Sport anglers can keep double the normal number of sockeye salmon in the Kenai River starting tomorrow as the run is ramping up.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the bag limit increase this afternoon. Starting tomorrow morning, anglers can keep up to six sockeye per day with twleve in possession. That applies to the river downstream of Skilak Lake.
The preseason forecast predicted about 2.3 million sockeye to return to the Kenai this year. Fish and Game biologists have upped their expectations for the run—they now expect it to go over that. But the river sonar has now counted more sockeye than the escapement goal for the Kenai River. The escapement goal tops out at 1.3 million, and as of Tuesday, 1.29 million sockeye had been counted at the sonar. That doesn’t account for fish harvested above the sonar, but August is just beginning, and the last two days have seen more than 100,000 fish pass the sonar.
On top of that, the commercial setnet fishery is closed, and the dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai ended on July 31. The two major harvesting groups left to control escapement are the drift gillnet fleet and the inriver sportfishery.
The bag limit expansion does not apply to coho, pink, or chum salmon, and the king salmon fishery is still closed. No more than two coho salmon per day can be kept, and no more than three chum per day.