How to Fish The Russian River

How to Fish The Russian River

What is the Russian River Alaska?

  • The Russian River in Alaska is a world famous river and it has a large run of sockeye (Red) Salmon. 
  • The Russian River is a 13 mile long river on the Kenai peninsula that flows from Upper Russian Lake and into Lower Russian lake. Eventually it flows into the town of Cooper Landing Alaska and the upper Kenai river. This river has world class fishing for Sockeye Salmon fishing making it extremely popular. And because it is so popular it is basically a warzone and dubbed the name combat fishing.
  • In 2019 we had an extraordinary year where over 100K salmon came through the Russian River. Normally we see around 40K to 60K fish come through. There were so many fish that they raised the limit to 9 fish per day and 18 in possession. You can check out the tiple the limit video to see how we did :


Be Prepared! Purchase our Russian River Tackle Box here:

  • Make sure to check the fishing regulations before you come out!
    • Fly Fishing only***
      • This doesn't mean a fly fishing rod just the Russian river fly lurer (It refers to the tackle that you have to use).
    • Regulations from ADFG- Russian River:
      • Only one unbaited, single hook, artificial lure or fly is allowed year-round. The gap between point and shank must be ⅜ inch or less.
    • The Russian River from an ADF&G marker located 100 yards upstream of its mouth to an ADF&G marker located 600 yards downstream of the falls:
      • May 1–June 10: Closed to all fishing. 
      • June 11–August 20: Only artificial flies are allowed. Gear in Fly-Fishing-Only waters  - One unweighted, single hook, unbaited fly with gap between point and shank of 3/8” or less is allowed. The fly must weigh less than ¼ oz. Artificial flies are defined on page 8 of the ADFG reg book 
      • If weights are used, they must be at least 18” ahead of the fly. 
      • Coho salmon: • July 1–September 30: Open to fishing for coho. • 1 per day, 1 in possession. 
      •  A coho salmon 16 inches or longer that is removed from the water must be retained and becomes part of the bag limit of the person who originally hooked the fish. You must not remove a coho salmon 16 inches or longer from the water before releasing it. 
      •  Sockeye salmon: • June 11–August 20: Open to fishing for sockeye. • 3 per day, 6 in possession. • Daily limits for other species are shown on page 59. • The Russian River Upstream from an ADF&G marker about 600 yards downstream of the falls: • Closed to all salmon fishing. • June 11–April 30: Open to fishing for species other than salmon. •  • Daily limits for other species are shown on page 59
    • ¼ ounce splitshot
      • I usually use 3-4 of them but will adjust weights depending on the flow of the river or the depth. 
      • Deeper/faster water = more weight 
      • Slower / shallow water = less weight 
      • I want to feel my weight bounce off the bottom of the river and move at the same pace as the flow of the river. 
    • From the fly  - go up the line about three or four feet and that's where you will put the weights 

  • LINE
    • 25 lbs Fluorocarbon line or with 10 wt sinking fly line. Fly line is easier on your hands. 

**Be careful during RIVER CROSSINGS. There are several large rocks, swift water, there is a good chance that you may fall. Don’t worry everyone falls, it’s a part of the experience!

    • While sight fishing, you need polarized sunglasses.
    • You need sunglasses that blockout the sunlight with side-blinders. Crucial to catching lot’s fish out here on the Russian.
    • Sight Fishing is when you can see the salmon and your fly through the water and you cast the fly upstream and can control your drift timing effectively. 


  • License:
  • 10 gallon ziplock bags, this is for fish fillets
  • 2 garbage bags, this is to haul or pack all of the fish fillets.
  • Pliers
  • Small towel
  • Fillet knife
  • Water 
  • Snacks
  • bug spray
  • Cash for ferry or for parking
  • Camera, phone, portable charger, and charging cord. 




  • The Russian river has a few fillet stations, they do not like you to fillet on the river because it attracts a lot of bears. Make sure that you head to a fillet station to process your fish. 


  • We recommend to bring a side arm or bear spray
  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings 
  • Make noise to prevent surprising bears.  Avoid tunnel vision while while fishing and hiking.
  • If a bear approaches you, be ready to give up your fishing spot.



- Pay to park  $11/park (2019)

- Pay to cross on the Ferry $11/per person (2019)

- The ferry takes you to the Confluence. This is where the Russian river meets the Kenai River. 


  • Usually the second week of June
  • Peak time is around the 3rd week of june


  • Hundreds of thousands of people go to the Russian river each season
  • Lots of people at the confluence that is where people will line up side by side 
  • Everyone casts next to eachother. 
    • The person up river casts first and the rest follow

This allows for less tangles and happier fishermen/womens


    • Comb the shores and the areas with the deeper water because that is where the fish will hold up for a little bit.
    • Once you spot some, or even if it’s a hole that you can’t really see the bottom - you want to be up river of the fish, and you are going to cast ahead of them. Your goal is to get the line in the fish’s mouth.
    • As the line is pulling and drifting in the water, the hook is going to slowly come through and the hook is going to set in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
    • You need the fish to be in between the hook and the weight. 
    • Fish are swimming up stream with their mouths open and pumping (open and closed, open and closed) as they breath. 
    • When the line is in their mouth, that is when you set the hook. 
    • That is how you’re going to catch all of your reds.
    • You are just threading that line through their mouth. 
    • To cast, you are going to pull out just as much as line you need to get to the spot where you see the fish. You don’t need to open your bail, you just need to flip. It’s not a casting and retrieving method. 
    • You will just FLIP, DRIFT, and pull the line back in with your HAND. 
    • You cast up river, drift, keep tension, pull and FLIP again.
      • Do not drag or pull fast
    • Catch fish at the 10 or 11 oclock


The fishing fly needs to land on the opposite side of your weight. Your line should be farther away from you than your weight, you don’t want them to land together in a plump. Make sure your fly goes farther than your weight in the water. 

    • You may accidentally snag a fish -  to be legal, the shank and the point of the hook needs to be in the fish’s mouth. Snagged fish must be returned to the water.


  • Combat Fishing is close quarter fishing with people standing shoulder to shoulder. 
  • There are less people when you work your way up the Russian.
  • Be aware of flying hooks, we have seen people get hooked in the eyebrow before! 
  • Please wear glasses and protective headgear like a hat or beanie.
  • Please be courteous of other people fishing.


  • As you stalk up the Russian, look for holes, deep spots, and behind large boulders for fish being held up.
  • Fish look like grey streaks in the water. You might not know what they look like until you see one with your own eyes.

Thank you for watching our video, we hope it helps you have a great time up here fishing the Alaskan Russian River! 

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