Sport anglers hoping to catch a Kenai River king salmon this summer had reason to cheer Tuesday as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced it would reopen sportfishing in the Kenai with the late run of kings starting July 1, after closing fishing on the early run of kings June 20. But don’t cheer too loudly, as king fishing in July is already starting off with restrictions, and could face the same fate of closure as the early run.
Fish and Game issued an order Tuesday stating that the Kenai would open to sportfishing July 1, but that use of bait and multiple hooks would not be allowed, from the river mouth upstream to Skilak Lake, and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge. From July 1 to July 31, anglers may only use one, unbaited, single hook with an artificial lure.
And even single hook, unbaited fishing might not last. Fish and Game advises that it will monitor the run closely and enact further restrictions should the late run appear in danger of not meeting escapement numbers.
“King salmon runs to Cook Inlet, including early-run Kenai River king salmon, and throughout Alaska are experiencing a period of low productivity, with the 2013 runs being less than preseason forecasts and of low run strength. Based upon the relationship between early-run king salmon abundance and late-run abundance, it is likely the Kenai River late run will also experience below-average run strength and be well below the preseason forecast,” according to the department’s Tuesday news release.
As of June 24, based on historic run timing, about 78 percent of the early run of Kenai kings was complete, and Fish and Game notes below-average and less-than-forecasted king counts from its DIDSON sonar and other run-strength indices. The cumulative early run DIDSON sonar count of Kenai kings was 1,384 fish by June 24. Current estimates project the run at a total of 1,700 to 2,200 early run kings, while the preseason forecast estimated 5,300 kings.
Updates on the run and fishery status can be found under “fish counts” on the department’s website, at www.adfg.alaska.gov/sf/FishCounts/.