Time to check the rule book.
As of 12:01 a.m. today, a number of sport fishing regulation changes that apply to Kenai Peninsula anglers are in effect. The changes were passed by the Alaska Board of Fisheries at meetings held earlier this year in Anchorage.
Most of the regulation changes won't impact anglers until later this summer, when salmon begin returning to Kenai Peninsula drainages. However, a couple of the changes to trout and Dolly Varden fisheries will have an immediate effect on anglers out doing some spring fishing.
At its meeting in January, the fish board decided to clarify language on rainbow and Dolly fisheries on the Kenai River in order to streamline the regulations and make them easier for anglers to follow. As of today, the rules for Dollies and rainbows on the Kenai are nearly identical.
Starting today, the rules for Dollies and rainbows are as follows: in Kenai River drainage lakes and ponds, the limit is two fish of each species per day, only one of which may be longer than 20 inches, with an annual limit of two fish of each species over 20 inches per year; in Kenai River waters upstream of Skilak Lake, only one Dolly and one rainbow may be taken per day, and the fish must be 16 inches or less in length; in waters downstream of Skilak Lake (including the lake itself), the limit is one of each species per day, with the fish required to measure 18 inches or less in length.
There is one notable difference between rainbow and Dolly regs. Fishing is closed to Dollies and rainbows upstream of Skilak Lake from May 1 through June 10, but there is no closed season for Dollies downstream of the lake during that time, while rainbow fishing is not allowed.
Allowing Dolly fishing when rainbow fishing created an apparent loophole in the new regulations. But according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant area management biologist Larry Marsh, people who want to circumvent the rules by saying they're fishing for Dollies but actually targeting rainbows are still breaking the law.
"It's an illegal act if they're fishing on rainbow trout," Marsh said.
The closure dates are mandated because rainbows are particularly susceptible during their spawning period, which is in May and June. Marsh said the department will try and get the word out to people that rainbows should be left alone during this time.
"Ideally we'll try to dissuade people from taking advantage of the crack in the legal structure," he said.
Marsh also said certain areas that have been previously closed to rainbow fishing during that time including waters immediately downstream of Skilak Lake to the outlet of the Killey River may still be closed by emergency order.
Rules that will impact anglers later in the season include a change that eliminates an unpopular rule that set limits on the time of day when nonresidents could fish from a boat for king salmon on the Kenai River in May and June. As of today, residents and nonresidents alike can fish from a boat on the Kenai 24 hours a day (except Mondays, when the river is closed to anglers fishing from motorized vessels).
Another major salmon regulation change has to do with the season for coho salmon. Last year, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game extended the coho season on the Kenai through the end of October. That extension is now permanent, as the open season for silvers is now July 1 through October 31. In addition, anglers may continue to fish after retaining their daily bag limit of coho, but only downstream of the Soldotna bridge. Bait will be allowed in the Kenai throughout the entire river beginning July 1 and continuing through October, except the portion between the Killey River and Skilak Lake, which closes to bait September 1.
Other regulation changes for the Kenai River include:
n The escapement goal for early run Kenai kings was lowered to an optimum escapement goal of 5,300 fish. After that early run number is reached, fishing can be liberalized by managers;
n From Skilak Lake to Kenai Lake (including the Russian River), legal gear is limited to single hooks with hook gap between point and shank of 3/8 inches or less;
n Anglers may fish for salmon (other than kings) from shore within mandated king closure areas near Funny River and the Lower Killey River. These waters are open to fly fishing only.
Changes on the Kasilof River were also implemented, and include:
n Multiple hooks allowed in both early and late runs;
n Fishing after retention of a daily king salmon bag limit is allowed during both runs;
n The bag and possession limit for kings is one per day;
n The annual limit for kings on the Kasilof is five per day;
n Wild kings in the early run (wild fish are identified by the presence of an adipose fin) may only be retained on Tuesdays and Saturdays during the early run.
The board also made one change to personal use fishing regulations. Up to 10 flounder may be retained per year, per household personal use permit.
For more information on fishing regulations, consult a 2005 Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet for Southcentral Alaska. New 2005 booklets are now available at Fish and Game offices, located on Kalifornsky Beach Road, as well as at local stores.
Area management biologist George Papas said the department will be making as much of an effort as possible to get word of the new regulations to the public as quickly as possible.
"We're going to post signs, and people can always go to our Internet site as well," Papas said.
The department's web site is located at www.adfg.state. ak.us.
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