Encouraging king numbers prompt 2nd setnet opening

Parker Peck pulls a skiff out of the water Monday while helping out at the Frostad family setnet sites on Salamatof beach in Kenai. The Frostad’s setnet sites were closed for most of their regular fishing season. Monday was their second period to fish.

Gavin Hudkins, 9, slept in during the first day of the setnet season when his family’s nets were in the water off Salamatof beach.

His mother, Sarah Frostad-Hudkins, said she would have woken him up and put him to work, perhaps by taking a few photos, had she known they would have been out of the water for most of their regular fishing season.

On Monday, Gavin gleefully piloted his ATV up and down the family’s sites as they enjoyed their second regular opening of the season after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced an improvement in the outlook for the final run of Kenai River king salmon. 

“We were able to allow a regular period for the setnet fishery knowing we were going to catch some small amount of kings,” said Pat Shields, area biologist in the commercial fishing division of Fish and Game. “There are enough kings now on the river that we felt comfortable with a little potential harvest.”

Frostad-Hudkins said it felt strange being on the beach after such a long time out of the water.

“It feels like a season-opener,” she said with a grin. “I’m glad we’re out here on such a nice day.”

According to department estimates, using sonar and inriver netting data, about 18 percent of the run has entered the river since Tuesday even though 95 percent of the run is usually complete by now.

Shields said a Thursday fishing period was also a possibility, as was another fishing period provided through a pink salmon management plan. However, several conditions need to be met in order for the pink salmon fishing period to be open, including the use of a different size of net.

Shields said the pink salmon management plan was passed in 2011 so the department has yet to use it, however, he said biologists would continue to closely watch salmon estimate numbers to determine future openings in the setnet fishery. 

“We’re going to look at it day by day,” he said. “We’ll look at the harvest numbers, but primarily we will be looking at king numbers.” 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@penninsulaclarion.com. 

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