Alaska Department of Fish and Game

In what is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal sportsfishing season, the bag and possession limits on the Kasilof River has been liberalized in an effort to minimize what is now expected to be an over-escapement of sockeye salmon.

In an emergency order, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game increased the bag and possession limits to six fish per day and 12 fish in possession; however, no more than two salmon per day and two in possession may be coho salmon, in all portions of the Kasilof River open to salmon fishing.

With all the closures and restrictions lately, one wouldn’t be blamed if they thought there were no more angling opportunities in the central Kenai Peninsula. But they'd be wrong.

First of all, dip-netting is still open at the mouth of the Kasilof River, with just a couple caveats: One, any king salmon caught must be immediately returned to the water, and two, the fishery is for Alaska residents only. Other than that, Fish and Game says dip-netting success on the Kasilof remains good.

On the Kenai Conversation this week, host Jay Barrett welcomes Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishermen Paul Shadura, Jesse Bjorkman and Andy Hall to discuss the downward trajectory of salmon returns, management goals and the need for all gear groups to finally come together and work for the benefit of the fish.

This week’s Central Kenai sportsfishing report is more of a list of things one cannot do on the water in pursuit of a salmon.

Of course the Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery closed at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, which is two days earlier than scheduled.

Meanwhile, from the mouth of the river to Skilak Lake, the bag and possession limit for sockeye 16 inches or longer is reduced to one per day and two in possession effective Monday as well.

City of Kenai Dipnet app

 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued two emergency orders restricting the harvest of sockeye salmon on the Kenai River.

 

Thursday was a slightly better day for sockeye returns to the Kenai river. But some of those fish coming back have raised a little curiosity.

ADF&G

The annual personal use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River begins Tuesday. But amid expectations of an underperforming salmon return, the City of Kenai, which is host to the fishery, is ready, according to City Manager Paul Ostrander.

After being turned aside in May, the Kenai River Sportsfishing Association has won another audience before the Alaska Board of Fisheries regarding problems the lobbying group has with hatchery pink salmon production in Prince William Sound.

In May, the Board punted the issue to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton. Last week Cotton sent a letter to KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease saying he did not find that an emergency existed and denied the petition.

Citing the continued lack of salmon making their way to the spawning grounds, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has taken drastic steps to help boost the escapement. 

In two emergency orders released Friday, the department first cancelled Monday’s scheduled 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. commercial fishing period. Then it took the restrictions a step further, as we hear on the Department’s recorded commercial fishing update: 

On the Kenai Peninsula, salmon are king. Whether they’re king salmon or one of the other species of salmonid that populate our fresh waters. And that’s why when there’s a biologic danger to their existence, people go into high gear to try and protect them.

Take invasive species for example. About 20 years ago, northern pike were illegally introduced into Kenai Peninsula lakes by persons unknown. And they thrived, just like they do elsewhere in Alaska where they naturally occur. But here on the Kenai, the pike’s success came at a cost - the lives of baby salmon.

Commercial salmon fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet will finally get a chance to put their nets in the water on Thursday. It is the first of the fleet’s regular 12-hour Monday-and-Thursday scheduled fishing openings.

Brian Marston, Fish and Game’s area manager for Upper Cook Inlet commercial fisheries, says this opening will be district-wide.

ADF&G

A half-dozen reminders of recent emergency orders led off this week's Northern Kenai Fishing Report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, including a catch-and-release restriction on the Kenai River. But that restriction was superseded today (Monday) in an emergency order when the Department banned all angling for king salmon the Kenai River, even catch-and-release.

ADF&G

Judging by the dearth of clam-bakes on the beaches of the Kenai Peninsula this year, it’s safe to say sport clamming for the tasty morsels is closed again.

After a crash in adult population six years ago and a one-year reduction in harvest allowance, clamming was closed.

Carol Kerkvliet is the Lower Cook Inlet sports fish area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer.

King salmon fishing on both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers will have restrictions placed on them starting June 13, both due to the below average run strength. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the restrictions Monday afternoon.

On the Kenai River, sports fishing will be limited to catch-and-release only, effective June 13 through July 15. Anglers may fish for king salmon with a single, unbaited, artificial lure, but may not remove the fish from the water before releasing it.

Sport fishing for early-run king salmon on the Kenai River is reported to be fair and improving, which is a marked improvement over the situation from the freshwater fishing report from Fish and Game last week.

According to this week's report, the water remains relatively clear, but some moss and debris are fouling lures and lines.

In the latest Kenai Peninsula freshwater sports fishing report from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, angling for early run king salmon is still slow on both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.

The water is clear and low in the Kenai River, and there's seems to be a little more early success on the Kasilof near the Cooked Creek State Recreation Site.

Sport fishing for salmon in the Upper Kenai River and the Russian River do not open until June 11.

The comment period for the northern pike eradication plan for the Tote Road lakes area opened Monday.

Interested parties can comment on both the use of the pesticide Rotenone to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and on the environmental assessment to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Comments can be made to the agencies until May 17th and 18th, respectively.

KDLL spoke with Area Management Biologist Brian Marston in February about this project, which is the last in a series that’s lasted over a decade.

  The last series of lakes in the central peninsula to be treated for invasive northern pike is the subject of a public meeting Thursday night. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will have on hand the project biologist, the area sport fishery manager, and the area research supervisor will be in attendance to answer questions. 

The public meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 Thursday evening at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an open comment period through the end of the month for its plan to enhance the king salmon run on the Kasilof River and Crooked Creek, as well as in Kachemak Bay.

 Anglers on the North Road will have to continue the practice of returning any Arctic Char or Dolly Varden to the waters of Stormy Lake for at least another year. Effective at 12:01 a.m. on New Year's Day, the restriction on fish retention was extended by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The ban on taking Char or a Dolly in the lake stems from efforts started in 2012 to eradicate invasive, nonnative northern pike from Stormy Lake. That required poisoning the fish with a chemical called Rotenone.

In 2018, all Eastside Cook Inlet beaches will remain closed to recreational clamming due to the continued low abundance of mature sized razor clams. Fish and Game made the announcement because any razor clam harvest in 2018 will likely delay recovery of Kenai Peninsula razor clam populations.

As the Alaska Board of Fisheries begins its work session in Anchorage today, it will consider requests from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and cities of Kenai and Soldotna to meet on the Kenai Peninsula in the future.

The board considers Upper Cook Inlet management issues every three years. It’s going on 20 years since the board held a full meeting on the central peninsula, despite being home to some of the largest salmon-producing rivers and associated fisheries in the region.

The Kenai River king salmon season closed at the end of July, and by all accounts, both the early and late runs were successful for both anglers and escapement.