Contributed photo/Michael Humling, U.S. Fish Wildlife Service Spring Chinook Salmon.

Contributed photo/Michael Humling, U.S. Fish Wildlife Service Spring Chinook Salmon.

2019 king outlook below average

If the outlook proves true, 2019 will be the fourth-lowest run in 34 years of records

The 2019 Kenai River king salmon outlook is below average according to the state’s 2019 forecast.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game released both the early- and late-run predictions for king salmon on Feb. 12 and called for a below average early run and a well below average late run.

The department is forecasting 3,168 large fish in the early run, meaning king salmon equal to or larger than 34 inches in total length.

“The 2019 forecasted total run of large fish is less than the optimum escapement goal of 3,900 to 6,600 fish and far below the 1986-2018 average total run of approximately 9,300 large fish,” according to a memo from the department.

If the outlook proves true, 2019 will be the fourth-lowest run in 34 years of records.

This year’s outlook is more conservative than 2018’s, which forecasted about 5,499 large fish, with an approximate actual total run of 3,072 fish, a difference of 44 percent, or 2,400 fewer fish.

The outlook for the late run is approximately 21,746 large fish. The department used this forecast to set a sustainable escapement goal of 13,500 to 27,000 fish.

If realized the 2019 late king salmon run will be the fourth lowest out of 34 years, be about 20 percent, or 4,000 fish, larger than 2018 preliminary estimates of 17,571 large fish, and be about half of the 1986 to 2018 average of about 44,000 large fish.

Last year, the department forecasted about 21,503 fish, while the Kenai River actually saw about 17,571 large fish — meaning that the Kenai River saw about 20 percent fewer fish.

The department has already responded to the poor outlook, restricting Kenai River early-run king salmon to catch and release only.

The department said that the restrictions are being implemented in hopes of protecting returning king salmon and ensuring fishing opportunities in the future.

Restrictions in the Kenai River drainage downstream of the Skilak Lake outlet will run from May 1 to July 31.

From May 1 to June 30, no king salmon of any size can be retained from the mouth of the Kenai River upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake.

Starting July 1, anglers will be able to retain king salmon from the mouth of the Kenai River up to a Fish & Game marker located about 300 yards downstream from Slikok Creek. Anglers may also use bait in this section, but only on a single hook lure or fly. Fishing will remain catch and release from the marker up to the Skilak Lake outlet.

“In an effort to protect our king salmon fishery resources, which are important to anglers and our fishery managers, and ensure our fishery management is consistent with the regulatory management plan, the early king salmon run on the Kenai River is restricted to non-retention in an effort to meet our 2019 early-run escapement goal,” stated Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka. “Anglers have noticed that the Kenai River king salmon and other king salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet are experiencing an extended period of low productivity and restricting the fishery preseason is warranted.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at ksorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Kenai man dead after weekend collision

The crash took place at the intersection of Treasure Chest Street and the Kenai Spur Highway

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Alexis Alamillo, of Anchorage, carries a sockeye salmon caught in a dipnet from the mouth of the Kenai River on Wednesday.
Kenai River dipnetting now open 24 hours a day

The liberalization of fishing regulation was effective starting Thursday evening

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

Most Read