More kings return to Anchor River

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to show that Fish and Game has returned to the regulations listed in the regulations book for the Anchor River this season rather than liberalizing them, and to clarify that the two kings able to be taken from the Anchor River and Deep Creek apply to the annual five-king limit from Cook Inlet.

It took Tom Toguchi all of 15 minutes to catch an Anchor River king salmon on Saturday morning.

Of course, he knows where to go — he’s been fishing for kings for about 40 years and the Anchor River was one of the first rivers he fished on. There’s still an element of fortune, though — he and his son started fishing just after midnight on Saturday, the river’s first open day off the season, with no luck. But come 7:30 a.m. or so, a king bit.

“It’s probably about 15 pounds, maybe a little less,” Toguchi said, nodding to his king salmon that floated in the shallows, lashed through the gills to a fallen tree.

The river near Anchor Point saw its first influx of anglers for the year Saturday, most searching for the king salmon that run to the river. These are the first running kings available to sportfishermen in freshwater on the Kenai Peninsula in the year. However, not everyone had the same kind of luck Toguchi did. Five or six other fishermen Saturday morning cast and reeled, cast and reeled in the relatively shallow river with no luck.

At the same time, the runs look more promising than in the last few years. By Saturday. 409 king salmon had passed through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s weir on the Anchor River, compared to 165 by May 21 in 2015.

With the higher forecasted run, Fish and Game has returned to the regulations listed on page 55–59 of the regulations book.

Since 2012, Fish and Game has issued preseason emergency orders on the Anchor River in light of declining king salmon productivity statewide. This year, Fish and Game issued no preseason restrictions, said Carol Kerkvliet, the area management biologist for Fish and Game in Homer.

“It’s still early in the season, but we’re cautiously optimistic,” Kerkvliet said. “Things are looking good so far, but we’re tracking our escapement on a daily basis ... Right now, we’re happy with what we’re seeing.”

All in all, things look good for the Anchor River this year, said Grant Anderson, a guide and owner of the Fly Box and Anchor Point Tour and Travel in Anchor Point.

“The runs look good — doesn’t seem like they’ll close the river, and we got Wednesdays,” Anderson said.

Anderson has been guiding on the Anchor River since about 2001 and recently opened a tour booking business and gift shop next door to the Fly Box, he said.

For the last four years or so, the river has been open briefly and then closed by emergency order because of concerns for the king salmon. This year, it seems like things are looking up, he said.

“I’m getting good reports,” Anderson said. “One guy came up here with a 35-pound king.”

The Anchor River hosts a run of king salmon that typically peaks in early June as well as steelhead and rainbow trout, though hooked steelhead must not be removed from the water and must be released immediately by regulation. The river will be open for fishing May 28–30 as well as Wednesdays and weekends in June, unless closed by emergency order. After July 1, the river will be open for all other species until October 31.

Fishermen can keep one king greater than 20 inches per person per day from the Anchor River until they have caught two from that river or one each from the Anchor River and Deep Creek. The two fish apply to a five-king salmon total annual limit from Cook Inlet.

For fish less than 20 inches, the bag limit is 10 per day and 10 in possession. After harvesting a king salmon from the Anchor River, a person may not fish for any species of fish in the Anchor River, Deep Creek or the Ninilchik River for the rest of the day.

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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