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Soldotna: Home of the World Record King Salmon

The biggest king salmon on record, which weighed 97.25 lbs., was caught in 1985 by Soldotna resident Les Anderson.

The mounted fish is on display at the Soldotna Visitor Center. Outside the center, there’s a wooden carving of Les and his salmon.

Tips: Check Fishing Regulations and Stay on the Walkways

Before you go fishing for kings, make sure you have a king stamp, as well as an Alaskan fishing license. When you buy your license, check with the store to see what kind of fishing is open. In Alaska, you are required to keep track of how many king salmon you catch, and to record that number on your king stamp, in ink, immediately after landing a fish. So remember to take a pen with you.

When you're fishing in Soldotna, be sure to use the steel boardwalks. They are to protect the riverbank. Don't be tempted to join the fishermen using the new insulated chest waders out in the water. It not only hurts the riverbank, but it is rude and dangerous for the people on the boardwalk behind you: you could hook somebody in the eye!

While at the visitor center, check out the “lure board” used by the visitor center staff to show you exactly what’s legal in rigging your fishing gear – and what isn’t.

People in Soldotna have perfected a fly casting technique they call “The Soldotna Flip.” You attach a streamer fly to your line with a couple of small round weights, 18 inches above the fly. Anglers “flip” about 12 feet of line upstream and let it drift down into a salmon’s mouth.

Watch for Flying Hooks

Every summer, about 100 anglers and spectators come into the emergency ward at Central Peninsula General Hospital to have a fishhook removed.

Most fishermen “catch” themselves or somebody else nearby.

You can protect yourself by not standing in back of a casting fisherman and by wearing glasses and a wide-brimmed hat. If your line gets snagged, lower your tip and use your reel to retrieve it.

Get Out and Fish!

There are two Kenai River king salmon runs.

The early run starts in mid-May and peaks in mid-June. The late run enters the Kenai in early July, with best fishing in late July.

There are also two red salmon runs.

The first run, headed to the Russian River, starts in late May or early June. The second run is a July run.

Silvers are an August fishery because most people don’t fish for them until the king season closes. For fall fishing, there’s a second silver run in September.

Pinks run in late July on even-numbered years.

Rainbow live in the Kenai River year-round. (Some parts of the river are catch and release only.)

One of the most popular fishing spots in Soldotna is on the south side of the river. There’s a mile of riverbank to fish from in the area.

Whatever you do, get out and fish! You’ll never see fishing like this again in your life.

Honey, Would You Buzz Me Up a Sofa?

Chainsaw art is a Soldotna specialty (although it is found elsewhere in the state, too.

Large Alaskan animals are sculpted by chainsaw artists, and purchased as lawn and porch ornaments and furniture.

In the winter, snow and ice carvings are equally popular, though far less durable.

+ More Alaska Art in the Alaska Knowledge Base.

(Photo, Robert Gaucher)

+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat

soldotna fishwalk

Soldotna Chamber Visitor Center

Sweeney's Outfitters

Soldotna Subway

Central Peninsula Hospital

+ Map: Downtown Soldotna & Where to Fish
+ Map: Kenai River Fishing Map
+ Map of Bearfoot Campgrounds

+ Map: Skilak Lake, Road & Trails

Teach A Man to Fish...
Four towns stretch out near the mouth of the Kenai River: Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski. Each has its own personality, but they physically blend into each other in a way that almost makes them a single community right in the middle of terrific fishing country. Bordered by the ocean and the Kenai River, this is the home of giant halibut, salmon, and trout. There’s even a community college “Fishing Academy.”

on the Lower Kenai River

Sterling | Alaska homestead-style
community with a rural flavor.

Soldotna | Busy modern town. Easy salmon-fishing sites right downtown.

Kenai | Near the outlet of the Kenai River into the sea. Historic Russian churches and buildings.

Nikiski | Up the coast from Kenai.
Lakes and rolling hills. Recreation area.

Soldotna: From Oil To Fishing

The Kenai River town of Soldotna is 150 miles from Anchorage by road.

Whether its name came from the Russian word for “soldier” or the Kenaitze Indian word for “creek”, this was a Native American fishing area. It was homesteaded in 1947, after World War II, with preferences for veterans returning from the war. That same year a rough road was bulldozed to Cooper Landing, opening up the region to the rest of Alaska.

In 1957, an oil find at nearby Swanson River made this the oil capital of Alaska for awhile. The local baseball team is still called the Peninsula Oilers.


If you’re fishing the Lower Kenai, and don’t have a boat, Soldotna is a good place to start.

When the reds are running, you’ll find the banks lined with people trying to catch them.

Centennial Park has a long bank you can fish from and right in the middle of town, behind the visitor center and upstream of the bridge, there are walkways so you can fish without destroying the banks.

Check at the Soldotna Visitor Center for other places to fish.

The gear fishermen use for reds is a streamer fly, which are so popular you can buy them in grocery stores. You don’t need a fly rod. In fact, most people use spinning reels.

If you get confused reading the sport fishing rule book, you’re not alone. There’s a Fish & Game office in Soldotna you can call (262-2737), or you can check at the Soldotna Visitor Center.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce
Visitor information, events, maps, fishing tide tables, and photo gallery.

City of Soldotna
History, schools, facilities, and more.

Kenai River Professional Guide Association
Thinking of going sport fishing on the Kenai River with a guide? Check out this website.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
The official website of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Natural history, visitor information, environmental education, wildlife, and more.

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