Anglers anxious to get an early start on king salmon fishing on the Kenai River must be careful not to carry that exuberance over to the cleaning of their catch. Beginning May 1 anglers will not be able to fillet or otherwise mutilate their fish until reaching shore or leaving a shoreline fishing site with their catch.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order implementing this regulation on Thursday. According to a department press release, the regulation is needed to ensure that anglers comply with a slot limit on the Kenai that says only fish measuring less than 44 inches or 55 inches or longer may be retained.
"In order for the Department of Fish and Game to evaluate the implementation of the slot limit harvest strategy for king salmon in the sport fishery, as well as to enforce bag and size limits, it is imperative that Department and Public Safety representatives be able to record length measurements from harvested fish," the release reads.
Anglers who catch legal kings may still bleed and gut salmon before leaving the fishing grounds, but the rest of the fish must remain intact in order for officials to verify that the fish is legal.
A "shoreline fishing site" is defined by the department as "the point on the shoreline where the fish is hooked and removed from the water."
The regulation is listed in the 2005 copy of the Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary available at tackle shops, grocery stores and other places around Southcentral Alaska. However, because it's not known how long the slot limit regulation will remain on the books, the department each year simply issues an emergency order on the filleting rule, according to ADFG area management biologist George Pappas.
"As long as the slot limit exists, we'll have to keep putting out this emergency order," Pappas said.
The emergency regulation will remain in place until July 14.
The slot limit will remain in place until July 1 on the portion of the river downstream from the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna. The limit remains in place upstream of the bridge until July 14.
King salmon traditionally begin returning in good numbers to the Kenai River in mid- to late May. Boat anglers should remember that the river is still very low and unseen gravel bars and rocks that normally aren't dangerous can be during the early summer.
The world record king salmon was caught by Soldotna's Les Anderson on May 17, 1985 and weighed 97 pounds, 4 ounces.
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