Terry Umatum of Anchorage takes a deep breath after landing his Anchor River king salmon on Saturday, May 19, 2018 in Anchor Point, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Terry Umatum of Anchorage takes a deep breath after landing his Anchor River king salmon on Saturday, May 19, 2018 in Anchor Point, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

2019 salmon forecast a mixed bag

This year’s Kenai River outlook is more conservative than 2018’s

Anglers looking to catch salmon on the Kenai Peninsula this summer will face a mixed bag, with a low king salmon forecast but an optimistic sockeye forecast from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Those hoping to catch a king salmon this summer will face tighter regulations as the department forecasts a below average year. If projections are realized, this year’s run would rank as the fourth lowest across 34 years.

The department released both the early- and late-run predictions for king salmon in February and called for a below average early run and a well below average late run for large fish, or king salmon equal to or larger than 34 inches in length, with 3,168 large fish in the early run and 21,746 large fish in the late run for 2019.

This year’s Kenai River outlook is more conservative than 2018’s, which forecasted about 5,499 large fish in the early run, with an approximate actual total run of 3,072 fish, a difference of 44 percent, or 2,400 fewer fish. The department forecasted about 21,503 large fish for the late run, but the Kenai River saw 20 percent fewer fish with a total of about 17,571 large fish.

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

The department is more optimistic with the sockeye return.

After a disappointing 2018 return, Fish and Game is forecasted 6 million sockeye through the Upper Cook Inlet, with a range of about 4.8 million to 7.3 million for the total sockeye run. Escapement is forecasted at 2 million while Upper Cook Inlet commercial harvest is estimated at 3 million and other harvest at 1 million.

The Kenai River is forecasted to see 200,000 more fish than the 20-year average, according to Fish and Game’s release, with a run forecast of approximately 3.8 million sockeye salmon. Fish and Game puts the forecast at a range of 3.1 to 4.5 million. The 20-year average is 3.6 million.

The forecast isn’t a guarantee, though, and last year’s sockeye run proved the unpredictability of the sockeye’s return.

Last year, the estimated total run was 3.1 million, 1.5 million fish below the mid-point forecast of 4.6 million. The estimated run to the Kenai River totaled 1.7 million. The Kasilof River saw about 697,000 fish, the Susitna saw 250,000 and Fish Creek saw 106,000.

The commercial harvest in 2019 is also forecasted 200,000 above the 20-year average. In 2018, the commercial harvest in Upper Cook Inlet of 800,000 was 1.1 million less than the forecasted 1.9 million.

More in News

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Chief J.J. Hendrickson plays with Torch the cat at the Kenai Animal Shelter on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna, Kenai to extend animal control partnership

So far this year, the Kenai shelter has served roughly 190 animals

Transportation professionals tour the Sterling Highway and Birch Avenue intersection in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, May 22, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna brainstorming pop-up pedestrian safety project

The temporary project aims to boost pedestrian safety near Soldotna Creek Park

Most Read