Anglers may be in for some action this weekend as fishing is starting to heat up in numerous locations around the Kenai Peninsula.
On the Kasilof River, “catching” was definitely the word on the water this past week, and the trend is expected to continue through the weekend. Robert Begich, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game sportfish area management biologist, said, “It’s basically been a fish per person the last four days. That’s really good for a king fishery.”
Begich added that historically, June 15 is the peak of the early run on the Kasilof.
King fishing should be equally electric on the Kenai River. The Fish and Game sonar unit located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river recorded a daily count of 488 kings on Monday, 724 on Tuesday and 716 on Wednesday, for a cumulative 8,767 kings so far this season.
“It started out slow, but picked up last week,” Begich said in regard to the Kenai king return.
As such, Fish and Game issued an emergency order allowing bait to be used from a point approximately 100 yards downstream of the confluence of the Moose and Kenai rivers, as of Tuesday.
“We could project a total in-river run of earlyrun king salmon of approximately 12,000 to 17,000 fish and a spawning escapement in excess of the upper end of the (5,300 to 9,000 fish) escapement goal, so we needed to harvest some fish,” Begich said.
Begich said fishing for sockeye salmon should also be hot this weekend, as Russian River weir numbers have indicated a slew of fish in the system. Fish and Game’s goal range for early run sockeye on the Russian River is 14,000 to 37,000 fish, and they’re well on their way to meeting this number as on Wednesday a daily count of 972 fish was recorded at the weir located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake for a cumulative 2,468 sockeye so far this season.
“This is one of the highest counts for this date in about a decade, so we’re expecting a good return,” he said.
Begich added that fishing has been reported as good on both sides of the Kenai River, just below the Russian River ferry crossing, and from the Russian River Falls closure downstream to the closed Sanctuary area.
“The Sanctuary is still closed and will continue to be closed through Saturday and Sunday, but based on how the escapement is tracking, and how the fishing is going, it should be open before the 23 of June,” he said.
Anglers fishing in the Russian River area also should be aware of a new regulation that will be strictly enforced. The Chugach National Forest and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have issued regulations requiring all food, beverages or smelly refuse, to be in possession or within a three foot immediate grasp at all times.
This includes coolers, lunch bags, stringers of fish and other human food often left unattended while anglers engage in their piscatorial pursuits.
Officers will be patrolling the area seven days a week, and writing citations for those not in compliance.
Bobbie Jo Skibo, the Russian River interagency coordinator, explained the reasoning behind the regulation.
“Bears that receive a food reward can become habituated and become a risk to public safety. Associating humans with food can extend beyond the Russian River, potentially affecting other people within a bear’s range. Such bears can become dangerous to people and usually end up killed through management actions or in defense of life and property,” Skibo said in a press release.
The “Stop, Chop and Throw” campaign will also continue in the area this year to encourage anglers to cut carcasses into smaller pieces before throwing them back into the fast moving current.
“When whole carcasses are thrown into the river, they collect at river bends and in slow-moving eddies, creating a concentrated food source, which is irresistible to some bears,” Skibo said.
Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said anglers not chopping up carcasses in this area has already caused a problem this season (see related story on A-1).
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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