Gulls mill and call near where fishermen clean the sockeye salmon they caught dipnetting near the mouth of the Kasilof River on Wednesday, June 28, 2018 in Kasilof, Alaska. The personal-use dipnet fishery on the Kasilof River opened Monday, with fish counts significantly behind last year and behind the 10-year average for the same date. Some fishermen were successful Wednesday, though, both from shore and from boats. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kasilof dipnet opens, fish counts still low

The Kasilof River personal-use dipnet is open, and fishermen are trying out their nets for sockeye with some mixed luck.

A few dipnetters dotted the north and south banks of the mouth of the Kasilof River on Wednesday morning around low tide, with a handful more in boats making passes up and down the estuary. Not many sockeye came out of the water, though anglers reported that they’d had more luck in the evenings before.

As of Tuesday, only 29,026 sockeye have passed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s sonar on the Kasilof River, the lowest count by that date since 2012, according to Fish and Game’s online records. The previous 10-year estimate by June 26 on the Kasilof River is approximately 70,000 fish, according to Fish and Game’s Upper Cook Inlet commercial fisheries announcement for Wednesday.

The Kasilof is the first location for personal-use fishing on the Kenai Peninsula each summer, followed by the China Poot dipnet fishery on the south side of Kachemak Bay on July 1 and the Kenai River dipnet on July 10. Anglers are fishing for sockeye upriver as well.

The Russian River is another major location to catch sockeye salmon in June, before the Kenai River run heats up in July. High, muddy water last week made fishing difficult, but the water level has since fallen and the quality cleared some, making fishing conditions better. As of Tuesday, 18,496 sockeye had passed the weir on Lower Russian Lake, with daily passage greater than 1,500 fish since Saturday. The sanctuary area is open around the confluence of the two rivers as well, giving anglers more space to reach the fish where they turn up into the clear water of the Russian River.

Until the Kenai River sockeye run picks up in July, other salmon fishing opportunities are limited. King salmon fishing across the freshwater streams of Cook Inlet is currently closed with the exception of on the Kasilof River, where anglers can fish with one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure for kings but can only keep hatchery-produced king salmon 20 inches or greater with a bag and possession limit of one fish. Anglers can head out into the marine waters to fish for king salmon or try the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, though fishing for kings there is winding down, according to the sportfishing report for Lower Cook Inlet, issued Wednesday.

The late-run king salmon fishery on the Kenai River will open Sunday, though bait will be off-limits by emergency order. Anglers still won’t be able to fish upstream of a marker about 300 yards downstream of the mouth of Slikok Creek, but fishing will be open below that for now, according to a Fish and Game emergency order issued June 21.

Rainbow trout fishing is open on the Kenai River as well, with anglers reporting some luck last week, according to a Northern Kenai Peninsula fishing report issued June 21.

Anglers can also try the stocked lakes across the Kenai Peninsula, where Fish and Game regularly stock rainbow trout and Arctic char, among other species. Fish and Game maintains a database of stocked lakes on its website with updates on the most recent stocking effort. Spirit Lake in Kenai was stocked with about 5,000 catchable Arctic char in early May, and Johnson Lake was stocked with about 2,950 catchable rainbow trout on June 14, according to the database.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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