Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

A federal rule change is in the works that would increase hunting and access opportunities on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The modification of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules would more closely align state and federal regulations on national refuges in Alaska, following a 2017 Trump administration order.

The new rules were published in the Federal Register on Thursday and are open for public comment for 60 days. The changes would allow hunting brown bears over bait on the refuge. Trappers would no longer need to get a refuge-specific permit, which requires a seldom-offered orientation class. The discharge of firearms would be allowed along the Kenai and Russian rivers from Nov. 1 to April 30. There would be more access for snowmachines, ATVs and utility vehicles on ice-fishing lakes and there would be more allowance for bikes and game carts.

Rick Green, special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says the state sees this as a rightful return to state management of wildlife.

“Unlike most other states in the union, Alaska is one of the only ones that the federal government steps in and manages wildlife when it’s really a state’s rights issue,” Green said.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Starting Wednesday, king salmon fishing on the Kenai River will be closed entirely through the end of June.

So far, only 583 large kings have come back to the river, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That’s a little more than a third of the number that had passed the sonar on the same day last year, and well below the preseason forecast.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

 The Anchor River and Deep Creek will officially off-limits to sport fishing starting Wednesday. Too few king salmon are coming back to those rivers to allow for it, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The rivers, which run alongside the Sterling Highway on the way to Homer, are popular sportfishing streams throughout the summer. But for the past few years, the king salmon runs there have been struggling. As of Monday, 164 kings had passed the weir on Deep Creek, compared to 282 last year, and 201 fish had passed the weir on the Anchor River, compared to 938 by the same day last year. Based on past run timing, that means a run of about 2,000 kings for the Anchor in 2020, a little more than half of the lower end of the escapement goal.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

  This weekend, Kenai’s celebrity eagles welcomed their first eaglet of the season, to the delight of viewers watching the City of Kenai’s eagle cam.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Alaska hunters spent an unhappy 24 hours reeling from an announcement that all spring bear hunting would be closed through May 31.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s decision was released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at 5 p.m. April 1. The emergency order states says the decision is meant to prevent travelers from bringing the coronavirus to rural communities, which do not have adequate health care resources to deal with an outbreak.

Ted Spraker, chair of the Alaska Board of Game, said the decision is out of the board’s hands.

“None of this is a biological issue. All of this is just a coronavirus, people issue,” Spraker said. “Normally, the governor does not get involved in wildlife management issues. That’s what he has the Board of Game and the commissioner for, and all the Fish and Game staff. This was more public safety than game management.”

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