Deep Creek, Anchor and Ninilchik Rivers will open to king salmon fishing Memorial Day weekend for the annual three-day fishing frenzy, but as is typical for this time of year, unfavorable fishing conditions await anxious anglers.
"Fishermen are looking at high, muddy water in the Anchor and Deep Creek, and high water in the Ninilchik," said Nicole Szarzi, Homer Area Management Biologist with Fish and Game.
The temperatures of these waterways also remain low, yet fish are slowly starting to swim upstream, according to the Fish and Game sonar unit now in operation on the Anchor River. It is located just below the confluence of the north and south forks.
"The counts are comparable to 2006. Fish are starting to come in, but water conditions are pretty poor," Szarzi said.
The sonar unit began recording single digits of chinooks on May 13, but saw a spike of 21 fish on May 15, and there were 33 chinook recorded on May 20, bringing the cumulative count for the season up to 112 fish.
When the fish finally do start arriving in catchable numbers, anglers will find they have additional opportunities to catch them this season due to the Board of Fisheries adopting several regulation changes during its February meeting held in Anchorage.
"They added a weekday to the Anchor," Szarzi said, referring to the river now being open to fishing on Wednesdays through June 18.
"They also increased the annual bag limit," Szarzi added.
The annual limit of the king salmon that may be taken from the Anchor River was increased to five per year in combination with most other Cook Inlet tributaries. However, the annual limit for king salmon from Deep Creek remains two per year.
"The saltwater fishery was also liberalized. It is now only closed for one mile on either side out from the mouth (of the Anchor River). It used to be closed for two miles," she said.
Trolling success for feeder kings off the south side of Kachemak Bay, Bluff Point, and north to Ninilchik has been sporadic, according to Szarzi.
"The salt has been fair. Fish are being caught in a wide range of sizes, including some 30- to 40-pound fish, but it's still spotty," she said.
Szarzi expected more feeder and spawner kings to be available as water temperatures warm up. She said chinooks should start arriving at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon any time, too. The run is anticipated to be average with about 3,000 kings returning.
Further to the north, the Kasilof River has already been receiving a lot of boat and bank traffic. Still, fishing has been reported as being slow, even with the river opening to fishing with bait last weekend. Catch rates should increase as the month of May progresses.
Also, like the more southern streams, the Kasilof received some regulation changes that anglers should be aware of. Through June 30, naturally-produced/wild chinooks may be retained on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only. A naturally produced chinook is a fish that still has its adipose fin, while hatchery chinooks are fish that are missing this fin.
Also, through June 30 the bag limit for hatchery chinooks 20 inches or longer is two per day/two in possession.
On the Kenai River, chinooks less than 28 inches in length taken through June 30 are not included in the annual limit of two chinooks for this river. Slot limits for early-run kings state fish must be less than 46 inches in length, or 55 inches or longer in length.
Fishermen should also be mindful of the closed waters on the Kenai. The waters from the outlet of Skilak Lake downstream to a Fish and Game marker located at the upstream edge of the Upper Killey River are closed to all fishing from May 2 through June 10.
Slikok Creek, Funny River and Lower Killey River chinook sanctuary areas are closed to fishing for kings from January 1 through July 31. In addition, the area of the Lower Killey River chinook sanctuary closure was increased and now extends upstream to a Fish and Game marker located approximately one mile upstream of the Lower Killey River.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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