Dan and Dena McCarthy
In July of 2006, my wife, Dena, planned a trip to Alaska for our 20th wedding anniversary. After we cruised the inside passage, we spent a week on the Kenai Peninsula where we had spectacular views of the scenery and wildlife. While on the peninsula, we went horseback riding and fishing – halibut fishing the first day in Cook’s Inlet and salmon fishing the last day on the Kenai River.
The weather was outstanding while we were there – mostly dry and sunny except for the day we went fishing on the Kenai. We took a charter with Ninilchik Charters of Ninilchik, Alaska, and the morning of our trip was cold and drizzly. We started out at 6 a.m. with Mike Flores, our guide and owner of Ninilchik Charters, and two other fishermen.
If you’ve ever fished the Kenai River, you know there are a lot of boats all vying for position. It was my first time, and I thought it was a lot like a NASCAR race! The river itself is not very deep, but it flows very swiftly. We were amazed how the guides maneuvered their boats and all seemed to work well with one another.
Our guide motored up the river and found a place among the rest of the boats, and everyone began drifting down the river. The guides maintain the speed of the drift with their motors to counteract the swiftly moving river.
Fishing that day was slow, and nobody was catching much due to the weather. Our group was still jovial and laughing, but we noticed that people in the boats around us were hunkered down and quiet in the cold drizzle.
Midway through our fishing trip, one member of our boat landed a Chinook weighing about 12 pounds. We were all excited and happy thinking the fishing would pick up at this point.
In early afternoon, the weather changed. It stopped raining and warmed up as the sun tried to come through the clouds. It was almost 3 p.m. and nearing the end of our trip. We had made many drifts in various areas of the river with no bites. Fishing continued to be slow for everyone.
With 15 minutes left of our charter trip, we were drifting back to the launch when it appeared that my line was caught on a snag. I got the line free of the snag and was reeling in the slack when all hell broke loose! The rod tip slammed toward the water. I immediately set the hook and Mike, who was standing next to me, looked at me and said, “You’ve got a fish!”
“I know I’ve got a fish!” I said excitedly.
“You’ve got a BIG fish!” he said, still looking at me.
With my heart pounding and full of excitement, I replied, “I know I’ve got a big fish!”
Mike turned the boat sideways and cut the motor. When other guides on the river see this, they know someone is trying to catch a fish, and they move their boats aside to give the fisherman room.
My heart was racing as I fought the fish. She took four runs; up the river, down the river, up the river again, down the river and under the boat. Mike came to the side of the boat and netted the fish, trying to fool me that he had missed and the fish got away. I knew we had the fish and pulled it up out of the net.
When the fish was in the boat, the celebration began. It was the biggest fish I had ever caught in my life. Mike, who appeared to have a standing wager with the other charter boats on the river, called his other guide to tell him we caught a big King – approximately 50 pounds. The other boat thought we were telling a “big one,” so we went to show them. We met up on the river, and Mike looked at me and nodded. I reached into the well and pulled up my fish and watched their chins drop. They all agreed it was a BIG fish.
We went back to the launch where we weighed and measured the fish. She measured 47 inches and 55 pounds. Mike said it was a beautiful fish, bright chrome, unlike many that had already changed color coming up the river.
Many thanks to Mike Flores and Ninilchik Charters for an awesome fishing experience! After our exciting trip to Alaska and the Kenai, we plan to go back again for more sporting adventures.