Public Radio for the Central Kenai Peninsula
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support public radio — donate today!

No king retention on the Kenai this July

Sabine Poux/KDLL

King salmon fishing on the Kenai River will be catch and release only in July. The Department of Fish and Game said it’s placing restrictions on the late run ahead of the season to meet its escapement goal amid continually dwindling king runs.

The preseason forecast for the late run is about 16,000 large fish. It falls below the five-year average and well below the historical average of the run. 

Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka said the late-run season is starting with the restrictions so Fish and Game can meet its escapement goal of 15,000 to 30,000 large kings.

"So when your forecast is 16, and then you look at recent year performance, there’s not a lot there to allow harvest opportunity," Lipka said. "So that’s how we get to the catch and release management action.”

The department got flak from guiding groups last year for not starting the late-run season under catch-and-release. Escapement numbers in the last few years have been some of the worst on record.

But the department did ultimately change the regulations and later closedthe king sportfishery and commercial setnet fishery entirely.

Meanwhile, the early king run, which peaks in June, is open under general regulations, meaning anglers can use single-hook, artificial lures without bait to catch kings.

The early run forecast for late-run kings is about 4,272 fish in 2022. The escapement goal is between 3,900 and 6,600 fish. 

Lipka said the early run is smaller than the late run. But he said it is also under less pressure from anglers and other user groups, which changes the calculus.

"Even though it’s a larger run, there are more people taking a bite of that pie," he said of the late run.

General regulations prohibit bait and allow single-hook, artificial lures. For king salmon larger than 20 inches, the bag and possession limit is one. Under 20 inches, it’s 10. Fishermen must release salmon that are at least 34 inches long.

Keep in mind, regulations and projections all could change once the season gets underway. Lipka said the department releases regulations early in the year to give anglers and businesses time to plan.

The department also announced restrictions on the Kasilof River. You can see those all on the department’s website.

This article has been updated with comments from Colton Lipka.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
Related Content