Fish on! That statement should be heard numerous times this weekend as, right on time, the late-runs of sockeye and king salmon are beginning to reach their zenith.
On the Kasilof River, sockeye numbers have been surging since the beginning of the week, according to daily count numbers collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sonar counter -- located approximately eight river miles upstream from the river mouth.
On Sunday, only 2,644 sockeye were counted, but the number climbed to 9,213 Monday, then soared to a whopping 19,658 Tuesday, and another 18,829 Wednesday for a cumulative 158,923 sockeye so far this season.
Due to this strong return of sockeye salmon into the Kasilof River, Fish and Game is expecting it will, again this year, exceed the biological escapement goal of 150,000 to 250,000 fish. As such, Fish and Game has issued two emergency orders for the Kasilof River that became effective at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
One emergency order liberalizes the sportfishing daily bag and possession limit for sockeye to six per day, and 12 in possession. The other order expands the area on the Kasilof where personal-use fishermen can dip net for sockeye.
Dipnetting from the shoreline is now allowed from the Fish and Game markers on the Cook Inlet beaches upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge, and dipnetting from a boat is now allowed from the Cook Inlet markers upstream to Fish and Game markers at river mile 3.
All other dipnetting regulations remain in effect. King salmon, Dolly Varden, or rainbow/steelhead trout caught while dipnetting must be released immediately. Only Alaskan residents may participate in personal-use fisheries.
On Monday, the third annual Kasilof River King Salmon Derby also began. The event runs through July 31 and is sponsored by the Kasilof Eagles Aerie No. 4317.
Entry fee to the derby is $10 per person and everyone on a boat must have a ticket for a winner to be eligible for prizes. Tickets are available at Coho Cove, Kasilof Cabins, the Kasilof Mercantile and the state boat launch. Official weigh-in is from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Coho Cove Campground.
Last year's grand prize was $2,052, but the payout is expected to be even higher this year. Also, the Kasilof Mercantile is sponsoring a "Catch of the Day" contest on Monday and will be awarding $500 to the person that brings in the biggest hawg.
The Kasilof River isn't the only fishing game in town this weekend, though. The Kenai River saw a similar bump in daily fish numbers this week. The Fish and Game sonar station -- located approximately 19 miles upstream from the mouth -- jumped from a daily count of 2,718 sockeye Monday, to 25,514 sockeye Tuesday, to 68,124 Wednesday for a cumulative 122,594 sockeye so far in the late run. This should equate to good catching for dipnetters and bank anglers this weekend.
Anglers aiming for something bigger may want to turn their attention to king fishing, since daily counts for kings also spiked to quadruple digits this week. The Fish and Game sonar station -- located 8.6 miles from the mouth of the river -- recorded 414 kings Monday, but the numbers more than tripled overnight as 1,636 kings were counted Tuesday, followed by another 1,330 Wednesday for a cumulative 9,679 so far in the late run.
"The king fishing has been fair," said Mike Fenton of Fenton Bros. Guide Service.
"There's still not tons in the river yet, but it should be getting better every day," he said.
Fenton added that a few bigger fish have also started to show. He had a client land a fish in the low 70-pound range earlier this week.
As of Tuesday, anglers also may now keep king salmon that are 46 to 55 inches in length caught upstream of the Soldotna Bridge, as they have been able to do below the bridge since July 1.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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