Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct which streams on the lower peninsula are open to fishing.
Though anglers will finally be able to fish for king salmon in the Ninilchik River on Monday, bait will be off limits.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued a sportfishing restriction Friday for the roadside streams effective 12:01 a.m. Monday restricting gear to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure through July 31. King salmon returns to systems throughout Cook Inlet have been poor so far this year, so the gear restrictions are necessary to protect returning fish, the announcement states.
“With the current low king salmon returns, gear restrictions are necessary to protect upstream migrating king salmon needed for escapement needs,” stated Area Management Biologist Carol Kerkvliet. “To minimize the shifting effort due to conservation actions for the Anchor River and Ninilchik River, it is warranted to restrict gear on Deep Creek and Stariski Creek, as well. Anglers are still allowed to fish for hatchery king salmon (on the Ninilchik River) using one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure.”
A second restriction issued Friday continues the king salmon fishing closure in the marine waters within a mile of the conservation zones around the mouths of the four streams. King salmon caught incidentally have to be released immediately without being removed from the water. Anglers can still fish for other species like coho salmon or halibut in the area.
Extremely poor runs of king salmon prompted managers to close the lower peninsula streams to king salmon completely effective June 2. As of July 12, 1,778 kings had passed the video weir on the Anchor River, the lowest number by that date in Fish and Game’s online records, which date back t0 2003. The previous low by this date was 2,199 in 2014.
The Anchor River is not open to king salmon fishing except on particular dates listed in the sportfishing regulation book, all of which have passed. The Ninilchik River sees both wild and hatchery-origin king salmon returning, with hatchery-origin salmon distinguished by the lack of an adipose fin.
King salmon returns have been poor all throughout Cook Inlet this year, prompting restrictions in all fisheries. Personal-use fishermen in the Kenai River dipnet fishery are not allowed to retain kings, and sportfishermen on the Kenai River aren’t allowed to use bait or retain kings upstream of a marker 300 yards downstream of the mouth of Slikok Creek. Commercial set gillnet fishermen in the Upper Subdistrict on the east side of Cook Inlet aren’t fishing their regular Monday and Thursday 12-hour periods, only fishing when Fish and Game issues an emergency order instead.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.