To the patient anglers upstream at the Russian and Kenai Rivers: the sockeye are not coming.
The Department of Fish and Game announced Tuesday it will close the Russian River to sockeye salmon fishing starting 12:01 a.m. Thursday. The "fly-fishing-only waters" in the Kenai, at the confluence of the Russian River including the sanctuary area, will be closed to sockeye fishing, as well.
"People can still fish for silvers, rainbows and dollies there, but they must immediately release any sockeye salmon that they hook into and not remove it from the water," said Jason Pawluk, Fish and Game's assistant area manager in Soldotna.
He said the department has been getting reports from private anglers that the reds will spawn in the lower Kenai this year.
"The reports we're getting is there are some fish there and they're moving up but they're already turned, they're red and ready to spawn," he said. "We can stop waiting now. There's not going to be a lot of fish going up. The majority of those reds are going to be spawning in the Kenai River downstream of Skilak Lake."
The sockeye fishery in the Russian and Upper Kenai Rivers closes by regulation on Aug. 20 and Pawluk said re-opening the sockeye fishery this season is unlikely.
"It would have to turn around very quickly with a lot of fish in the next three to five days for us to open that back up," he said.
As of Monday, a total of 15,519 sockeye salmon have passed Fish and Game's weir for a projected escapement of 25,600 this year. The escapement goal in the department's sockeye management plan for the Lower Russian Lake weir is 30,000 to 110,000 salmon.
"It does this every once in a while. In 2008 we didn't see very many sockeye in the upper portion of the Kenai," Pawluk said.
In 2008, some 22,000 salmon traveled past the Lower Russian Lake weir by Aug. 9 with some 47,000 fish counted by the end of the season, according to Fish and Game's website.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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