Russian River sanctuary opens

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008

Anglers finding sockeye fishing on the upper Kenai River a little too crowded will be able to spread out a bit more starting today. The Russian River sanctuary opens to sport fishing at 8 a.m. this morning.

"We open it early when we have sufficient numbers," said Robert Begich, sport fish area manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, referring to the early-run sockeye salmon spawning escapement goal of 14,000 to 37,000 fish.

The sanctuary area was not scheduled to open to fly-fishing until July 15, but as is the case this year, Fish and Game will open this sockeye fishing hot-spot early when they can safely predict they will achieve this escapement goal.

"It's been solid, just very consistent there the whole year," Begich said in regard to fish in the Russian River and upper Kenai River areas.

Last weekend large numbers of sockeye began arriving at the Fish and Game weir -- located at the outlet of Lower Russian Lake, about 78 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River. On Saturday, 1,023 sockeye arrived, followed by 1,198 fish Sunday, 3,980 fish Monday and 3,008 fish Tuesday for a cumulative 13,231 sockeye so far in the early-run.

"We're projecting we'll meet our goal," Begich said.

The sanctuary area includes the waters from the Fish and Game regulatory markers located just downstream from the ferry crossing on the Kenai River, upstream to the regulatory markers located approximately 300 yards above the public boat launch at Sportsman's Landing, and the Russian River from its mouth upstream 100 yards to regulatory markers. This also includes the waters around the upstream end of the island near the Russian River mouth.

A detailed map of this area can be found on page 51 of the 2008 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary. Gear for this area is fly-fishing only through August 20.

"The daily bag and possession limit remains three sockeye salmon," Begich said.

As to if these limits could potentially be increased, as has occasionally been the case in the past when large schools of sockeye stormed the area, Begich said, "It's too early to say. It will depend on how the rest of the run proceeds."

In the meantime, Begich reminded anglers to "behave responsibly" by adhering to the "Stop, Chop and Throw" campaign, which encourages fishermen to chop filleted salmon carcasses into small pieces and then throw them into deep, fast flowing waters.

"Stringers of fish should be closely attended," Begich added. That goes for all other personal belongings as well.

Anglers should also respect riverbank restoration projects by staying on established pathways in the sanctuary area, and in the Russian River ferry and campground areas, too. And, in regard to encounters with big, brown or black, furry locals, Begich said, "Always yield to bears."

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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