I have been a Kenai River property owner since 2002, and I have fished the Kenai since 1989. I am very concerned by the downturn in the fishery, and the lack of cooperation between user groups.
King salmon are a sport fish priority in Cook Inlet salmon fisheries. Sport fisheries benefit more from greater abundance of fish, not less. We benefit from managing Kenai River king salmon fisheries for maximum sustained return, not minimum escapement goals. Making sure we have healthy escapements to deliver larger returns of kings is critical.
I live on the Kenai River at mile 17 1/2, between Sunken Island and the Grave Yard. I was extremely concerned this past summer, when I witnessed hundreds of king salmon being caught and retained during the “Closed to Bait” period in July. Sunken Island, just up river from us is a very prolific spawning area, and when a fish is caught in that area it is typically netted as the boat drifts past our property. If I had input for future fishing restrictions, I would advocate for the total closure of all king salmon fishing for a 7 year period, so that one complete cycle could occur without pressure from any user group.