Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers released a series of emergency orders Thursday restricting early run king salmon fishing on the Kasilof and in lower Cook Inlet streams and marine waters.
Area managers inlet-wide cited low king numbers in several river systems as the reason for preseason restrictions and continued conservative management of the king salmon fisheries.
On the Kasilof:
■ Naturally-produced king salmon may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.
■ Angler bag and possession limits have been reduced to one hatchery-produced king salmon 20 inches or greater beginning May 1 and ending June 30.
While the restrictions on the Kasilof River came sooner than usual in recent years, longtime area fishermen may recognize the prohibition on retaining naturally-produced king salmon as sportfishing regulation prior to 2005 allowed retention of hatchery-produced king salmon only.
“Since 2009 without a restriction, we have had trouble making the goal,” said Robert Begich, area biologist in the sportfishing division of Fish and Game of the Kasilof early run.
Last year, managers did not have enough fish return to do egg takes and will do no hatchery stocking of Kasilof king salmon this year as a result.
Hatchery-reared salmon can be distinguished from naturally-produced salmon by their lack of an adipose fin, which is the small fleshy fin on the back, just ahead of the tail.
On the Anchor River, Deep Creek, or Ninilchik River drainages:
■ Sport fishermen may only use one, un-baited, single-hook, artificial lure when fishing from May 1 to June 30.
■ Beginning May 1 to June 30, a combined annual limit of two king salmon, 20 inches or greater in length, may be harvested from the three rivers and all marine waters south of the mouth of the Ninilchik River to Bluff Point. A person who takes and retains a king salmon 20 inches or greater may not sport fish in any of those drainages for the rest of the day.
On the Anchor River:
■ Waters of the Anchor River from its mouth upstream to the junction of the North and South forks will be closed each Wednesday during the king salmon season and decreases the waters of the Anchor River available to sportfishing by relocating the Fish and Game regulatory marker about 1,000 feet downstream of the junction of the North and South Forks. This order is in effect from May 1 through June 30.
On the Ninilchik River:
■ The bag and possession limit for king salmon in the Ninilchik has been reduced to one at 20 inches or greater in length.
■ During the three-day weekend fishing periods that begin on Memorial Day, anglers may retain either a hatchery king salmon or a naturally produced king salmon; beginning in July, anglers may only retain hatchery king salmon. This order goes into effect May 1 and ends Oct. 31.
According to the order, the Ninilchik River outlook is below its historical average and expected to be similar to king salmon runs over the past five years. In-river restrictions were put in place from 2010 to 2012 and the nearby marine sport fishery was restricted in 2012.
“The recent poor king salmon runs in the Lower Cook Inlet streams and uncertainty over how quickly the runs may rebound justify starting the season with restrictions in order to achieve escapement and egg-take goals and provide fishing opportunity throughout the season,” according to the order.
Restrictions to sport fisheries in the Northern Cook Inlet Area were also announced for the Susitna River drainage and the Little Susitna River, they will go into effect May 15. Among them, anglers will be restricted to an annual limit of two king salmon taken from the Susitna River drainage and the Little Susitna River.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.