Fishing for early run king salmon on the Kenai River has been slow, and while biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are keeping an eye on their sonar counts, the low harvest numbers may actually be good news in terms of meeting escapement goals.
"Fishing conditions are not real favorable," said assistant area management biologist Larry Marsh, adding that there is a lot of algae in the river and water levels are much higher than normal. "(The biological escapement goal) ranges from 7,200 to 14,400. The objective is to have the final escapement somewhere in that range. It's still early in the run, but the harvest has been very low -- that's a function of some unfavorable conditions working together. We're watching things. It's still early, but we'll continue to watch day by day."
Marsh said that 1,585 king salmon have passed the sonar counter located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river as of Tuesday. If the run does not improve, the department may take a management action, such as implementing catch-and-release restrictions, but Marsh said it was still too early to predict how things will pan out.
Marsh said that he's been getting reports of good fishing on the Kasilof River, though.
"Through (last) weekend, the fishing was very good," Marsh said. "Hopefully, the run will continue for the next week to 10 days."
On the lower Kenai Peninsula, the Anchor River, Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River will open Saturday at 12:01 a.m. for the third weekend king salmon opening of the season. All three fisheries close Monday at midnight.
This is the final opening for king salmon on Deep Creek. The Anchor River will be open for one more weekend, and Fish and Game is contemplating opening the Ninilchik for one more weekend to the taking of hatchery fish only.
Fair to good fishing has been reported on all three rivers, with water levels and clarity improving on Deep Creek and the Anchor River. Reports of tough fishing conditions have kept many anglers away from those fisheries, and Fish and Game reported that neither stream was crowded last weekend.
The Ninilchik River, however, was was crowded, and slow fishing was reported upstream with more success reported downstrem of the Sterling Highway bridge.
Bait and treble hooks are allowed in all three streams, and anglers generally are successful with salmon eggs, Spin-N-Glos, spinners or spoons.
Good numbers of king salmon also are beginning to show in the Homer Spit Fishing Lagoon, and that run is expected to peak in mid-June.
Halibut fishing improved last weekend with the favorable small tides as Fish and Game reported that anglers were landing more fish in the 40- to 80-pound range, while the typical catch weighs in at 20 to 40 pounds.
Anglers wishing to get away from the salmon-mad crowds can try their luck for rainbow trout on the peninsula's lakes. Marsh said that the early part of June is the best time to try lake fishing, before the water warms up.
And while the personal-use dip net fishery for red salmon is a month away from opening, there is dip-netting available on the Kenai River in the form of the run of hooligan, which can be fished through June 15.
"It's really kind of a traditional fishery for folks in May more so than June," Marsh said. "There's an enormous return of hooligan this year. Traditionally, folks have (fished) near Birch Island and the Warren Ames bridge."
Marsh said he's had hooligan fried in egg and cornmeal as well as smoked, but said it was an "acquired taste."
"They're oily, but that's the good omega-3 fish oils," Marsh said.
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