For the second fishing period in a row, a stiff southwest blow has pushed Cook Inlet's money crop into the nets of commercial fishers. So many red salmon are coming up the inlet that the Alaska Depart-ment of Fish and Game extended Monday's opening twice.
At about 2:30 p.m. Monday, the normally 12-hour-long period was extended four hours, until 11 p.m. for both driftnetters and setnetters. Then just before 5 p.m., the period was extended further.
Setnetters got a 15-hour extension until 2 p.m. today. Driftnetters, who had to take their nets out of the water at 11 p.m. Monday, are able to fish again between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. today.
"The fishermen will be grateful for the break," said area management biologist Jeff Fox. "If you've looked out at the inlet, you can see it's screaming out there."
The extensions apply to the Kenai, Kasilof and East Foreland sections of the upper subdistrict for setnetters, and in the Kenai and Kasilof sections of the upper subdistrict for driftnetters.
Escapement counts have been impressive since the middle of last week, when the reds hit the rivers hard.
On Wednesday, the escapement of reds in the Kenai River totaled 47,170 for the season. By Sunday, the escapement had jumped to 287,000.
Daily escapement in the Kenai was 4,460 on Wednesday; 24,911 on Thursday; 90,802 on Friday; 78,809 on Saturday; and 45,431 on Sunday.
On the Kasilof Wednesday, total escapement amounted to 120,222. By Sunday it was up to 161,000.
Daily escapement on the Kasilof was 4,880 on Wednesday; 7,814 on Thursday; 14,156 on Friday; 16,772 on Saturday; and 2,249 on Sunday.
In both rivers, the escapement went down as the wind calmed over the weekend, but Fox said there's still a lot of fish in the inlet.
"There are a lot of fish blowing into Salamatof beach," he said Monday evening. "Fishermen will probably not have as good a period as they did Thursday, but they will do very good."
He said he wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot of sunken nets because of the pulse of salmon moving in.
"There's also a good chance that a lot of fish will get by the nets and into the rivers," he said.
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