Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

If you’re looking for a less-rustic approach to rainbow trout fishing on the northern Kenai Peninsula, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a spot for you.

The department recently finished improving access to Barbara Lake, about 30 miles north of Kenia. Access is off Ballard Drive, off Halibouty Road.

Fish and Game has been stocking the lake since 1980. It’s not one of their highest-use fisheries, but this project might help hook some more interest.

“It’s more just improving the access and experience for anglers that either live out in Nikiski or choose to travel out there and go look for fish,” said Colton Lipka, area management biologist.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game didn’t always pay much mind to how people used the kelp that washed up on Cook Inlet beaches. 

“We assumed that it was like somebody going to the beach and picking up driftwood, or picking up pretty rocks or things like that," said Glenn Hollowell, the area management biologist for lower Cook Inlet.

He said in the last four years, the department has learned more about those detached kelp populations.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Nearly 2.5 million late-run sockeye are projected to pass through the Kenai River by the end of the month, overescaping the river by over one million fish.

Those numbers concern fishermen like Joe Dragseth, a drift-netter in Kenai. He said he worries about the health of the river. And he said it’s unfair commercial fishermen have been restricted while so many fish have made it up the river.

Krissy Dunker / Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Biologists have been working on eliminating northern pike from Kenai Peninsula lakes and streams for years. Northern pike are native to Alaska north of the Alaska Range in areas like Bristol Bay and Fairbanks, but they were introduced to lakes in Southcentral in the mid-20th century. Since then, they’ve been stuffing themselves on salmon fry and degrading salmon runs in the Mat-Su Valley, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula.

"You get down in Southcentral where pike have been on the landscape 60 years or so—we have a before and after picture," said Krissy Dunker, who manages the Southcentral Alaska Invasive Species program for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We know certain systems that used to produce coho, chinook and other things, and those are gone now. It’s just pike."

Redoubt Reporter

The Board of Fisheries has denied two emergency petitions from Kenai Peninsula setnetters asking to reopen a limited fishery for what is left of the sockeye run.

 

The east side setnet commercial fishery has been closed since July 20 after the Alaska Department of Fish and game closed the Kenai River king salmon sportfishery. The setnets are tied to the restrictions in the sportfishery, and came out of the water entirely when the sportfishery closed. The late run of king salmon has been depressed this year—only 6,420 large kings have passed the sonar on the Kenai, and Fish and Game is projecting that the run won’t make the lower end of the escapement goal, even without harvest.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The Kenai River will close entirely to king salmon fishing starting Wednesday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure Monday afternoon after nearly three weeks of watching the late-run king salmon fail to return to the Kenai River in large enough numbers. The lower river started July with a king fishery open to retention, but no bait allowed; the department moved to catch-and-release only, with a note that further action might be necessary. Even with the closure, biologists don’t think the run will make the minimum escapement goal.

You don't have to know a lot about fishing to know that dipnet season is back in Kenai.

But if you do want to learn more about the fishing that makes the city a summer destination for AK anglers, we've got you covered. This week's Kenai Converstaion is a 2020 online presentation from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the basics of dipnetting, from what to bring to how to avoid a ticket.

In the second part of the presentation, how to navigate the personal use fisheries in the Kenai, Kasilof and China Poot fisheries.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Wildlife officials said they shot a bear after it attacked a man in his camper near Seward during the busy holiday weekend.

The man had fallen asleep with his camper's door open at Fourth of July Beach, across Resurrection Bay from downtown Seward, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The Kenai River is the most popular river for sport fishing in Alaska.

It’s a great thing for the hundreds of thousands of anglers who flock to the peninsula each year, and the companies that benefit from their business. But increased development along the river can also threaten salmon habitat. 

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

The Anchor River and Deep Creek will close to king salmon fishing through July 15 starting Saturday. Too few kings are coming back to the Anchor to justify a sportfishery there, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Both the commercial hooligan and herring fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet are closing this week after reaching quota.

The commercial fishery for hooligan — a kind of smelt — opened May 1. But Fish and Game management biologist Brain Marston said people didn’t start catching until May 10.

Photo: Sabine Poux

Alaska sets aside money each year for projects that contribute to healthy salmon stocks and habitats.

The Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund is the state’s share of a federal program geared toward protecting Pacific salmon populations. The fund is also distributed between five other states and tribal partners.


Regina Green

The odds of getting attacked by a bear are one in over two million. That’s why Sarah Wallner, who was mauled by a grizzly in 2007, could not believe her misfortune when she and two friends ended up in a standoff with a black bear at Tonsina Creek, near Seward, on Thursday. 

“Oh, not again. This is not happening," Wallner remembers thinking. "Like, this is not supposed to happen again.”

All three were OK, as was the bear, who just suffered from some mace in the face. But the hikers said for the two-ish minutes the standoff lasted, they weren’t so sure what was going to happen.

Alaska Department of Fish & Game

Two small commercial fisheries open soon in Upper Cook Inlet.

The commercial herring fishing season starts April 20 and closes May 31. The season for hooligan — a type of smelt — will be open between May 1 and June 30.

An Alaska resident last year would have to pay $29 for a sport fishing license. Same goes for the 14 years before that. 

This year, the same license costs $20. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game scrapped the surcharge after paying off a bond debt on the construction of two hatcheries.

But the reduction might just be temporary. Legislators are considering levying another, smaller surcharge on those licenses this summer. This time, the charge would fund maintenance projects at sport fish hatcheries around the state. 


State of Alaska

Freshman Soldotna Republican Rep. Ron Gillham has introduced a bill to broaden eligibility for free hunting and sport fishing licenses to more veterans and members of the military. 

The state already offers complimentary hunting and fishing licenses for Alaska residents actively serving in the Alaska National Guard and U.S. military reserves, as well as veterans who are at least “50 percent disabled.” Non-residents who are stationed in Alaska also get discounted rates for those licenses.

Redoubt Reporter

Kenai River sport fishermen can start the season under general regulations.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting an early run of about 4,400 large king salmon, longer than 34 inches. That’s just below the recent five-year average of 4,700 fish, and about half of the 35-year average of 9,000 fish.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Alaska sport fish permit prices are slightly lower this year, after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game removed a 15-year surcharge.

Fish and Game raised the price of permits in 2005 to pay off a $68 million bond debt. The bond financed the construction of sport fish hatcheries in Fairbanks and Anchorage, as well as hatchery enhancements in Southeast.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Safari Club International is appealing a decision from a federal judge to uphold hunting and trapping restrictions in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The hunting advocacy group hopes the court will reconsider the November ruling, said Regina Lennox, litigation counsel for SCI.

Dean Beyer

The Kenai Peninsula has a new area wildlife biologist. 

Nick Fowler joins the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by way of upstate New York. But he’s lived all over the country.

Fowler grew up in central Missouri and majored in fisheries and wildlife science at the University of Missouri. He got his masters degree in Mississippi and has researched on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in California.

Courtesy of Bottom Line Charters

Scientists are still digging for answers about the low abundance of adult razor clams on the east side of Cook Inlet. Meantime, charter companies are taking passengers over to the west side, where razors abound.

“The west side is like Deep Creek and Clam Gulch were 20, 24 years ago," said Ernie Kerby. He’s owned Bottom Line Charters, in Ninilchik, for almost three decades.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The decision by Federal Judge Sharon Gleason to uphold Obama-era regulations in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge comes amidst a months-long effort by the state and hunting advocates to change those regulations, as well as a concurrent effort to keep them in place.

This summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed changes to existing refuge rules that include allowing hunting brown bears over bait and remove trapping setbacks from trails and trailheads, among others. The service is currently sifting through the tens of thousands of comments it received in response — most in opposition.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A federal judge has upheld restrictions on hunting and brown bear baiting in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, thwarting attempts by hunting advocates and the state to overturn the Obama-era “Kenai Rule.”

The Kenai Rule was established in 2016 to regulate hunting and trapping on the refuge. It restricts brown bear baiting within the refuge, hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and firearm discharge along the Kenai and Russian Rivers, among other measures.

Shortly after the rule was passed, the state of Alaska and Safari Club International filed cases against the Department of the Interior, arguing that the restrictions preempted state management of wildlife on these lands.

Redoubt Reporter

The state released a second draft of its plan to divide $50 million in pandemic relief between sectors in Alaska's fishing industry.

It’s part of the federal CARES Act pandemic relief bill to help the fishing industry nationwide. Federal guidance suggests most of the funds go to seafood processors, a third to commercial fishermen and around 5 percent to sportfishing guides and lodges.

Forest Service-USDA

Today is the deadline to submit comments on proposed regulation changes affecting the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The changes would allow the state of Alaska to regulate trapping on the refuge, which would do away with the requirement of an orientation class and a buffer zone disallowing trapping around trails and trailheads. It would allow baiting as a harvest method for brown bears in areas where baiting is already allowed for black bears. Use of bicycles and game carts would be allowed for the first time on the refuge. The discharge of firearms would be allowed along areas of the Kenai and Russian Rivers in the fall and winter. And ice-fishing lakes would be open to snowmachines and ATVs in the winter when there’s adequate snow and ice cover.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Troopers have identified the victim of a fatal bear mauling last Thursday near Hope.

46-year old Daniel Schilling of Hope was found dead by family and friends after he was overdue to come home. Troopers say he was out clearing a trail about a mile behind his property, which is about mile 8 of the Hope Highway, that day, but his wife became concerned when he was late and his dog came home without him.

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.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The Kenai River drainage will officially close to king salmon fishing Friday due to low numbers.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure on Wednesday, set to last through July 31, which would be the end of the king salmon fishing season on the Kenai anyway. The river was already restricted to catch-and-release only due to low returns, but the closure goes a step further and prohibits bait everywhere in the river from the mouth upstream to Skilak Lake.

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.

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