King fishing on the Kenai River has considerably improved in the past week -- meaning anglers better get while the gettin' is good before the fishery closes at the end of the month.
"We've seen some of our best catches so far of the season in the past four to five days," said Jason Pawluk, assistant area manager for the Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
He said there has been an increase in late-run kings entering the Kenai.
According to Fish and Game counts, anywhere from 1,062 to 1,937 swam up river daily in the past week.
"We're also seeing an increase in the size of fish," he said. This year the salmon have been smaller than in years past. Pawluk said the average king catch is currently around 45 inches.
Brian Miller of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing in Soldotna said that king fishing has been consistently steady.
"It has its moments. It's kind of tapered off a little bit right now but it's still good fishing," he said. "So if you want to get your kings you got to get on the river this next week."
Fishing for the savory sockeye salmon has also improved, Pawluk said, with daily counts upward of 45,000 fish in the past week. And the run peaked on Monday with 82,819 reds in the river.
"Those are really good numbers for five days in a row," he said.
Those numbers mean fishing and dipnetting for sockeye has been great in the Kenai.
"The lower Kenai right now is a good place to fish for reds, all the way to Skilak Lake," he said. "This pulse of fish will probably move up and move into the upper Kenai and Russian as of this weekend."
There's the same good news for the Kasilof River in terms of sockeye fishing and dipnetting.
"The dipnetting and the sockeye fishing has been good," Pawluk said. "The Kenai had good passage rates as well as the Kasilof."
Sockeye counts on the Kasilof have ranged from 7,485 to 22,509 since last week, which Pawluk said is "pretty good" for that river.
The king fishing should be ramping up there too, Pawluk said, with the main bulk of the run entering the river near the end of the month.
"There should be improved king fishing on the Kasilof starting this week and probably the next," Pawluk said.
Don't forget, king salmon may not be retained in the Kasilof dipnet fishery.
While the Kenai beaches were packed with dipnetters nearing their limits, some have even hand netted the one allowable king salmon per household.
Lane Arroyo, 13, of Kenai, was dipnetting near the mouth of the Kenai last week when he got a big pull on his net.
"It started off with me thinking it was a couple reds caught in my net so I started back and then started sliding," Arroyo said.
The pull on his net started dragging him deeper in the water until he was grabbed by a fellow angler who rescued Arroyo, his net, and the nearly 55-pound king salmon in it.
"We got it up on shore and quit fishing for the day," he said. The fish was Arroyo's first king.
Dipnetters are reminded that all salmon, including kings, harvested in the personal use fishery must have both upper and lower lobes of their tails clipped immediately before concealing the salmon from plain view or transporting them away from the fishing site. Only one king salmon is allowed per permit and it counts toward the total number of salmon, Pawluk said.
Regulations also require anglers to fill out their permits with their catch before exiting the fishing area.
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