Strong sockeye returns reason for optimism

Two items in the news this week should prove more than just a silver lining for everyone impacted by the sport and commercial fishing industries — which is just about everyone on the Kenai Peninsula.

This week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game opted to open the Kasilof portion of the commercial setnet fishery two days early in response to a strong return of sockeye salmon to the Kasilof River.

On the heels of that announcement, Fish and Game issued an emergency order liberalizing bag and possession limits for sockeye on the upper Kenai and Russian rivers, as well as opening the sanctuary area at the confluence of the Russian and the Kenai to sockeye salmon fishing — also in response to a strong return.

There’s even a little bit of good news coming out of the Kenai River king salmon fishery. While the Kenai River early run king salmon sport fishery remains closed and Fish and Game managers are taking a conservative approach to the late run, king salmon numbers have been better than expected and may even meet the lower end of the early run escapement goal.

Even if you don’t fish, this is all good news, as those who do fish contribute to the local economy. Both the sport and commercial fishing industries generate employment opportunities. Fishermen of all types spend money chasing salmon — from equipment and gear to meals and lodging. That spending fuels the local economy all summer.

Beyond our economy, strong salmon returns are what draw so many of us to the Kenai Peninsula, residents and visitors alike. Indeed, salmon runs have been sustaining people on the Peninsula for thousands of years. Whether you hook the fish yourself of pick up a fillet from a local market or processor, in one way or another, salmon on the table benefits us all.

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