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Kenai king fishery shuts down

Kenai late run, Kasilof king fisheries restricted

Posted: June 18, 2013 - 9:49pm  |  Updated: June 19, 2013 - 8:49am

If current trends continue, The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that fewer than half of the Kenai River early run king salmon needed to make the escapement goal will end up in the river.

To combat the shortfall the department issued restrictions on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers in an attempt to conserve as many Kenai River-bound king salmon as possible.

Local area biologist Robert Begich said the department estimates between 1,500 to 2,500 king salmon will return to the Kenai River, far fewer than the optimal escapement goal range of 5,300 to 9,000 fish.

As of June 18, fewer than 1,100 fish have been counted inriver, down from 3,575 on the same date in 2012 and 5,899 in 2011.

While the department’s preseason outlook for the early run was not promising — a forecast of 5,300 fish caused the department to restrict the early run to catch-and-release in early May — Begich said the run was shaping up to be the worst on record.

Approximately 57 percent of the early-run of Kenai River king salmon has passed the department’s inriver sonar, based on a 10-year average run-timing and while there are indications that king salmon runs throughout the Cook Inlet may be later than normal, inseason projections indicate that the early run escapement goal will still not be made according to one of the emergency orders.

On the Kenai:

■ The early-run fishery will close for ten days beginning Thursday and continuing through June 30. In the river from its mouth upstream to Skilak Lake, and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge no king salmon of any size may be targeted, kept or removed from the water. Any king salmon caught must be released immediately.

■ From July 1 through July 14, king salmon fishing will be closed from the Fish and Game marker about 300 yards downstream of 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.

On the Kasilof:

■ Beginning Thursday and continuing through June 30, anglers may not use bait and multiple hooks on the Kasilof River from its mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway. Anglers may use only one unbaited, single hook —one point, with or without a barb— with an artificial lure. Previous restrictions to the Kasilof which allowed anglers to retain only hatcher-reared king salmon remain in effect.

■ Beginning Thursday, the Upper Cook Inlet personal-use set gillnet fishery at the mouth of the Kasilof River will also be closed to conserve Kenai River king salmon which may be caught in the fishery.

Area biologist Pat Shields said the personal-use setnet fishery typically opens from June 15 through June 24 and while biologists are uncertain how many of the kings caught in the Kasilof — an average of 196 over the last 10 years — are Kenai River-bound, the king salmon run is low enough that a closure was warranted.

“We have assumed that the majority of them are the Kasilof River kings but, undoubtedly there are some early run king salmon in there. The department felt that saving every king that we could was needed at this time,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Cook Inlet, an abundance of sockeye salmon has lead the department to open the Russian River Sanctuary beginning June 19.

The sanctuary area includes waters upstream from Fish and Game markers downstream of the ferry crossing on the Kenai River to the Fish and Game markers about 300 yards upstream of the public boat launch at Sportsman’s Landing and includes the waters around the upstream end of the island near the Russian River mouth and the Russian River from its mouth upstream 100 yards to the Fish and Game marker. The bag limit of three sockeye will stay the same and according to the media release. Anglers are reminded to remove fish carcasses whole or gutted and gilled from the Russian River clear water, or take fish to the main stem Kenai River cleaning tables near the ferry crossing.


Rashah McChesney can be reached at

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robert white
robert white 06/19/13 - 03:56 pm

make it a thing of the past until the run rebounds! Both runs....

kenai123 06/22/13 - 03:27 pm
This is not natural low abundance

"the run was shaping up to be the worst on record?"

Our ADF&G "shaped" this 2013 king run return back between 2002 and 2012 but since they did not know what they were doing, today's king run appears to be shaping before our eyes. These king runs are ADF&G planned a decade before they happen. ADF&G excess commercial herring, crab and king harvest has caused our current lack of king salmon.
This is not a "natural low abundance" situation. It is an ADF&G caused situation.

1950 lower 48 east coast commercial fisheries caught so many cod that they caused their cod fisheries collapse by 1970. 1930 depression era farmers plowed up the grassy prairies but caused The Great Dust Bowl. World War 2 era dam builders produced cheap electricity but killed most of their salmon. The lower 48 west coast timber industry cut so many trees that they eroded and silted their river thus killing most of their salmon. 1990 lower 48 west coast commercial salmon fisheries caught so many salmon that they help cause their salmon fisheries collapse by 2000. Before 1980 Florida had a massive tarpon resource but they allowed excess commercial harvest of tarpon prey like blue crab, pink shrimp and toadfish, thus causing their tarpon to collapse by 1990. Many claimed these losses were the result of "a natural cycle". Excess commercial harvest has depleted Alaska's herring, crab and now king salmon resources. Our ADF&G is claiming "a natural low abundance" but we are compelled to ask if this is in fact "a natural cycle" or the direct results of the same excessive commercial activities and mis-management which has plagued our past?

potomac 06/23/13 - 09:01 pm
shut off all commercial fisheries for 3 years

Are we going to wait to fight over the last king in the rivers of AK or are we going to pressure the commercial/guide fisheries to close for 3 years to evaluate king returns to all Alaskan rivers, or is it already too late?? My guess is all the fish fighting is over , it is too late for these giant fish to be a part of Alaskan life...

kenai-king 06/24/13 - 09:13 am

You don't need to be a Rocket Scientist to figure out what happened here. Next it will be the Silvers because they have to make their money somewhere and it doesn't matter if they kill the last one as long as I get it. It's time to let it go, either kill them all or let them alone for 7 years. But oh too many fish will spawn what a crock of sh*#t. I guess that is why the Salmon died off a hundred years ago because too many fish spawned.

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