Fishing’s ‘awesome’ at the sanctuary

Kenai, Russian confluence red hot; king fishing heating up on lower river

Posted: Friday, June 23, 2006

Cancel those plans to go garage sailing with your spouse. Call in sick to work. Do whatever it takes, just get out and fish the Russian River this weekend, because all reports indicate it’s as good as it gets.

“Fishing’s been awesome, and it should hold through the weekend,” said Cameron Hawthorn of the Kenai Cache Outfitters in Cooper Landing.

Fishing in this area started out pokey. As of late as last week, daily counts of salmon passing the weir at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake were only in the double digits. But that started to change last weekend.

Salmon passing the weir jumped to more than 1,100 on Friday, then doubled to more than 2,200 on Saturday and haven’t fallen below 1,900 since.

As a result, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened the Russian River Sanctuary Area on Wednesday.

“Department staff have determined that the low end of the early run sockeye salmon spawning escapement goal of 14,000 fish through the weir will be achieved.

“More than 10,000 sockeye salmon have moved above the waters that are currently open, with approximately 5,000 to 6,000 additional fish in the sanctuary area,” stated a Fish and Game press release.

Fisherman in this area have been capitalizing on the early opening, with many anglers catching their three fish daily limit within an hour, according to Fish and Game.

Yet, on Wednesday, 4,676 salmon still managed to pass by them and the weir for a cumulative 15,859 sockeye so far this season.

“There’s plenty for everyone. The Russian River, the sanctuary, down to the power lines — it’s just loaded with fish. It’s great,” Hawthorn said.

With this surge of salmon and the frenzy of fisherman that will likely pursue them this weekend, Fish and Game is asking that anglers cleaning their fish in this area do so responsibly.

Anglers are asked to “stop, chop and throw” their fish carcass pieces into fast-flowing water. This helps reduce the tendency for carcasses to accumulate in piles, which attracts the numerous brown and black bears in the area.

While the sockeye fishing on the upper Kenai and Russian rivers is expected to be excellent this weekend, king fishing on the lower Kenai shouldn’t be bad, either.

The number of kings entering the river this season have surpassed the 10-year average, according to sonar estimates from the station 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river.

According to Fish and Game, as of Monday, an estimated total of 15,812 kings had passed the station. The 10-year average for fish by the sonar station at this same time of year is about 11,226 kings.

On Tuesday, 1,046 kings passed the sonar station, followed by another 612 kings Wednesday, for 17,470 kings cumulatively this season.

According to Fish and Game, the Kenai’s low water levels and poor water clarity held catch rates down at the start of the season. Water clarity is still considered to be only fair, but water levels have risen considerably and are now reported to be at near-normal levels.

King fishing is expected to be steady this weekend and through the rest of the month.



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