Salmon Fishing Rivers Near Anchorage are plentiful and we have what are considered some of the Best Salmon Fishing Rivers in the world just a short 3 hour drive from Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula.  They are:

  • Kenai River
  • Kasilof River
  • Russian River
  • Moose River
  • Ninilchik River

These magnificent rivers offer some of the largest Salmon runs in Alaska.   You will find the following species of Salmon in these rivers at various time:

  • King Salmon also known as Chinook
  • Silver Salmon also known as Coho
  • Chum Salmon also known as Dog Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon also known as Red Salmon
  • Pink Salmon also known as Humpies

Millions of these salmon run up the rivers on the Kenai Peninsula to spawn throughout the late Spring and Early Fall.  Depending on the month, you will find one if not two or even three species of Salmon available to catch. 

A few years back I was visiting Alaska with 3 of my buddies in late July.   We were fishing with a guide and he stopped the boat at the side of a fishy looking spot.   We all cast out with spinners and I kid you not we all hooked into a fish within 15 seconds of each other.   That in itself was amazing but the real shocker is that we all hooked into a different species of fish:  on the line we had a Sockeye Salmon, Silver Salmon, Trophy Rainbow Trout and a nice size Dolly Varden.

The 5 rivers listed are all very close in proximity, with the Kenai River being the biggest of all the rivers.  Although the rivers have different species of fish to catch they are best known for one or two that seem to congregate in their waters:

Kenai River has been known for decades for its amazing King Salmon runs along with the size of the fish running up it.  Back in 1985 Les Anderson caught the IGFA world record King Salmon weighing in at just over 97 pounds,  this record still stands today.

Kasilof River: located about 11 miles south of the Kenai and is a bit smaller river.  Unlike the Kenai you can not run motorized boats on the river.   Most fishermen use Drift Boats to fish the Kasilof.  The Kasilof is known for its King Salmon, Silver Salmon and Sockeye Salmon. 

Russian River:  feeds into the Kenai River at river mile 74 on the Kenai.   The Russian river is about 12 miles long and connects the Russian Lake with the Kenai.  In its waters you will find Silver salmon, Sockeye salmon and an occasional Pink Salmon.   There are also resident Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden in the river.   The last 3 miles of the river just before it connects with the Kenai River is the most popular.

Moose River: The Moose river is close to the town of Sterling Alaska and has a variety of fishing opportunities.   It is not a very big river and a lot of people enjoy fly fishing in its waters.  Silver salmon and Sockeye salmon are the salmon in these waters along with resident Rainbow Trout.

Ninilchik River: although the season can be a bit limited, the Ninilchik River has a King run in late May to early July.   The salmon tend to spawn in the water close to the Highway so access is good.  It also has a run of Steelhead that runs up it.

Seasons & Regulations Can Change From Day to Day: The state of Alaska is very active in managing their resources and Salmon populations are one of its resources.   Always check online before fishing any of the rivers in Alaska to make sure you are up-to-date on river closures and bag limits.

Guides & Charters:

If you have never fished these rivers before I would suggest that you hire a guide or charter for the first few times.  Not only are you more apt to catch more fish but you will also get an education on the type of tackle to use,  the fishing techniques and the inside scoop on what rivers are best fishing at a certain time of the year.

There are a lot of Guides and Outfitters to choose from but one of the best ways of getting one of the best guides is to ask the manager at the place you are staying at to recommend one.  Since they are local they will know who is most knowledgeable.   Terry Johnson at Salmon Catcher Lodge is a tremendous resource when it comes to selecting the right guide for the right customer.   If you stay at Salmon Catcher Lodge you will find that Terry is very helpful with this.  In fact,  Salmon Catcher Lodge also has top of the line equipment and gear that you can reserve to use.

If you do book a guide let the guide decide which river to run and species of fish to fish for.   A good portion of a fishing guide’s revenue comes from gratuity and they know that if a fisherman has a bad day on the water then their tip is in jeopardy.   By nature they will want to take you to where they know the fish are at any given time.   A typical gratuity is 10-20% of the cost of the trip.  In my opinion there is no better investment than hiring a guide to take you fishing on waters you have little or no experience fishing in.  If you are like me,  you may find that fishing with a guide is the preferred way to go even if you know the area and waters.

What To Bring:

Make sure that you bring the necessities you need with you from Anchorage.  The short list would be:

  • Cooler to bring home your catch back to Anchorage
  • Small Cooler to pack your lunch and snacks in
  • Raingear along with rubber boots that are waterproof
  • Rubber sole shoes
  • Sunscreen – yes you can can get sunburned in Alaska
  • Waterproof hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Layers of clothing that you can remove or put on during the day
  • Your favorite fishing poles and tackle
  • Camera and/or Cell Phone 
  • Ziplock Storage Bags for fish and to keep things dry
  • Duct tape – the tool box on a roll
  • Bug repellant

Fishing Gear & Tackle

If you are going to be fishing with a Fishing Guide then they will have all the gear and tackle you need for a successful day on the water.  If you are planning to go it alone or spend some time bank fishing then you will want to bring your own gear.

If you do bring your own gear a few things you may want to plan for:

  • Fishing Line breaks down over time – spend the money to have new line put on
  • Bank fishermen usually use some type of lures or spinners – bring an assortment
  • A 20lb Salmon will snap a trout rod in a heartbeat – bring a heavy rod
  • Fly Fishing is tough unless you plan to wade or fish from a boat

It Is Best To Plan Ahead:

Salmon fishing on the Kenai Peninsula is very popular.  Unless you are planning to do some flyouts then you will probably see other fisherman on the river.  

It is best to call ahead and reserve your accommodations and book your guides at the same time.  Many lodges such as Salmon Catcher Lodge can take care of everything for you with one phone call.  They even offer packages that can save you money on your entire stay.

It is not an unreasonable chance that during a 3 day fishing excursion that you could be bringing home 50 lbs or more of delicious salmon fillets per fisherman.  Make sure you have the capacity to keep the fish cold on your journey back to Anchorage.  

As you can see when considering Salmon Fishing Rivers near Anchorage that the rivers of the Kenai Peninsula should be considered for your next fishing adventure.