The Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery opens on Friday at 6 a.m. This year, though, dipnetters are not allowed to keep any king salmon they net. They have to let those go immediately.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the restriction on Monday. The department is concerned about enough king salmon making it up the river for escapement, so dipnetters are restricted from keeping them. Sportfishermen are not allowed to use bait, either, and are restricted as to where they can fish and how many big fish they can keep.
King salmon runs throughout Cook Inlet and on the Kenai Peninsula have underperformed this year, according to Fish and Game. The Kenai River early run of kings was particularly dismal, not even meeting the lower end of the escapement goal despite no fishing by the end of the run.
Sockeye fishing, though, as always, is the name of the game on the Kenai River dipnet. Since July 1, almost 47,000 sockeye have passed the Kenai River sonar, according to Fish and Game, with about 15,000 fish passing on Tuesday.
The City of Kenai is asking dipnetters who choose to camp on the beach to space their campsites apart, use the handwashing stations the city has provided, and practice social distancing. The dumpsters are also located slightly off the beach this year, to reduce costs for the city in collecting garbage. As usual, there are fees for camping, day use, and parking. Dipnetters are reminded that you must have a current state sportfishing license and a personal use permit while you are fishing to be in compliance with the law.
The Kasilof dipnet is also open. As of Tuesday, just over 149,000 sockeye had passed the sonar on that river, and Fish and Game opened the dipnet fishery to extend all the way up from the mouth to the Sterling Highway bridge, with boats only allowed in the lowermost three miles of the river.
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