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Russian River Sanctuary opens to sockeye fishing tonight

Anglers fish the Russian River during the first salmon run in late June.
Riley Board
Anglers fish the Russian River during the first salmon run in June 2022.

The Russian River Sanctuary Area opens for sport fishing at midnight tonight, a month early for the popular sockeye fishery, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Fish and Game say they’re opening up the area — spanning the Russian River Ferry to the confluence of the Upper Kenai and Russian rivers — because the sockeye are coming in strong.

As of Monday, the department counted 2,166 sockeye at the Russian River weir — well above where the run was this time last year. The biological escapement goal for the run is 22,000 to 42,000 fish.

Guide David Lisi said his company, Cooper Landing Fishing Guide, is ready.

“A lot of the preparation is getting ready for people just visiting Cooper Landing,” he said. “It's a big time of year for the area – just based on how many people flock to Cooper Landing for the opener.

Lisi said when it comes to the early run, anything can happen. The run exceeded expectations last year, too, with more than 61,000 fish passing through.

He said some anglers are lucky to catch big windows where the fishing is great for weeks in a row.

“When it’s a little bit slower, it’s a little bit tougher,” he said. “The opener could be really slow and the next day could be the best day in history. So it really depends on the fish and how they’re moving and people's luck.

At the same time, he said the river-side community of Cooper Landing is getting ready for the influx of tourists that come this time of year. He said this is really when the town comes alive.

Anglers can start fishing just after midnight tonight — that’s 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, June 14. The early period goes through midnight on July 14; fishing extends through Aug. 20.

The bag limit is three per day for large sockeye, 16 inches or longer, and 10 per day for sockeye smaller than 16 inches.

Correction: The sanctuary area is opening to finishing a month early, not a day. We regret the error.

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.
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