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At 12:58 a.m., after the final shred of daylight had faded into the Ninilchik River, Jeff Post felt a tug. 052911 NEWS 1 Peninsula Clarion At 12:58 a.m., after the final shred of daylight had faded into the Ninilchik River, Jeff Post felt a tug.

Photo By M. Scott Moon

The sun rises behind Steve Rinker early Saturday as he fishes the Ninilchik River for king salmon on the ceremonial start of the Kenai Peninsula sportfishing season.


Photo By M. Scott Moon

Eric Tu carries a fresh king salmon to his vehicle early Saturday. Tu, a Boeing 747 pilot for China Airlines, said he was happy to have a layover during the Memorial Day weekend.


Photo By M. Scott Moon

Wes Humbyrd stops for breakfast Saturday. He said he wanted to remember Memorial Day with the flag he hung in the window of his motorhome.


Photo By M. Scott Moon

Steve Rinker displays a king salmon he caught early Saturday in the Ninilchik River. He and other anglers reported good fishing later in the day, while others' luck wasn't so great.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Story last updated at 5/29/2011 - 2:16 pm

Hundreds of anglers flock to Ninilchik River, Deep Creek for 12:01 a.m. opener: Searching for a bite just past midnight



At 12:58 a.m., after the final shred of daylight had faded into the Ninilchik River, Jeff Post felt a tug.

"Big king in the creek!" a friend shouted. "Come on, Post, you can do this. Post time!"

Shadowed by five beer-drinking buddies who stood on the rocky bank behind him, the 31-year-old pharmacist from Pittstown, N.Y., trudged into the river.

"Get him in the post!" one friend, a fellow New Yorker, yelled.

"Post - do not lose this fish!" another whooped.

"It's a 100-pounder! Post - you gotta go in the water like a bobcat. Like a bobcat! Like a New York bobcat!"

For more than 10 minutes, the hoots and hollers continued as hundreds of anglers descended Saturday on both Deep Creek and the Ninilchik for the opening day of king salmon season.

Post, sporting jeans with knee-high rubber boots, splashed over rocks and through the current, the fish shaking the Blue Fox No. 3 silver spoon.

"That's trouble, dude. Come on Post, come on Post. You can only land him here; you can't land him in the rocks!"

Then at 1:09 a.m., about 200 yards downstream from the initial strike: "It pulled off."

"It's awful, dude. I don't even know what to say. It's heartbreaking. That's something dreams are made of," said a soaked Post, sitting on a pile of rocks near his wallet, which he threw onto dry land midway through the fight. "I'm not going to sleep for two weeks. I gotta laugh, though. I don't know what else to do. I'm not going to stop now. I'm definitely not going home until I catch one. That's for damn sure."

Post provided what was perhaps the most entertaining fight on a night when few anglers caught a limit of two kings - most agreed the action was slow - as the fishing continued into the morning.

The season closes at midnight Monday.

About one-quarter mile upstream from Post, Joe Le of Anchorage found a better result.

Le, 30, landed a 36-inch, 20 pound king using pink yarn and a bead with enough weight to get his hook to the bottom.

An angler who visits the central Kenai Peninsula every weekend, Le made the catch around 1 a.m.

"Feels good, man," he said. "One more to go."

Le said he used "feel" to catch the fish because of limited visibility in the dark.

His approach was to cast his line into the current and drag it across the bottom, looking to brush the hook against the head of a fish.

"They don't have hands so they use their mouth to move it out of the way," Le said.

Fellow Anchorage resident Andrew Prop, 19, found success with the same strategy.

Using an eight-weight fly rod, yarn and a bead, he was among the first to make a catch, landing an about-20-pounder at 12:15 a.m.

He's fished the Ninilchik opener every year since the age of 14, wearing a headlamp Saturday for better visibility.

"The darkness doesn't really change anything," he said.

There were fish caught, and lost, throughout the night - Prop said one of his friends hooked three in the first hour only to lose them all - but the action was sporadic despite a 12:30 a.m. high tide.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had yet to release fish counts for Deep Creek and the Ninilchik as of Saturday.

The department's most recent count for the Kenai had 795 kings swimming into the river through Thursday. Those numbers will be updated Tuesday, according to the department's web site, and catch rates are expected to improve. Numbers haven't been reported for the Kasilof.

"It's slow," Le said of the Ninilchik.

Wesley Remmer can be reached at wesley.remmer@peninsulaclarion.com.





THE REC GUIDE

WINTER ACTIVITIES

If you think the Kenai Peninsula is beautiful in the summer, you should see it when cloaked under a thick blanket of white with the aurora borealis rippling through the celestial canopy above.

BERRIES OF THE KENAI PENINSULA

Whether intentionally seeking berries for jellies and jams or just out for a casual hike, residents and visitors will find the 50-some varieties of wild berries in Alaska hard to resist.

COMMON SENSE SURVIVAL

There’s adventure and beauty in the wild country, but also an element of risk.



2010 Peninsula Clarion award winners

Best Education Reporting
1st Place – Dante Petri, “All under one roof

Suzan Nightingale Award: Best Columnist

2nd Place – Will Morrow, “Voices of the Clarion”

Best Sustained Coverage

3rd Place – Dante Petri, “Mt. Redoubt Eruption”

Best News Photo

3rd Place – M. Scott Moon, “Bear Rescue

Best Photo Portrait
3rd Place – M. Scott Moon, “Ear Gauger

Best Audio Slideshow
2nd Place – M. Scott Moon, “Learning to ski

Best Use of Story and Photos by a Journalist
2nd Place – Joseph Robertia, “Dipnet disaster averted

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