line, Hooks, Swivels

Okuma Coldwater reel for Alaska king salmon fishing and Alaska silver salmon fishing
Kenai Riverside Resort fishing line
Worden's Spin-N-Glo lures for king salmon, silver salmon, and steelhead
Jet divers are used to ensure Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish and Worden Spin-N-Glos are near the bottom of the river while targeting Alaska king salmon and Alaska silver salmon
Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish lures for king salmon, silver salmon, and steelhead
Hook and swivel used for Alaska king salmon fishing

We use 90% of the same rods, reels, lines, and general techniques for silvers as we do for kings detailed on our king salmon fishing page when we are trolling plugs and eggs. There are really only a couple of differences when it comes to gear, tackle, and lures. Silvers are smaller than kings so we’ll go down a couple of sizes in Kwikfish plugs and Spin-n-Glo lures, and they are more aggressive so we can also grab a spinning rod and cast spinners in slower moving water as well. And more or less, those are the only differences!

While bank fishing for silvers is possible, using a boat is still the most preferred method of targeting silver salmon because it provides the ability to access perfect moving sections of water that you can’t get to from the bank, relieve congestion if things get crowded and it’s simply a more productive and efficient method of fishing.

Landing A Kenai River Silver Salmon

Landing a Kenai River silvers salmon is generally a pretty straight forward process using the same basic techniques of letting the fish run a few times before trying to net it, netting it from the head and avoiding the tail, and coming off anchor to use the boat if it’s a particularly big silver.

We tend not to lose these fish too often because we’re now using treble hooks that the fish have aggressively struck at. The hook is usually fairly well set and more than one of the hooks on the treble hook have set making it a far more difficult hook set for the fish to dislodge.

Let's Go Fishing!

Hopefully, this information gave you some insight into what fishing the Kenai River for silver salmon is like, how we use biology, river conditions, gear and tackle, regulations, boats, and more to target these amazing fish. And what your day would be like on one of our silver salmon fishing charters. Some really great deals can be had at this time of year as well as lodging capacities and the premium fishing charges for summer have decreased. 

You likely still have lots of questions and we’d be happy to answer them. Consider joining us for one of our fall Alaska silver salmon fishings trips. We’d love to hear from you, give us a call!