Anglers on the hunt for king salmon on the three most popular lower Kenai Peninsula rivers will have to do so without the aid of bait starting Saturday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday.
Fish and Game officials have restricted fishermen to one, unbaited, artificial lure on the Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River starting Saturday at 12:01 a.m. through June 20.
Officials said prohibiting bait and treble or multiple hooks will "substantially decrease" fish mortality and better allow for escapement goals to be achieved.
The Anchor River escapement of kings through May 29 was 321 fish, which is below last year's 491 and the recent average of 1,315 kings.
"At this time, the department is unable to predict with certainty that the Anchor River king escapement will attain the sustainable escapement goal of 3,800 to 10,000 fish," Fish and Game wrote in a press release.
King salmon escapements on the Ninilchik River have been low as of late -- 543 in 2007, 528 in 2009, 605 in 2010 and 668 in 2011. Deep Creek escapement has been within the 350 to 800 window except in 2008 when an aerial survey counted 205 fish.