Angler success picks up on Kenai

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

Despite early runs of king salmon in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers moving past their peaks, there are still plenty of fish entering these waterways.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, king fishing is reported to be good. Last week, their creel survey estimates of angler catches increased markedly, likely due to a combination of numerous kings entering the river and an emergency order allowing the use of bait. Bait is now allowed from 100 yards downstream of the confluence of the Moose and Kenai Rivers down to the mouth of the Kenai River.

“Fishing is starting to pick up above the bridge, and they’re still catching fish down below despite counts tailing off,” said Robert Begich, Fish and Game sportsfish area management biologist.

According to Fish and Game’s sonar counter — 8.6 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River — there have been 12,133 kings passing by cumulatively for the season. Of these, 270 passed by Monday, 486 came through Tuesday and 282 swam by Wednesday.

“We’re expecting around 300 a day for the rest of the month,” Begich said.

Anglers upriver also are still finding sockeye success as fish are stacking up before heading into the Russian River.

“The Russian River is low and getting lower, so fish are staging in the sanctuary area and the Kenai near the ferry during the day, then they’re going right up at night,” Begich said.

Fish and Game’s weir — at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake — recorded 12,583 sockeye cumulatively so far this season. Of these, 1,312 fish passed through Monday, followed by 775 Tuesday and 809 Wednesday.

“Fishing is excellent in the main stem of the Kenai and at the confluence with the Russian, but as for the Russian River itself, early mornings are the best time to go,” Begich said.

Anglers in this area are reminded to “stop, chop and throw” their fish carcasses into the deep, fast-flowing current to avoid bringing bears in to feed on them.

“I’ve been seeing fishermen cutting carcasses in half or into three chunks, which is better than leaving them whole, but cutting them into small, two- to three-inch pieces would be the most efficient,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with Fish and Game.

Selinger already has responded to several calls of nuisance bears in the area.

“There were five different bears in that area on Monday,” he said.

As a result, Robin West, manager of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, announced a temporary closure off all public entry in the Russian River Access Area beginning Tuesday.

The closure includes the designated tent camping areas adjacent to the Russian River Ferry parking lot and all lands in the area more than 25 feet from the Kenai River.

For more information, contact the refuge at 262-7021.

The Kenai isn’t the only river where anglers may find salmon success this weekend. The Kasilof River is still seeing fair numbers of kings and building numbers of sockeye.

“It’s the third week of June, which is that time of year where we’re between (king) runs on the Kasilof, but we’ve had 15,000 sockeye in there, which is about the same as for this date last year,” Beigch said.

To be exact, there were 15,040 sockeye counted cumulatively since fish began being counted on the Kasilof last Friday.

Of these, 2,154 came through Monday, followed by 1,892 Tuesday and 2,093 Wednesday.

Anglers can expect sockeye fishing to improve as the month progresses and the run builds.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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