Please do your homework. Our 5 websites provide a wealth of information and even an FAQ section. There are also many articles on line about the Kenai Peninsula. Try to understand its nuances, history, climate, geography, the fishing and any other charters you are doing. The Kenai has its remote areas but much of it has been developed and there are superstores, restaurants, and numerous small towns. Study up to make the most of your trip. russellfishingcompany.com;
2. Read Reviews
Read reviews…positive and negative and ask Russell management questions or voice any concerns.
3. Don't Try to See Too Much
Don’t try to see too much. Alaska is an enormous state and what may seem like a day trip may not be. For example, it’s hard to visit Denali and the Kenai in just one week. You need a vehicle to drive to the various launch points we fish from.
4. What to Pack
Pack light but pack for cool or even cold temps. It rains in Alaska quite regularly so waterproof shoes or ankle boots are recommended. When planning a river charter dress for temps 10-15 degrees colder than the forecast. Warm socks and long underwear are a must!
5. Rest and Relax!
Rest and relax! Most of you had hours of travel to get here. A lack of sleep/rest and in some cases a dramatic time zone change can make you feel overwhelmed, irritable and even confused. If you can, arrive early enough to drive to the lodge, and get a good night’s sleep before fishing. If you arrive very late, plan to stay in Anchorage and drive the next day or in some cases simply make the first day after arrival your scheduled day off.
6. Expect Mixed Results
Be prepared for mixed fishing results. Even though Alaska television shows thousands of salmon making the rivers “boil”, that is not commonplace. Yes, you can see spawning salmon but those are not there to catch…they are there to reproduce. With 5 varieties of salmon, the Kenai has some of the best “runs”. But they are called “runs” for a reason. They are anadromous fish that return in short periods to their place of birth. The king runs are June and July, Sockeye runs somewhat coincides with Kings. Coho is August and Pinks are August in every even year. Techniques vary as well as success. Weather, water conditions (temperature, color and flow), run timing and commercial netting influence success rates. One thing to remember is that Kenai King Salmon are a trophy fish on the most famous river in the world and is like trophy hunting where you are targeting a large king. Sockeye are abundant when running but the ONLY way to catch them is “flossing” which is a finesse technique like snagging. Coho and pinks are also plentiful and fun to catch. Coho are fine table fare but pinks are normally released. One day can be stellar fishing and the next a complete bust….” its fishing, not catching”.
You have the ability to fish on your own but we don’t encourage it unless you are familiar with Kenai techniques and big rivers. There is limited public access and big river fishing is challenging and sometime hazardous for the inexperienced. It is even called combat fishing. Some stout gear is provided for sockeye fishing but that is a short window. There is a reason you hired a professional guide service….TO AVOID THIS
7. Understand Different Fish
Understand the other species in the rivers. Rainbow trout and dolly varden fishing on the Kenai can be terrific starting June 15 and peaking in August/September. But remember these are trophy, native fish and they are catch and release only.
8. Take Advantage of The Salt
Take advantage of Saltwater fishing which boasts consistent halibut fishing. Although “barn doors” of 50-150 lbs. are regularly caught, the average Alaska Halibut is about 25 lbs. Cook Inlet has a 2-fish limit (the rest of Alaska has a 1 fish limit), and one of the fish in Cook Inlet must be 28 inches (less than 10 lbs.) and the other can be any size…. hopefully a big one. We launch from Homer so “blow offs” are at a minimum unlike the popular beach launches. However, wind, weather and tides can affect the fishing and our ability to get to our favorite spots. On many days, we fish for (and get limits of )salmon or rockfish as well.
9. Try not to make “meat fishing” your priority.
Try not to make “meat fishing” your priority. Our guests average almost 40 lbs. of fillets (that’s close to 90 lbs. of fish caught) to take home. We cover the cost of your first box as well. If you catch more…great….we will help you work with our professional processor. If you catch less, bear in mind that a pound of fish is a meal for at least 2 people. If you are coming just for meat, it is less expensive to buy it at your local store.
10. Consider Other Alaska Adventures
Consider enjoying other adventures like fly in fishing with possible bear viewing, or Chinitna Bay Bear Viewing Cruise.
11. The Kenai Peninsula’s location and affordability
Take advantage of The Kenai Peninsula’s location and affordability. It is much more reasonable than resorts in Southeast Alaska and Bristol Bay…in many cases, half as much. Each area has advantages and we of course think the Kenai has the best variety and the highest probability of fishing success. The downside of affordability and convenient location is its popularity for tourists looking to enjoy the same adventures as our guests.
12. Enjoy the Wildlife
Enjoy the abundant wildlife but understand it is not a “Zoo” like atmosphere. Moose are very common even on lodge property, caribou are seen regularly, and eagles are abundant. You have a change to see bears but it is not a common occurrence. Marine mammals and animals are also seen by our guests but certainly not guaranteed. Orcas and whales are seen on many salt trips; seals are in the rivers often; sea otters are quite abundant. There are many other species of birds, ducks, loons and significant unique vegetation
13. Listen to the Experts
Listen to the experts. Fishing techniques are unique and many fish are larger than most people have ever caught. Our guides are professional fishermen with training and experience on Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet waters. They all have unique personalities. Some are entertainers…some are quiet…ALL ARE EXPERT FISHERMEN! Our lodge managers know the Peninsula very well but may not know about other areas of Alaska. Take their advice and take advantage of their local knowledge. Kenai and Soldotna also have excellent visitor’s centers with many tourist resources.
14. Have high expectations but understand that there may be glitches
Have high expectations but understand that there may be glitches. Mistakes and changes by some guests have domino effects on others. Weather is difficult to predict even hour to hour. Fishing success is highly unpredictable. We have catered to thousands of guests over the years and have experience pretty much anything that can occur. We will always handle any situation we are made aware of in a professional., courteous and timely manner.
15. Don’t just visit, but “experience” the Kenai Peninsula!
Don’t just visit, but “experience” the Kenai Peninsula! Russell Fishing understands that for many guests, this is a once in a lifetime vacation. It’s a bucket list item for many. We will do our best to maximize your enjoyment and help you make memories!
An exciting bear viewing adventure on Wednesdays to Chinitna Bay across Cook Inlet. A gorgeous 2 hr + boat ride from Homer takes you to a quiet beach and after a short walk to grasslands where Coastal Brown bears (the coastal larger cousin of the Grizzly) feed on the saltwater grasses and on salmon in the small feeder creeks.
On the boat ride, you will likely see killer whales and other whale species, porpoises, sea otters and a great variety of sea birds. You will also get a close look at the 5 active coastal volcano.
Our 2016 introductory price is under market value at $299 per person. It is an amazing experience seeing up to 20 bears (some close to 1000 pounds) in their natural environment. Call today to take advantage of the limited space and timing.
We do require a 4 person minimum charter so if you have a party of 2, please let us know and we will likely find 2 more to go.
Forks, Washington is well known for its vampires, werewolves, timber, spotted owls and thanks to Nat Geo, Mick Dodge. But, if you favor. massive snowcapped peaks, fern carpeted rainforests, pristine rivers which were the birthplace of anadromous salmon and trout (Steelhead), look no further than the far northwest corner of the great state of Washington, the home of the Seattle Seahawks.
My travels took me there last week. My boss and friend, Dustin Russell invited me for a few days of fishing. As an Alaska guide, I don’t get to fish for Steelhead much and Dustin promised a great time. Joining me on the magical and possibly mysterious tour would be two other professional guides from southern Oregon, my twin brother Cleatis and his second cousin through multiple marriages, Knuuck-Knu’uckk.
Most fishing visitors fish the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Hoh and Clearwater, the Augusta’s, St Andrews and Pebble Beaches of the Steelhead world. However, as a seasoned guide who thrives on challenges, Dustin took us to some hidden jewels we will refer to as the Hohgachiel, Bogaduc and Solwater so no secrets will be revealed.
Our first morning dawned chilly with ice freezing the driver’s side window so Dustin couldn’t see. Without much hesitation and with the beep of the horn and the rev of the diesel, off we went….unscathed by the possible 12-15 other residents or visitors of “Twilight” town. To say the least, the fishing was phenomenal. Serious and accurate casts created many hook-ups including a few “doubles”. By the end of the day a large number was “rung up”. I can’t divulge the actual number but if we hadn’t practiced catch and release of these trophies, we could have fed the Quinault nation for a day. Beaten badly by the bucks and bad-ass hens, we went back to the house for burgers, beers, basketball and bed (not really but what a great alliteration)
Day two was again chilly but sunny. (Knuuck Knu’uckk claims it never rains in Forks). An ominous start as Cleatis noticed a tire in need of some air. Rather than change it on the paved driveway of the local gas station, we waited until we got to the river and pulled out the jack and all the tools from the F950 (not a wimpy Silverado) cubbyholes, and settled in to some fish egg strewn drainage mud off the side of the road. An hour later the 4 “guides” who surely never worked as mechanics were back in business. We launched and a couple fly dudes with their hand pressed Simms jackets and waders, neck gaiter, Costa Polarized sunglasses, caps down tight on the balding melon, 2-handed Spey rods and Squidro flies gave us a “who farted” look and were on their way, looking for a “hatch”. Cleatis remembered the lesson from Hank Patterson and we decided to create our own hatch. I picked up the bag of multi colored puff balls and dumped at least 100 into the crystal clear flow. I think that did the trick. Over the next several hours, we hooked fish after fish. Every run, pool, gravel bar, eddy and rock, held fish. Only when one of our casts went awry, crossing lines or in a tree, did we fail to get a hook up. Once, Knuuck Knuukk’s ponytail was the end of one of my errant casts. No harm, no foul. The day before was beginning to look like amateur hour. That day’s fish were awesome. The downers were skinny fat and the resident bucks had bright chrome sides. Could this have been Dustin’s record day?
Guide legend has guides drinking shots, smoking weed, pounding beers and passing out at night. Not these pros. We ate the two steelhead we killed when Dustin prepared a great sashimi in a wasabi sauce which matched the best “bite” we had earlier.. Then the pros tied yarn ball leaders, cutting them to the exact 37.5 in length. They sharpened hooks, shined their poles, and even changed the line on their reels nightly. We watched Hank Patterson even though he is a fly dude. https://www.youtube.com/?feature=ytca After all the prep was done, we tuned in to the local native radio call in show, looking for some bargains. We found quite a few. First, a 15 in, 8 ply, truck tire that would serve us well on our F950 (not a Silverado remember) after our morning debacle…$25 bucks. Then we were able to bid on some used breathrite strips for Knuuck Knu’uckk and his snoring problem which sent Cleatis to the couch at bedtime. Finally, the “piece de resistance” of the Peninsula was a slightly tattered electric blanket with a hole where the dog chewed, but with a fine electrical cord. They were asking $5 or best offer and we got it for $2.50. We would pick it all up the next morning. We stayed up late enough to see the werewolves and vampires, (no-show).
Before the last day of angling, which was bluebird all the way, we had to stop at the local mercantile and get another license we had caught so many steelies.. Mike Price of Forks Mill Creek Inn fame and the Chairman of the Board of the Kasilof (No Dustin, Pops is mayor), made a cameo appearance in his camouflage sweat suit circa 1986. Due to my flight schedule, this would be a short day (sorry Cleatis I wasn’t talking about your stature. Short and sweet that is. In 4 hours we hooked 15 steelhead including a beautiful 15 lb hen and a larger buck that I, Cap’n Gilz, lost when I applied the emergency brake too soon as it blistered upstream. The third of three spectacular days ended. I was honored and Privileged (yes capital P) to fish with 2 great fishermen and a world class steelhead guide. I learned quite a bit. Knuuck Knu’uckk taught me how to “feel” the bite and even taught me some native tongue.EH. .Cleatis showed me how to let em eat it until it exits below their anal fin, and the perfected technique of the sit down, behind the head reel in. Dustin showed us how to play Superman when about to crash and burn. Heartfelt thanks for the fun and camaraderie. It is now an annual event.
A couple tips if you decide to join Dustin on one of these lifetime experiences:
1. Bring some personal air freshener. Someone will forget about hygiene or eat too many hard boiled eggs
2. If it’s cold, jump in the boats front seat where the heater is
3. Don’t wear waders. You won’t have to get out and push off some of the low water sandbars
4. Wear a neck gaiter and Seahawks hat.just to piss of the guide
5. Bring lots of Crappies
6. Learn how to pitch right and left accurately but don’t bother trying to see or feel the bite. Take a cat nap and let Dustin wake you with a JERK! Or something that sounds like he is yelling in tongues. He will beat your reaction every time
7. Watch out for the log jams.
8. Holler MICK DODGE every time you hook a fish…lets drive that homeless Wildman crazy—er!
9. Visit the Timber Museum, the Kalaloch Lodge, the breathtaking rocky beaches, go find the world’s largest spruce and cedar tree in the Hoh rainforest.
10. Take photos of the Olympic Mountains, the bald eagles, the river bank minks, river otters, river swimming deer and herds of majestic Elk.
If you read all of this, you are a diehard angler or one of our Alaska guests. No matter which, a trip to Forks in the spring or southern Oregon in the winter should be on your bucket list.
The perfect trip with the almost perfect guide (would be if he was a Seahawk fan),
MICK DODGE- catch you later, copy?…….Our Ch'i is now right….North to Alaska!
Cast of Characters:
Dustin-Dustin Russell, owner Russell Fishing
Cap’n Gilz, Glenn – guide, booking agent. and sage of the group
Knuuck Knu’uckk-Zachary Hancock, Captain of the Badger, professional guide and hunter
Cleatis-Brent Lamb, professional guide, and beer drinker extraordinaire
Mick Dodge-Mick Dodge
Mike Price-COB Kasilof River
Beautiful photos taken by Chancy Walters of fishing guide Cap'n Gilz holding a a couple of huge Rainbow Trout caught on a late season fishing charter.
Did you ever hear them talk about those great, big "bran door" Halibut that can be caught up in Alaska? Well here are some examples! This is Don Patin with a 155 lb Halibut and two more over 120 lbs caught on a fishing charter with Russell Fishing.
The Murray party Halibut fishing aboard the Badger with Captain Zack Hancock.
Captains Dustin Russell and Zack Hancock with Badger and a 51 lb Ling Cod caught in the ocean off Alaska.
Here is Dan Spies with a 38 lbs King Salmon caught in the salt waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Captain Dustin Russell and Daniel Kniventon with Alaskan Salmon caught in the ocean.
As a last minute substitute for one of the regular tournament guides, most of the Alaska Steel employee/participants couldn’t have been very optimistic about fishing with Glenn (Cap’n Gilz).
Nonetheless the gracious welcoming and positive environment on the morning of 8/16 would foretell the results to come.
The silver salmon run in 2014 had been later than normal. Accompanying an enormous number of Pink Salmon in the river, was flood stage high water…..tough overall conditions
The group of 5 and guide headed to Falling In Hole and started back bouncing and trolling eggs. It wasn’t long before Will caught the first silver. The group worked hard the rest of the day, culling through the 50 or so Pinks until they landed 5 beautiful bright Coho. The fishing ended at 1 PM with tourney results to be announced at 5 at a dinner event.
The Cap’n Gilz crew (Lori Shepherd, Captain, limit catcher and great sandwich maker; Will the fish catcher; Manny, the repeat performer; Carl, the Pink Master; and Ryan, the quiet first time silver catcher) were delighted to find out that they almost won the grand slam, taking home first prize for most weight, smallest fish (7 lbs 2 oz-not small by any measure) and second biggest fish (9lbs 2 oz)
After a brief emotional speech owner Dan Nelson began cutting some beautiful steaks and we all enjoyed a great barbecue and camaraderie.
I don’t know much about Alaska Steel, but I do know they have some great, genuine people and an owner who takes pride in his company (and our mutual passion-Seattle Seahawks)
This captain hopes he gets invited back to defend the tournament title in 2015.
Thanks Alaska Steel!!!
The 2014 Alaska fishing season is well under way and exciting as ever as we near the end of the May-June early season and move in to peak season in July.
Here are some of the highlights so far from charters on the Kenai and Kasilof River as well as in the salt on Cook Inlet. Thanks to all our guest so far and we hope to see you up here sometime again!
To start things off, here is Russell fishing guide Dane with guest Brittney Luma on first salmon fishing trip of the season.
Here is Erik Banko with a bright early season King Salmon caught on the Kasilof River.
Here are some more charter guest with early season Cook Inlet Kings.
Here is guest Lori Mcadoo with Dustin Russell and a big spring king from the salt . . .
Here is a nice rack of 2 60#, 2 46# and one 39# Halibut . . . along with another Salmon caught on a salt charter.
Here are some more great early season King Salmon catches caught on the saltwater in May. Lot's of happy guests.
Here is a super rack of Halibut and KIngs caught in May on Cook Inlet by Alex Pinentals "fishing poles."
And last but not least, here re the Oshimas with their limit of Kings and a whole host of Halibut . . . .
So what are you waiting for? 2015 is just around the corner! If you can't make it up to Alaska for fishing in July, May and June offer great and exciting fishing opportunities and memories that will last a lifetime.
Having spent almost 35 years in the corporate environment, I can honestly say that I have never experienced the boss treating a staff member with the kind of respect and friendship that I received from Dustin Russell this week.
When you arrive in Forks, of Twilight fame, you don't see much....a hardware store / combination supermarket, a couple small hotels, gas stations, a few diners and lots of rain forest. You cross over rivers on the way into town and look at them trying to decide if you know enough about steelhead fishing to figure out if they are fishable. Not to worry- everything is under control.
Arriving at Dustin's house, which he also uses to accommodate his guests (at an incredibly reasonable price)..... 3 bedrooms. 2 baths, full kitchen, washer/dryer, sofa , over-sized chair, satellite TV, Wifi, picnic table, storage shed..... you name it.
When you go steelhead fishing with Dustin Russell, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn. Let the other locals guys go out and do their thing with their technique. Get up at 7, have a quick breakfast, get to the river to do your shuttle and fish for 8+ hours, maybe seeing one or two other boats all day. Dustin uses uses nothing but the best and newest equipment. The drift boat is comfortable with nice seats and a heater and accommodates 2 -3 people (just your group). I was fortunate enough to be going by myself.
I'm not a novice fisherman, however I was humbled by the incredible knowledge and ability. Trust me, this is not patronizing. After launching you start right away to either "cast left" or "cast right" . Dustin watches your line like an eagle watching for his next morsel. You might not cast were you think the fish are. You cast where Dustin knows the fish are. He reads the water like Peyton Manning reads the defense...... always anticipating his next one, two or even three moves. He sees your bite and yells "PULL" quicker than you can react to feeling the bite and setting the hook. If you get good, it might occasionally be a tie. He's correct 90 percent of time.
Within 15 minutes of my first cast I had my first Forks steelhead in over 30 years. It was a bright 9 pounder, fresh in from the Pacific Ocean. It wouldn't be the last. As the day went on the rains came. It was cold and wet but Dustin never once wavered. Like a cardiac specialits evaluating your main arteries, Dustin reads the river and surgically maneuvers his oars to be in the right place for you to make the most of your next cast. We were successful over 10 times and hooked fish......6 of them got to the boat the other four, for whatever reason, got off (Probably angler error) If you know steelhead fishing, you know that anything over 2 or 3 steelhead bites a day is considered exceptional. Amazingly, even at 5 o'clock PM. Dustin is as meticulous and focused as he was at 7 AM
Only in his early 30's, Dustin has an incredible ability to guide. Albeit natural, innate talent or over 15 years of experience on the Northwest rivers, or a combination of both, it gave me the best chartered fishing trip I'd ever had and that was only day one.
Day 2 started with sun, an unusual sight in Forks. After the overnight rain, Dustin checks the flows ....CFS ( cubic feet per second) on all the local rivers. From his experience,he knew that the best river for today would be the Sol Duc (I might not be telling the truth lol) We arrived at the launch and the river was at 9 "boards" which is another way to measure fishable range. To me, it was a perfect clear green in color with 8 feet of visibility. Again within 15 minutes, we had a bite which again Dustin beat me to, again. With a shout of " pull " as I almost simultaneously felt it, a 14 pound bright hen was jumping. It was brought to the net several minutes later. One the best steelhead that I've ever caught, it was only considered a good one in Forks where they get 17 to 20 pounders with some regularity. For the day, we hooked on landed 13 steelhead and lost several more. We also had at least a half dozen other bites.
Dustin doesn't show his frustration when you miss a fish although he truly wants to catch them all. I know him well enough to know that he was perturbed a couple times, but he would never let on. He would aggressively row back up against the current and fish the hole again I can't count the times we did that.
At the end of the second day, we returned to the house and I cooked the steaks, he cooked the clams, we both drank the beers, and couple more friends came by. We had a great dinner and they are fishing again today. This time they are on the Bogachiel as I jealously drive to Portland for my flight home.
If your fish with Dustin you will hear "pull" many many times during the day. Occasionally he will shout "jerk" and I think in my case that meant more than set the hook.... but that's okay.... we have that kind of relationship. And it isn't what he shouts to our friend Eric Banko
I'm lucky..... not only to have fished with who I consider the best fishing guide in the Northwest but a friend, a great family man and a terrific boss. I'm also lucky that I get to spend the entire summer near Dustin and his great family , along with my wife and a bunch of good friends and guides up in Alaska, where we guide salmon, trout and halibut.
Enjoy these photos and if you come to Alaska with us I hope you get a chance to talk to Dustin a little bit about steelhead. Honesty, It is not for everybody....it can be cold and wet, but hardly ever boring. When you finish with Dustin be prepared for the best individual steelhead charter you'll ever have.
Russell Fishing Company