Kenai River Fishing Guides

Kenai River Fishing Guides - The Kenai River Special Management Area

The last time we checked there were something like 180 guides registered to guide on the Kenai River. The Kenai River has some very special regulations associated with it in what is called The Kenai River Special Management Area. The Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) was established in 1984 in response to the increasing public use and strain on the river system’s health.The KRSMA contains more than 105 miles of rivers and lakes and is adjacent to 16 publicly managed parks that offer prime opportunities for boating, camping, wildlife viewing and, of course, fishing. 

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Certification Requirements

Kenai River Guide Academy Certficate

In most cases all a person has to do to be an Alaskan fishing guide is register with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as a guide and hold the same sport fishing license for the type of fishing they are doing.  And that’s it. No experience requirements have to be met, no first aid, no test to pass or anything. As a Kenai River guide this is not the case. To be a Kenai River fishing guide, particularly in a power boat, a person has to have all of the following:  

What Makes A Great Kenai River Fishing Guide?

There’s a lot of work that goes into guiding successfully on the Kenai River.  No one wants to put you on fish and help you catch limits of salmon and catch-and-release trophy trout more than your fishing guide. It sort of goes without saying that a fishing guides tips are generally a bit (and sometimes a lot!) larger when you catch limits of fish or help your client land the fish of a lifetime but this isn’t just what it’s all about

Head Guide Kevin Chavira Cleaning Sockeye While Client Fishing
Kenai Riverside Resort Head Guide, Kevin Chavira, cleaning a Kenai River Sockeye while his client continues fishing

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Safety

Tyler With Kenai River Sockeye
Kenai Riverside customer, Tyler Vranes, wearing his life jacket, hat, and safety goggles while on a Kenai Riverside King Salmon and Sockeye Salmon guided fishing trip.

The Kenai river is known throughout the world as “The Mighty Kenai” because it really is a monster. It’s glacier fed throughout the year and in mid-July with warm temperatures and massive glacier ice melt this river is high and flowing. And in the winter, massive chunks of ice are constantly making their way down the river bringing with it new sand bars, trees, and constantly changing the underwater structure.  Operating any boat on this waterway should not be taken by the inexperienced.  But this isn’t the only area of safety. We’re constantly using incredibly sharp hooks and knives and other equipment. Hooks are constantly being thrown by these big fish. A 15 pound silver salmon spooling line will put enormous tension on the line and with the weights we use near the hook, it’s not uncommon at all to have a hook come screaming at your face or the buddy fishing next to you. Every single year people are making trips to the emergency room for hook removal or worse. Safety in every regard is really important and that comes from being well prepared, experienced, and always having a level headed personality.  

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Professionalism

Professionalism. We probably don’t need to explain what this means. But I can tell you some of the things that it means to us here at Kenai Riverside.  All the fishing experience in the world doesn’t give you professionalism. Everything you’re about to read below does.

Beautiful fall sunrise on the Kenai River silver salmon fishing
Kenai Riverside Resort customer, Nick Garret, enjoying an early morning ride out to the days fishing hole

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Being Prepared

Kenai River Resort Guide, Hunter Nash, nets a fish for Tim Erickson visiting from Indiana

Our guides are typically starting to prepare for your day of guided fishing approximately 2 hours before your trip begins.  It’s making one last check from the previous night making sure the boat is ready, the gear is ready and in working order, stocked with bait for the day, coolers of ice for food and drinks, waders and boots, and any extra gear we think our clients might need that maybe they didn’t bring based on unexpected weather or other factors. 

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Tireless Work Ethic

Our day starts hours before the trip and then we finally get to take you fishing.  And in all honesty, especially in the middle of these huge runs of fish, it’s the best job in the entire world.  It doesn’t matter if it’s raining and cold, or blowing wind at 20 miles an hour. When our clients (see when clients become friends section below) are beaming from ear to ear, having fun, and getting to know one another – you can’t ask for much more that. It is so personally rewarding. But the fishing part of it is just one part of the work ethic. While you’re fishing we’re constantly preparing for the next steps of our day with you. This includes: 

Young Angler Kissing Sockeye Salmon
Young Angler Kissing Sockeye Salmon

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Well Working Reliable Equipment

Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish lures for king salmon, silver salmon, and steelhead

This probably goes without saying but having good working reliable gear is really important. Equipment gets worked pretty hard with these big fish so keeping the equipment in good working order is constantly going on. The equipment doesn’t have to be $1000 rods and reels but the equipment does need to be well suited and sized properly for the job. We change out line on a regular basis, inspect drag systems, eyelets and more. We primarily use 10 foot Okuma Rods and Okuma 8/9 wt fly reels for our sockeye fishing and switch over to Lamiglass  X11 Rods and Okuma Coldwater bait casters with integrated line counters when we target silver salmon and king salmon. We keep at least 1 extra rod and reel combo for all species we’re targeting that day in each of our boats just incase we have a rod break or a problem with one of our reel systems.

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Manners & Respect

We only get to do what we love because of you – our clients and hopefully soon to be friends. Remember that old saying that everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten. We take that to heart. We say please and thank you, we’re kind and patient. If you’re a beginner and struggling don’t worry – we’ll help you till you get it. If you’re an experienced angler – we can’t wait to learn a few tricks from you. If you have a family with children – we’ll do our best to make sure they stay safe and have a great time.  

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Share Knowledge

Kenai River Resort Guide Tyler Ashby teaches a guest how to tie a knot he was interested in learning

We share our knowledge and experiences. We’ll teach you to tie knots, explain fish behavior, explain the techniques and methods we use to catch fish. The picture shown here is one of my favorite pictures from our 2021 season. In it, Kenai Riverside guide Tyler Ashby is showing one of our clients that everyone just calls “uncle Dan” how to tie up a special fishing rig. I was so happy I was able to capture that moment because it’s those kinds of things that build the best long lasting friendships. 

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Experience


Experience really goes a long way of course. Knowing how to navigate the Kenai River and Kasilof River are really important. The river is constantly changing and so are the channels the fish come through. Most of the guides at the Kenai Riverside Resort have been guiding on the Kenai River a minimum of 5 years. We don’t hire the “one and done” seasonal guides. We’re looking for guides that enjoy what they do so much they want to do this forever.


We Want To Show You Alaska - Our Home

I think the best way to describe how we much we love showing you this amazing place is through an example. In 2021 we had what was probably the biggest run of sockeye the river has seen in decades. It was so thick in salmon for four straight weeks that it’s hard to describe. Check out the graph provided courtesy of the Alaska fishing mobile app called Alaska Fishtopia – which you can download from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store

The redline represents the previous 3 years average and the black line represents 2021 Kenai River Late Sockeye Run which goes from July 1st to around August 15. In 2021 we still had 60,000 fish a day entering the river and this continued well through the entire month of August. On the peak day of the summer we had 151,000 fish in a single day and those kinds of numbers went on for weeks. It was insane. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game raised the limit from the normal 3 fish per day per person to 6. 


2021 Kenai River Late Sockeye Run

Kenai River Fishing Guides - Wrapping It Up

The Best Guides Share Similar Traits

 The best guides share similar traits. They’re the folks you want to invite over for dinner or your backyard BBQ because they are hard working, polite, kind, interesting, and all around great people. The best guides who make a living doing this know it’s about being with people, not fishing. Guides who dabble but ultimately don’t cut it think it’s only about fishing. The best guides rise above their own personality and enjoy being with everyone. They work with their clients to understand them and have the maturity to adjust to a variety of personalities. As the day unfolds, the best guides are strangers at the start of the day but best friends by lunch.

Kenai Riverside Resort Customers with owner Jim Voss (3rd from Left)
Kenai Riverside Resort Customers Posing with owner Jim Voss (3rd from Left) on an Alaska Halibut Fishing Charter