Tom Slater, of Kasilof, hoists one of his five sockeye salmon into a burlap bag held by his grandson Jaron Laws, on Monday while another grandson, Tanner Laws, stands ready to clip tail fin tips as required by fishing regulations. Dipnet fishermen had one last shot at catching Kenai sockeye Monday when the fishery reopened at 6 a.m. but then closed for the season at 11 p.m.
Photo by Patrice Kohl
Dipnet fishermen got their last shot at catching some Kenai sockeye Monday after the Kenai run improved and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reopened the fishery just 13 hours before the end of the river’s dipnet fishing season.
The Kenai dipnet fishery opened July 10 but was shut down July 21 after an even lower than expected return of sockeye.
On Sunday, Fish and Game announced the Kenai sockeye dipnet, sport and educational fisheries would reopen Monday, after it had determined enough fish would enter the river to reach its inriver escapement goal of 650,000 to 850,000.
In their press release Monday, Fish and Game said the Kenai dipnet season might be extended, but later Monday decided against an extension because current indicators show the run is in decline.
However, with just one day left to fish and last-minute notification, dipnet fishermen from as far as Anchorage and Palmer managed to arrive at the mouth of the Kenai to take advantage of what would be their final shot at catching Kenai sockeye.
Some dipnetters said they were informed by friends and family who were keeping a close eye on the sonar counter and checking Fish and Game news releases every day.
“My husband figured it out before it even happened,” said Nancy Lee-Evans, of Anchorage.
Todd Stafford, of Wasilla, said he did not expect the fishery to reopen before the end of the season, but was pleasantly surprised when his diligent checking of the Fish and Game Web site paid off with an announcement there would be one more day.
Stafford grabbed his gear, left Wasilla for the Kenai River at 2:30 a.m. and was rewarded with 14 fish by 1:30 p.m.
Kasilof’s Tom Slater, who was dipnetting for Kenai sockeye Monday, said he tried to call friends in Anchorage that might not otherwise find out until it was too late.
“If you hit some today you get some. If not, it’s back to the Kasilof,” he said referring to the only other dipnet fishery open on the Kenai Peninsula.
Slater said he was having a good fishing day, having caught five fish in just 30 minutes.
Although dipnet fishing on the Kasilof remains open until next Monday, he said it’s nice to get another shot at the Kenai sockeye, which are larger.
James Peel, of Palmer, who dipped 11 Kenai sockeye by 1 p.m. Monday, said he was here vacationing when he overheard someone at Fred Meyer say the dipnet fishery would reopen.
Peel said he loves visit to the peninsula even without being able to dipnet. However, the fishery is a wonderful way to draw in residents from around the state who may not otherwise become aware of all the peninsula has to offer and who are an important part of the tourist economy here, he said.
“People may come here to fish, but discover something else while they are here,” he said.
The Kenai dipnet fishery closed at 11 p.m. Monday, but the sockeye sport fishery remains open with a daily bag limit of three fish per day.
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