Upper Cook Inlet

A months long review of escapement goals for salmon in the Upper Cook Inlet won’t immediately affect the king salmon fishery on the Kenai River, but some fisheries at the Kasilof might be affected.

Fish and Games sports fish and commercial fish divisions met five times since November for an interdivisional escapement goal review. Because the recommendations were needed before a board of fisheries deadline for comments on April 10.

The sockeye salmon run to the Kenai River this summer should be average. That’s according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2019 Upper Cook Inlet salmon forecast, released on Friday.

The forecast run for the whole inlet is for 6,035,000 sockeye, which is above the 20-year average of 5.8 million.

The Kenai River has a total run projection of 3.8 million sockeye, about a quarter-million more than the average. The 2019 goal is for 1 million to1.3 million to escape to the spawning grounds.

Citing the continued lack of salmon making their way to the spawning grounds, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has taken drastic steps to help boost the escapement. 

In two emergency orders released Friday, the department first cancelled Monday’s scheduled 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. commercial fishing period. Then it took the restrictions a step further, as we hear on the Department’s recorded commercial fishing update: 

Commercial salmon fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet will finally get a chance to put their nets in the water on Thursday. It is the first of the fleet’s regular 12-hour Monday-and-Thursday scheduled fishing openings.

Brian Marston, Fish and Game’s area manager for Upper Cook Inlet commercial fisheries, says this opening will be district-wide.