Kenai River Trout Fishing

Alaska’s Kenai River trout fishing is some of the best in the world and few places get better than Kenai River trout fishing.This is due to incredibly nutrient rich waters, clean habitat, and millions of salmon that return to its rivers each summer providing an incredible food base. This food base consists of eggs and billions of pounds of salmon carcass left over from dying salmon after they spawn. Living in such pristine conditions allows these resident fish to get big!

Both the Kenai River and Kasilof River have very nice rainbow trout fisheries. Large rainbow trout exceeding 10 pounds happens regularly and the battle is northing short of epic. The fall season in Alaska with the river is full of eggs and salmon flesh is the best time. The Kenai River and Kasilof River may be famous for their epic salmon runs but they should be known for their enormous trout.


Kenai River Trout Fishing


Alaska Trout Fishing - Kenai Riverside Resort guide holding a pretty Kenai River rainbow trout
Alaska Trout Fishing – Kenai Riverside Resort guide Tyler Ashby holding a pretty Kenai River rainbow trout

When people think of Alaska trout fishing, big rainbows are the first thing that come to mind. Not only does Alaska and the Kenai River have some of the best salmon fishing in the world, but The Kenai River also has some of the best trout fishing in the world – it sorta fluctuates between good and…great. The salmon fishing can be hit and miss depending upon the timing of the run but we can always target the trout when the salmon fishing gets slow.  Or better yet, target them both on the same day. The Kenai River has an abundance of nutrients all year long making it a phenomenal year-round trout fishery. The millions and millions of spawning salmon, from four different species, provide an incredibly rich food supply, and the Dolly Varden and Rainbow Trout gorge themselves throughout the year.

When To Fish The Kenai River For Rainbow Trout

In the fall when millions of salmon have spawned and the river is full of eggs and flesh, the Kenai Rainbow Trout can put on tremendous body weight. Catching a 30″ Rainbow trout is on many people’s bucket lists and occasionally can happen on this river. 

We begin our trout season each year around mid-June and the fishing will continue to get better and better through the summer and finally peaking in the fall months of August & September. Rainbow trout are some of the most desirable sport fish in Alaska and when one rips off your line and you start working the slack as fast as possible you’ll understand why.  We practice catch and release for all of these beautiful resident fish.

Some of our favorite days are combining salmon fishing and trout fishing throughout the day. Bagging salmon and releasing trophies after some beautiful pictures makes for a perfect day.

Kenai River Dolly Varden Fishing

Alaska Trout Fishing - Kenai Riverside Resort customer holding a pretty Kenai River dolly varden
Kenai Riverside Resort customer holding a pretty Kenai River dolly varden

While the rainbow trout may get the most attention when it comes to Alaska trout fishing, the dolly varden should not be overlooked. The Kenai River Dolly Varden are very migratory fish moving back and forth between the freshwater of the river and saltwater of Cook Inlet. 

Their feeding habits change throughout the year based on the food source available and these are incredibly adaptive fish. While in the ocean, and for a short time after entering freshwater, adult sea-run Dolly Varden are silvery with a faint green sheen overlain with light orange spots. Once they reach freshwater, this silvery appearance transitions into greenish-brown with dark-orange to red spots. It’s these spots bright spots, and lack of scales, that make the Dolly Varden most easily recognizable from a Rainbow Trout. 

Dolly Varden Are Actually A Char

Most people don’t know the difference between a trout and a char. It’s actually quite subtle. Besides a slightly different body profile the biggest difference is char have lights spots and trout have dark spots. Dolly varden are actually a char. Dolly’s grow very slowly maturing between 5 and 6 years. While they can spawn multiple times, studies have shown that they rarely spawn more than 3 times in their lifetime. They typically spawn in the fall between September and November and the females can lay as many as 6000 eggs.  These eggs will remain in the gravel incubating for up to 5 months depending upon a range of factors including water temperature.  

In the April to May timeframe the fry will emerge from the gravel and begin their lifecycle. Most of these Dollys will mature in the stream for 2-4 years and then venture into the saltwater where they can grow rapidly during the summer before returning back to the freshwater to spawn as cold winter months approach.  It’s an incredible life-cycle indeed. 

Kenai River Rainbow Trout Fishing

Alaska Trout Fishing - Kenai Riverside Resort customer holding a pretty Kenai River rainbow trout
Kenai Riverside Resort customer holding a pretty Kenai River rainbow trout

Rainbow trout and steelhead trout are two of the most widely sought after fish in the world. Their strong fighting abilities are perhaps the main reason they are so popular. Alaska is home to both Rainbow Trout and Steelhead Trout. The difference being that Steelhead Trout are simply Rainbow Trout that have decided that spending part of their life in the saltwater seems like a good idea.  And when they do, their physiology changes, and they get big!  Most of the Rainbow trout on the Kenai River are year-round resident fish but there are a few ocean-going steelhead.

Rainbow Trout And Steelhead

Since rainbow and steelhead trout are the same species there are no major physical differences between them, however, the nature of their differing lifestyles has resulted in subtle differences in color, shape, size, and general appearance.  Steelhead, prior to their seaward migration juvenile steelhead go through a series of physical changes called smoltification which allows them to survive in saltwater.

Rainbow trout will spawn in the Kenai River in June and July.  Rainbow trout are predatory fish, feeding freely on whatever is available—including other fish (dead or alive), insect larvae, insects, and salmon eggs which the Kenai River has in plenty with its enormous salmon run.  Many 30″ rainbow trout have been caught on the Kenai River and those Alaskan resident anglers that have never caught one that large – well you can be sure it’s still on their list. And if they stay at it, they’ll get one. 

Primarily we’ll target the Rainbow Trout with fly rods and matching the river’s current food source but spinning reels and spinners can be utilized as well.  Underwater presentation is how this works on the Kenai River as that most naturally matches the Rainbow Trouts food sourc

Alaska Trout Fishing & The Kenai River

Alaska Trout Fishing - Kenai Riverside Resort customer Nate Gardner holding a small Kenai River rainbow trout
Kenai Riverside Resort customer Nate Gardner holding a small Kenai River rainbow trout

While salmon get the majority of the attention on the Kenai River and throughout Alaska we encourage everyone to take the time to enjoy fishing these wonderful and beautiful resident trout. It’s such a great way to change up your day or week-long vacation, get off the salmon a bit, and learn new techniques, knots, rigs, and more. If you do this, you’ll find yourself exploring areas of the river and nearby locations you would never see otherwise.