The frenzied pace of the Kenai River's July fishery came to an end at 12:00 a.m. this morning, when the river closed to king salmon fishing and sockeye salmon dipnetting for the season.
In addition, anglers may not use bait below the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna until Aug. 4, nor may they retain any Kenai coho salmon river-wide until that date.
According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Larry Marsh, the four-day closure is designed to give returning coho salmon a small window of opportunity to escape anglers at the beginning of the season.
"The rationale was that the (Alaska Board of Fisheries) and the department identified concerns regarding the coho stocks," Marsh said.
Consequently, sport anglers may not retain silvers, and the lower section of the river will get its first bit of rest since the beginning of June.
On Aug. 4, anglers may again retain coho, as well as use multiple hooks and bait. The coho season ends Sept. 30.
The new rules can get confusing, and it's a good idea to consult the department's regulation booklet before going fishing.
Sockeye salmon sport fishing is still open, though the number of fish returning to the Kenai has begun to dramatically decline in recent days. On Wednesday, just 17,890 reds passed the department's sonar counter on the Kenai, down from more than 28,000 the previous day.
Though the run has reached its peak on the lower river, anglers can expect to see good catches in the river upstream from Skilak Lake.
Especially productive should be the area near the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers in Cooper Landing. Anglers are reminded that the confluence area is closed between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. due to bear activity.
For Kenai anglers who can't wait until Aug. 4, trout and Dolly Varden fishing may be a worthwhile alternative. The large number of fish beginning to spawn in the Kenai and its tributaries means rainbow trout and Dolly Varden can be found throughout the drainage foraging on fish carcasses and eggs. Anglers hoping to find some action this weekend might try using flesh-colored flies and beads for these fisheries.
The season for Kenai River king salmon ended this morning, but not before a few more whoppers were pulled from the river.
On Tuesday, Susie Russell, visiting with her husband Mark from Scotland, hooked into a 74 1/2-pound king while fishing with guide Jason Dunkin near Big Eddy. The fish measured 54 1/2 inches long with a girth of 31 1/2 inches.
"I didn't actually think it was that big at first, Russell said. "It wasn't a hard hit, and the fish didn't do very much then it took off across the stream, with Jason in hot pursuit and me trying to hang on."
Russell, who has experience fishing for Atlantic salmon across the pond, said a Pacific king was definitely a different beast. She said she was shaking with excitement by the time the fish was in the boat, though she did feel a little guilty about being the first in her party to catch a king.
"I feel a little bad I booked this trip as a surprise for Mark," Russell said.
Russell's did feel better about two hours later in the day when Mark hooked into a similar-sized fish.
"It was quite a remarkable day," Russell said.
The Russell's are guests of Mel Krogseng at Krog's Kamp in Soldotna. Krongseng said her guests had been having a banner season, with a 75-pounder landed earlier in the week and several other sizable fish landed by anglers staying at the lodge during the course of the summer.
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