Kenai River dipnet season underway amid worrisome salmon forecast

Jul 10, 2018

Credit ADF&G

The annual personal use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River begins Tuesday. But amid expectations of an underperforming salmon return, the City of Kenai, which is host to the fishery, is ready, according to City Manager Paul Ostrander.

“If you’ve been out and about you probably seen North Beach is ready, South Beach is ready. The launch and dock (ahem) are ready. A lot of folks been participating in that, and as you know it’s a lot of work. We’re really hoping we have a successful fishery this year so that we can leave it up until August 1st.”

Indeed, chalk parking lines and “One-Way” signs are up leading to the city’s boat launch ramp.

Meanwhile, the city’s plan to engage food vendors in a bidding war for the exclusive right to sell in the North Beach parking lot has failed, according to City Clerk Jamie Heinz.

“We put it out once at the price that was suggested and emailed it to everybody who had operated in the last several years and gave them a deadline of June 1st, and nobody applied for it at all at that time. We heard two comments at that time that the price was too high.”

Bidding was to start at $950 for the entire three-week season, which is actually a break when compared to standard parking and overnight fees that vendors have paid in the past, which could range up to $1,600. Heinz told the city council in May that in the past some vendors have paid that in full, up front.

She told the council on Friday that it doesn’t appear that the dipnet concession is valuable enough for people to bid on them. Some said they wanted the flexibility to relocate for a day or two for special events.

“So our plan is to go back to the same as we’ve always done it, which is vendors can be down there and park in the parking lot, same prices as everyone else pays and they can pick days they want to be down there.”

The latest figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show a slow growth in the number of late run sockeye entering the Kenai River, however the run is steadily losing ground compared to last summer. The cumulative count through Sunday was 37,507, which is not quite 20,000 fish less than through the same date in 2017, which has seen 56,879 fish pass.

Dipnet fishing on the Kenai River, which can be done from the beaches on the north and south shores at the mouth of the river and from the south shore from Kenai Landing to the Warren Ames Bridge, or from a boat between the city dock and the Warren Ames Bridge, began at 6 o’clock Tuesday morning.

Click here for ADF&G's resources for dipnetters.