Kenai River

NOAA

Residents along the banks of the middle and lower Kenai River should prepare for elevated water levels in the next few days. The Skilak Glacier dammed lake started releasing Friday and that extra water is making its way downriver. The National Weather Service predicts the water level will crest at the outlet of Skilak Lake and the low-lying Kenai Keys area Wednesday or Thursday. The river is expected to be bank full but flooding is not expected.

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.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

Sport anglers can keep double the normal number of sockeye salmon in the Kenai River starting tomorrow as the run is ramping up.

 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the bag limit increase this afternoon. Starting tomorrow morning, anglers can keep up to six sockeye per day with twleve in possession. That applies to the river downstream of Skilak Lake.

Redoubt Reporter

Commercial setnet fishermen in Cook Inlet had their season cut short last week. When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the Kenai River to sportfishing for king salmon, it closed the east setnet fishery completely. Some of them had only had a handful of openers.

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.

Redoubt Reporter

Kenai River anglers are allowed to catch and keep kings of any size this month, as long as they do it with a single unbaited hook. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game made that decision after analyzing the projections for the run and the outcome of the early Kenai king run last month.

But sport fishing guides worry that taking big kings out of the river will hurt the population long term. They’re asking anglers to release the large kings they catch anyway.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Law enforcement is investigating after a man reported being bitten by a brown bear on the Upper Kenai River Trail this weekend.

A man reported the incident Sunday around 8 p.m. on the upper part of the Kenai River Trail, which starts from Skilak Lake Loop Road. According to Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the man was hiking alone with his dog when the dog chased a female bear with two cubs, causing her to charge the hiker.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates Jim’s Landing sees about 42,000 visitors a year. It’s the only ramp for putting in and taking out of the Kenai River between Russian River and Skilak Lake.

But the infrastructure at the launch isn’t really up to the task.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Board members from the Kenai River Special Management Area are again floating the idea of a “sockeye salmon stamp” — a surcharge on sport fish licenses to fund infrastructure improvements on the Kenai River.

The board hasn’t ironed out details. But President Ted Wellman said a stamp would help with much-needed repairs to well-worn facilities.

Debbie Boege-Tobin

Cook Inlet belugas used to follow salmon through the Kenai River in the summer. Now, they’re mostly just spotted in other seasons.

Researchers from NOAA Fisheries aren’t sure why. It’s one of many questions they’re asking about the endangered population to better understand why the belugas aren’t rebounding and how the agency can support their recovery.

A study featuring a relatively new DNA sampling technique might help them find answers.

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.

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.

Kenai Fire Department

The Kenai and Nikiski fire departments worked together to remove a sunken boat from the mouth of the Kenai River late last night.

The boat reportedly swamped on Sunday due to the wake from another passing vessel near Kenai’s city dock. Many personal use dipnet fishermen float near the dock while they’re fishing, but it’s also a high-use area frequented by commercial boats and other sportfishing boats passing through. The boat that capsized Sunday was a twenty-foot alumaweld loaded with five to six people, said Kenai Fire Chief Tony Prior.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Alaskans pretty well know at this point that king salmon are in trouble. Biologists been looking into why for about a decade now, without a single smoking gun. And that seems to the way it’s going to be—no single answer.

A group of researchers led through the University of Alaska published a study this week probing a little more into the freshwater part of the lives of king salmon, also known as chinook. They focused on fifteen streams in the Cook Inlet basin, from the Chulitna in the north to the Anchor River in the south, to find some answers about how what happens in the freshwater affects king salmon survival. And, like other studies have shown, it’s complicated.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Fishing for king salmon the Kenai and Kasilof rivers will be catch-and-release only starting Wednesday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the restriction on Monday. Not enough large kings are coming back to the river to meet the escapement goal, so the restriction is to help preserve more of the fish, according to the department. As of Sunday, 1,699 large kings—that’s kings 75 centimeters or greater from mid-eye to tail fork, the only ones that the department counts toward escapement—had passed the sonar on the Kenai River. Under current projections, there won’t be enough to meet the escapement goal.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

It’s a relatively calm day on the Kenai beach for the opening day of dipnet. Weather is supposed to move in this weekend, bringing some increased winds and rain, but for now, the slack tide in the mouth of the Kenai River is almost glassy.

The beach is actually fairly quiet as well, though it’s still noon on a Friday. At the peak of the fishery, there can be hundreds of people lining every inch of the shore, each with a dipnet and a cooler to fill.

Redoubt Reporter

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.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

 There’s just under a week until the Kenai River dipnet opens on July 10. But if you want to get out and get some dipnetting done this weekend, there’s a little more space at the Kasilof River to do it.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that the Kasilof dipnet is open to shore fishing all the way from the mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge. Dipnetting from a boat is allowed, too, but only up to a marker around mile 3 of the river. No king salmon can be kept, though.

The city of Kenai has been working on a way to stabilize its eroding bluffs for nigh on four decades. The city is now in the final phase of pre-construction design before being able to lock down funding and potentially get the project on the ground.

The bluffs that the city of Kenai sits on have been eroding, badly, for years. As the groundwater goes out, it pushes material out of the bluff to the bottom, where the river perpetually washes it away, accelerating the erosion. If the material falling out could build up, it could establish a slope over time that plants could grow on, making a more stable bluff that could in turn protect the buildings on top from tumbling into the river.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The annual throngs of fishermen that come from all over Southcentral Alaska to the Kenai River personal-use dipnet fishery are due to arrive in about three weeks, and the city of Kenai is letting them know to expect a few changes this year.

The fishery usually involves big crowds of people congegating on Kenai’s north and south beaches, all filling coolers full of salmon for the winter. In 2018, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recorded more than 20,000 angler days fished in the Kenai River dipnet fishery. This year, the city of Kenai is making a few changes in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19 among the crowds.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

King salmon fishing on the Kenai River will open with no bait, with retention of kings less than 34 inches long. The Kasilof River will also start July with no bait.

Both rivers have seen low king salmon runs so far this season, with the Kenai River going to no fishing for June. Starting July 1, king salmon fishing will open, but only from a marker just downstream of Slikok Creek down to the mouth. Upstream of Slikok Creek all the way to Skilak Lake will stay closed through July 31, according to an emergency order issued Monday from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The department will continue to monitor the run as the season goes on.

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.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The Kenai City Council on May 6 agreed to allow bacteria sampling at the mouth of the Kenai River again this summer, with some misgivings.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has partnered with the Kenai Watershed Forum the past several years to sample water quality at the mouth of the river. That sampling has found levels of fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria that exceed state water quality standards. 

The bacteria are found in the intestinal tracks of warm-blooded animals and can cause stomachaches, diarrhea and ear, eye and skin infections in humans, especially if swallowing water with high levels of bacteria.

Redoubt Reporter

If Senate Bill 232 makes it through the Legislature, it will cost $5 for an Alaskan to get a personal-use fishing permit. Sen. Peter Micciche sponsored the bill. It gives the Legislature the ability to appropriate money for the fees for municipalities that host personal-use fisheries.   

At its meeting Wednesday, the Kenai City Council voiced support of the measure. Councilman Robert Peterkin submitted the resolution.

"It’s something that I feel is very important for our community. I don’t feel that the dip-netting operations should fall on city of Kenai residents to support it and I think that this is the first step in trying to get some help with the revenue on this to help provide the services that we’re paying for,” Peterkin said.

Where there are masses of fish, there’s likely to be masses of people. And where there are masses of people, there are likely businesses attempting to make some money.

That’s the case with the Kenai personal-use, dip-net fishery. All sorts of businesses have sprouted up along the mouth of the Kenai River, trying to net revenue off the fishermen trying to net fish.

One of those types of businesses came under fire at the Alaska Board of Fisheries this week. The board is meeting in Anchorage to review Upper Cook Inlet fishery proposals through next Wednesday. On Thursday, they voted on a proposal that would ban a relatively new practice — guiding for dip-netters.

Glen Trombley, of Chugiak, owns Expeditions North LLC guiding service. During July, when the reds are running, he runs the Dip Ship in the mouth of the Kenai River, taking dip-netters out to get their personal-use sockeye.

“Some, for whatever reason, cannot physically access this particular fishery without some type of assistance. Not to mention families with small children that would normally not be able to participate from shore due to safety issues,” Trombley said.

Redoubt Reporter

The Alaska Board of Fisheries heard two days of public comments over the weekend, weighing in on the 171 Upper Cook Inlet fisheries proposals it is considering this week and next in Anchorage.

As usual, it’s a tug-of-war over fish allocation, not only between commercial, sport and personal-use fisheries, but between regions, as well. The Matanuska-Susitna area is making a concerted effort to convince the board to regulate for more fish to get past mid-inlet commercial fisheries to upper-inlet streams.

Peter Matisse, of the Susitna Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee, advocated for a conservation corridor, which would keep commercial drift-net fishing closer to shore, the thought being that this would allow passage of salmon heading to northern streams.

“Biologists are just beginning to understand that many of these fish travel through these corridors to great harvesting press and struggle to make it to the last destination, of the Su,” Matisse sai

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Forecasts for the 2020 early and late runs of king salmon to the Kenai River are a mixed bag.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Kenai early run of kings is expected to be below average, with a forecast of 4,794 fish. If that forecast proves true, it will be less than the recent five-year average of 5,110 fish, and would rank as the eighth lowest run of the last 35 years. However, the forecast is within the optimum escapement goal of 3,900 to 6,600 fish. An optimum escapement goal is set by the Alaska Board of Fisheries and is meant to safeguard the biological needs of the stock while providing for harvest opportunity.

The 2020 early run forecast is higher than last year’s early run forecast of 3,167 fish and last year’s observed return of 4,216 fish.

Ice jams create minor flooding on Kenai River

Jan 7, 2020
Redoubt Reporter

It’s not really winter until the Kenai River floods, at least a little. State, borough and city crews were all convened on the bank of the Kenai River off Big Eddy Road Tuesday morning.

Bait allowed on Kenai River again starting Friday

Aug 15, 2019

    The emergency order from Fish and Game prohibiting the use of bait in the Lower Kenai River expires Thursday night at midnight. The expiration includes the use of multiple hooks and scent on lures.

Even with the restrictions lifting, incidentally hooked king salmon may not be retained or possessed. King salmon caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

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