After a decent opener to the sockeye salmon season on the Russian River, anglers may have to wait for the bite to resume.
Jason Pawluk, assistant management biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, said Saturday’s opener was “good,” but that the fishing slowed down into Sunday evening and has since continued to taper off.
The water level in the upper Kenai River dropped about a foot this week — it has already been uncharacteristically low much of the season — and the river is unusually clear for mid-June.
That doesn’t mean the reds won’t come, Pawluk said, it’s just a matter of when.
“We aren’t sure when the fish will move up in these kinds of conditions, whether they will hold at the lake longer or if they will push through regardless,” Pawluk said, adding water temperatures also are cool. “I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. It’s definitely cooled off fishing wise, but we expect a big shot of fish, the peak, in the next week or 10 days.
“It’s up to the fish when they will actually shoot up the Russian.”
The limit is three sockeye per day per angler on the Russian. The department’s most recent early run sockeye count, released Tuesday, was 3,759 for the season. The sustainable escapement goal for the early run is between 22,000 and 44,000, according to the web site.
Pawluk characterized the fishing as “pretty slow” based on the department’s observations and reports since Sunday, but said fishing isn’t an entirely fruitless effort.
“Experienced fishermen who are willing to hike around could pull out their limit of three,” Pawluk said. “But I think it’s going to take them some time.”
The sanctuary area of the Russian, which includes water downstream of the ferry landing to about 300 yards upstream of the public boat launch at Sportsman’s Landing, plus the mouth of the river, is closed until July 15.
Pawluck said tickets were issued to anglers over the weekend, so check the regulations for additional information on the sanctuary and which areas it includes.
Rainbow trout fishing is open on both the Russian and upper Kenai.
On the Kenai, an estimated 317 early run kings passed the sonar Monday to bring the season total to 6,388, according to a Tuesday report from the Department of Fish and game.
The number of kings entering the river has been on the decline each day since June 7, according to Fish and Game, and the use of bait remains prohibited.
The department will release another fishing summary on Friday. The use of bait remains prohibited.
“Catch rates of king salmon have remained stable (but) are below average,” Fish and Game reported on its web site. “Capture of smaller, younger king salmon in the netting program has increased recently, and has been consistent with the catch observed in the sport fishery.”
On Tuesday, water clarity was described as “excellent” above tidal influence and “good” below tidal influence, with visibility readings of 6.4 feet at Mile 15.3 and 3.1 feet at the sonar station at Mile 8.6.
Both water flow and current are holding steady but remain below average for this time of year, the department reported.
Meanwhile, the Anchor River is now closed and will remain closed until 11:59 p.m. June 30 after an emergency order was released by Fish and Game on Monday.
Explaining the closure, Fish and Game said in a release it couldn’t predict with certainty the sustainable escapement goal of kings would be met for the season.
The escapement number for kings in the Anchor was 1,405 on Monday, but the season goal is 3,800 to 10,000.
The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek also are closed, but the lower portions of the Ninilchik, Deep Creek, Anchor and Stariski Creek, will open July 1.
South of the Anchor, it was a slow week in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.
Event coordinator Paula Frisinger said the leader is Rick Pruzek of Chippewa Falls, Wis. Pruzek has been atop the leaderboard since May 30 when he caught a 176.5-pounder.
The derby runs through September.
“Really slow with fishing,” Frisinger said of the current conditions.
Fish and Game has received several reports of “mushy” halibut, fish with soft or flabby flesh, sometimes with pockets of jelly-like tissue, said Carolyn Bunker.
The department has yet to test the fish, but it said in a news release that the reports are similar to incidences in 1998 and 2005 when pathology tests determined the cause was nutritional myopathy.
Anglers are encouraged to release flabby fish unharmed and move holes to avoid them.
Good clamming tides are expected through Sunday on sandy beaches from Kasilof to Homer. All shrimp and crab fisheries are closed in Kachemak Bay. Tanner crab season opens July 15.
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