Bait, multiple hooks prohibited on Kenai

Jul 29, 2020

Credit Redoubt Reporter file photo

July and August are the height of the Kenai River sportfishing season, but fishermen are going to have to work a little harder for their catches for the first couple weeks of August.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that bait and multiple hooks will be prohibited on the Kenai River from the mouth to the outlet of Skilak Lake starting Saturday at midnight. The change lasts through August 15.

The main goal is to protect late-run king salmon. The run is in trouble, with only 6,456 large late-run kings having passed the sonar on the river as of Tuesday. The lower end of the escapement goal is set at 15,000. Fish and Game closed the river to king salmon fishing effective last Friday and closed all east side commercial setnetting along with it, but the current projections are for the run to not make it to the lower end of the escapement goal.

Coho fishing season will be starting soon. Fish and Game advises people to avoid fishing for coho in parts of the river where king salmon may be concentrated and cutting leaders or lines to avoid stressing kings hooked by accident. All kings, even those caught by accident, have to be released immediately without being removed from the water.

The setnets are closed, but the commercial drift fleet is still able to fish. As of last Friday, Fish and Game estimated the total Kenai River run so far at 863,000 fish, projecting the entire run at 1.9 million fish to the Kenai River, and will likely be a few days late.

As of Monday, commercial fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet had harvested about 888,000 salmon, with just under 70 percent of them being sockeye.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@kdll.org.