As the calender has flipped to June, fishermen are ever closer to the piscatorial peak of the early run for king salmon. Once the big water wanes, the Kenai and Kasilof rivers may only be days away from seeing the water boil with a big push of fish.
"Once the high tide series starts to ebb, if (a push) is going to happen, it should be next week if the fish are on time," said Robert Begich, Sport Fish Area Management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
As of Wednesday, the Fish and Game sonar counter -- located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river -- had recorded 3,644 kings cumulatively so far in the early run, with 343 of those fish swimming by that day.
However, in the past few years, Fish and Game has seen a quadruple-digit spike in the daily counts right around this time of year, as evident by the 1,146 kings that were counted June 8, 2007, the 1,196 kings counted June 15, 2006, and the 1,063 kings on June 8, 2005.
Begich said as of Wednesday, only 25 percent of the early run of king salmon had returned to the river.
"That's the historical quarter point," he said.
Despite 75 percent of the early run still on the way, followed by the late run, which typically brings in larger fish, Begich said the season has so far been a little slow in regard to catch rates, but some of the fish being caught were a bit bigger than usual.
"Sounds like more big fish are being caught in the early run this year. We've heard of a number of fish in the 49- to 53-inch range that were released," he said, referring to the slot limit in effect on the Kenai.
Anglers may keep only those king salmon that are less than 46 inches or 55 inches or greater in length. All other kings must be released immediately.
Most anglers are fishing from approximately river Mile 18 downstream to Eagle Rock at river Mile 11. As to catch rates, Begich said it likely wouldn't be long before they improved, but currently the Kenai River may be the better bet.
"It's not as crowded, the numbers are building and you're allowed to use bait," he said.
As of June 1, anglers have been allowed to fish with bait from a point approximately 100 yards downstream from the confluence of the Moose and Kenai rivers. However, all other Kenai River special provisions, method and means and bag and possession limits remain in effect.
According to the Fish and Game early run king salmon creel survey program, the numbers of kings anglers are catching on the Kasilof has increased this past week, but the fishery can still only be rated as fair, with anglers fishing from drift boats having the most success.
Further to the south, the lower portions of the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers and Deep Creek will again open to king salmon fishing this weekend for the three-day fishery, starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. In addition, the Anchor River will be open to fishing Wednesdays through June 18.
The bag and possession limits for king salmon 20 inches or longer from the Anchor River and Deep Creek is one per day/one in possession. The bag and possession limit for Ninilchik River kings 20 inches or longer is two per day /two in possession, only one of which may be a wild king salmon that can be recognized by the presence of an adipose fin.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at email@example.com.
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