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Russian River sockeye salmon catch limits to increase

Russian River_ Riley.JPG
Riley Board
Anglers fish the Russian River on Friday, June 24.

Anglers on the Russian River will soon be able to catch up to six sockeye a day and be in possession of 12, per an emergency order from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That’s an increase from the current bag limit of three sockeye and possession limit of six.

When more fish than expected arrive in the river and the run looks like it will hit its escapement goals, the bag and possession limits for sockeye salmon may be increased, said Colton Lipka, area management biologist for Fish and Game. He said this week, the escapement numbers are exceeding expectations.

“So we increase the bag limits when our projections indicate that we won’t have any issues achieving the escapement goal, and right now our projection actually indicates that we will go over the upper bound of our escapement goal," Lipka said. "We up the bag limit to give folks more opportunity to take fish home.”

According to Fish and Game, as of this Wednesday more than 17,000 sockeye had passed through the weir upriver. The department’s escapement goal for the early run, which peaks around June 27, is between 22,000 and 42,000 sockeye.

Lipka cautions anglers about the specifics of the new regulations, which only allow the increased bag and possession limits in the Russian River, the Russian River Sanctuary Area and Skilak Lake — nowhere else in the region.

“You cannot fish in waters where you have over your possession limit. If you did go up, and you get more than six, and then you wanted to go fish the main stem Kenai for sockeye, you couldn’t do that, because you have more than the possession limit in the main stem lower river allows," Lipka said.

If the bag limit is three in one area and six in another, Lipka also warns that that doesn’t mean someone can possess nine salmon at one time.

The Russian River can probably expect a busy fishing weekend, Lipka said, owing to both the increased bag limit and the opening of the sanctuary, which happened Wednesday.

The catch and possession limit change will go into effect at midnight tonight — or more precisely, 12:01 a.m. tomorrow morning — and will be in place until July 14.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL. A recent graduate of Middlebury College, where she studied linguistics, English literature and German, Board was editor-in-chief of The Middlebury Campus, the student newspaper, and completed work as a Kellogg Fellow, doing independent linguistics research. She has interned at the Burlington Free Press, covering the early days of the pandemic’s effects on Vermont communities, and at Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife, where she wrote about culture and folklife in Washington, D.C. and beyond. Board hails from Sarasota, Florida.
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