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Low king numbers prompt Kenai, Kasilof, Cook Inlet restrictions

Posted: June 13, 2012 - 4:30pm  |  Updated: June 13, 2012 - 8:31pm
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Tyler and Austin Rasmussen stretch at The Pillars boat launch on the Kenai River before a king salmon fishing trip Wednesday afternoon with Tyler Goggia of Hook-y Charters (not pictured).   M. Scott Moon
M. Scott Moon
Tyler and Austin Rasmussen stretch at The Pillars boat launch on the Kenai River before a king salmon fishing trip Wednesday afternoon with Tyler Goggia of Hook-y Charters (not pictured).

In an attempt to boost the number of king salmon in Kenai Peninsula watersheds, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has restricted king salmon fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers and prohibited sport fishing within one mile of the shore in the salt water between the Ninilchik River and Bluff Point.

Citing a below-average numbers of returning salmon, Fish and Game issued three emergency orders Wednesday which will go into effect on Friday, including catch-and-release measures on the Kenai, and catch-and-release of naturally-produced kings on the Kasilof River.
Robert Begich, Fish and Game area management biologist, said with 25 percent of the run complete, all of the indices used to assess the abundance of early-run kings in the Kenai River show a well below-average run.

An order prohibiting the use of bait on three portions of the Kenai river beginning July 1 is designed to further protect early-run fish, Begich said.

“We have closures around the tributaries that the early run spawn on,” he said. “The fish that have been entering in June are somewhere between the sonar station and where they’re going to end up spawning. In July, all those fish aren’t in their spawning tributaries or they aren’t in their sanctuaries so those early-run fish we’ll need for escapement, they’re still vulnerable to harvest.”

Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association, said restrictions on the tributaries have been effective in protecting kings in the past.

“That does put a hardship on users since that’s about two-thirds of the river that’s going to stay catch-and-release until mid-July,” he said. “That kind of adds to the congestion during those first two weeks in the lower part of the river.”

Restrictions on the Kenai River begin Friday and end July 14, unless another order is issued.

Also effective starting Friday and ending June 30, salmon between 20 and 55 inches in length must be released when fishing downstream of Skilak Lake and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge, according an emergency order released by the department. Between July 1 and July 14, catch-and-release restrictions will be in place from approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek, upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge.

Bait will not be allowed while fishing on the Kenai from 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek, upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake and in the Moose River from its junction with the Kenai River to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway Bridge beginning July 1 and ending July 14. Only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure may be used, according to the emergency order.

The Kasilof is being restricted to minimize the potential effect on the Crooked Creek sport fishery from other closures, according to an emergency order.

The Kasilof will be restricted from 12:01 a.m. Friday until 11:59 p.m. June 30. Hatchery-reared salmon are still acceptable to keep and are distinguishable from wild king salmon by their lack of a small, fleshy fin on their back between the dorsal fin and the tail fin.
“What people will see there is that it will be missing and there will just be a little bump there,” Begich said.

According to Fish and Game, the department tries to manage the fishery to reach an escapement goal between 650-1,700 naturally-produced kings.

The Cook Inlet saltwater sport fishery is also being restricted in an effort by the department to boost numbers on several river fisheries.
“We do know from tagging studies that king salmon from the Cook Inlet region have a higher probability of being caught close to shore,” said Tom Vania, an area regional management biologist from Anchorage. “The further out from shore you go the less likely you are to catch mature king salmon that are bound for Cook Inlet fisheries.”

Vania said an unusual number of the Kenai Peninsula streams were having difficulty reaching escapement goals, so the department decided to restrict the marine fishery.

“This is an expanded order to help all of those streams out,” Vania said.

Although many of the Kenai River-bound king salmon have already gone through the restricted area, Vania said there were indications the run may be a few days late, so the restriction was designed to protect stragglers.

Gease said the restrictions were appropriate given the counts of kings coming into the Kenai River.

“It’s been a cold, kind of wet, spring,” he said. “Hopefully some of the kings are just holding off shore.”

Gease said it would be interesting to see what will happen when the late run of kings comes into the river.

“It’s going to be a balancing act in July between this low king run and a fairly large expected return for sockeye salmon.”

Rashah McChesney can be reached at

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KenaiKardinal88 06/16/12 - 05:37 am
ADF&G Fails Again

From factory trawlers in the North Pacific, to Kodiak commercial fishers, these types of groups will fish a species to extinction if given the chance.

Why is the focus on the smallest user group?

JOAT 06/16/12 - 07:43 am
Fact check

Typical misguided public perception. Stop listening to the slander put out by the fishing guides. The biggest impact on the King fisheries over the last 30+ years has been the guided "sport" fishery. When you take tens of thousands of fishermen crowded on some 30 miles of river with a gauntlet K16's, and then they only keep the biggest fish... well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how the sport fighermen have fished the trophy king salmon to near extinction.

The commerical fishermen do not even fish during June so that they don't impact the first run King population at all. This is a 100% sport fishing problem. And 90% of the sport fishing problem is being sold to out-of-state trophy hunters for profit by a group of snowbird guides from Washington and Oregon. Why does no one seem to have a problem with that?

There is but one fix to our decimated King population... shut it down. Shut it down now and don't open the box for at least 5 years. The Kenai needs to be turned into a ghost town for the month of June and then July needs to be managed to target sockeye only. Naturally, this must include the saltwater fisheries (which were spawned from all the restrictions that were placed on the rivers, the guides just left the rivers and moved into the saltwater to continue slaughtering the trophy Kings).

northernlights 06/16/12 - 07:29 pm
Catch and kill

They should by all logic close the darn river down. The only reason they are letting people fish is because the guides would cry. Its the love of money not the love of the river. There is no common sense to fight a fish till its death and then release it. None of us who care and love the rivers here would have a problem by having it shut down. Its disgraceful the guides can bully for the river and get away with it. Their clients don't even hold the poles in their hands, they sit there like bumps on a log while the guide does the work of setting the hook, then hands the pole to them. What a thrill huh?

spwright 06/17/12 - 06:26 am
525 Kenai River Fishing Guides

Sun. 6/17/12
Well DUH ! 525 Kenai River Fishing Guides dominate the River . Most of which are from Outta State.

Doesn't take a Scientist to Figure That One Out.
Too Many People & not enough Fish


Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 06/17/12 - 06:50 am
How is Tourism looking now?

How is Tourism looking now? There was hardly no one in Ninilchik or Anchor point or Homer Saturday due to the closers of those King Salmon fishiries aswell.
I will say that the guides are a problem in my opinion. But i would also say that that this is just like the Moose hunting on the Kenai which is almost null & void like the King fishing due to misguided plans by supposed smart wildlife biologists.
I would most of all say that the over fished & managed King fishing is due to the massive pressure for Tourism $Dollars$ on the Kenai with a few people in the right positions have aided by the massive guide permits being given to outside guides.
We all can see Tourism is coming to a rapid stop due to economics inspite of the continued rejection of these facts by those in commerce as is the normal thing for them to do as if the truth was told then it would cause more economic collapse. The lies of the worlds TRUE economics will continue and aid in the massive surprize of many when the economy does totally collapse, just as the King fishing seems to be doing as well.
We got bears though, Brown, Black, you chose and this is also due to the economic pressure being placed on fish & game to distort the real numbers all for that Tourism $Dollar$, what a mess we have at every turn on the Kenai.

Good thing we didn't buy that Sloooowdotna Visitor center with the way things are going everywhere for Tourism with no fish & no money to afford vacations isn't it?

kenai-king 06/17/12 - 11:01 am

It's really getting to where the guides will go away because they will have no clients with fishing like this, but they just can't help themselves. It's like CRACK they want more and more and then the dealer goes away and they are all going to freak out. (LMAO) These poeple really don't care about anything but the $. When the river goes away it won't matter because most of them don't live here anyway. It's getting to the point that I can't wait for the day that the Kings are gone and so are the guides.

soldotna 06/17/12 - 06:58 pm
why now

Cut back the hours guilds can fish the river. Then put less hours on the river that anyone can fish. Also make a special licence for the Kenai river only that cost about 4 times the amount of a regular licence and put all that money in to a fund for some kind of spawning program to make sure there is a higher rate of Kings being born.

bornalaskan 06/19/12 - 12:54 am

Close down the fishing Don,t worry about the Guides they won,t worry about us at the end of the summer they will leave as usual. As the old song says they can go out and Get a job.

Carver 06/19/12 - 06:40 am

If king salmon have been declining in numbers and continue to decline, why not simply close the fishery until and if they rebound? This isn't rocket science.

Regulations still allow catch-and-release, and c&r kills fish. Regulations still allow retention of kings over 55", the very big fish we claim to be trying to save.

Why do we continue to allow exploitation of these fish at any level?

jennyb47 06/19/12 - 03:02 pm
Simplest Fix Is A Consistent approach

Sportfishermen are the easiest target. Unfortunately there is no one at ADF&G or the Governor's office brave enough to address the elephants in the room: commercial fishing and gill nets. The last resort to meet escapement is in the river and who does that effect? Sportfishing and personal use. Again, if fisheries aren't managed at a larger level, in-river management is a bandaid on a sucking chest wound.

Carver 06/19/12 - 03:21 pm
Straw man . . !

". . the elephants in the room: commercial fishing and gill nets. . ."

That's sounds good, nothing more. The commercial nets are not out during the first run of Kenai kings.

CFFL 06/19/12 - 09:51 pm
Easiest Target

Really, sportfisherman are the easiest target???

If there are not enough kings to reach the desired escapement goal then you have to restrict the fishery. Why should the Kenai river king fishery be any different than the other fisheries in cook inlet?? If there is not enough halibut then the fishery is restricted both commercially and sport. If there is a small commercial sockeye return and escapement is not obatined the fishery is restricted. This is the correct way to manage the fishery.

In this instance it is the sportfisherman / guides who are being restricted, but they are also the only user group that specifically targets kings. As a matter of fact they are the only ones fishing right now so they are the only one who can be restricted.There are no commercial fisherman in cook inlet that specifically target kings. That is a sockeye fishery so they are set up to target sockeye.

Good call fish and game you are doing the right thing.

bornalaskan 09/18/12 - 01:51 pm

My family has fished this peninsula long before there were guides. And we will be here long after they have fished out all what remains. Bottom line is that ADF&G is instructed on what to do by the Guides money not by what is best for the the future. There should never be catch and kill If you shut down the fishery for on group you should shut down for all. If you allow any fishing. Fish only the salt water 1 mile out from any mouth of any river. Then the fish can get up the rivers and streams and lakes and spawn. After all any fish you catch for money should be considered a commercial catch right. Its time the Sport Fisherman get back there fishery.

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