Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion A dipnetters hauls in a sockeye salmon he caught at the Kenai beach in Kenai, Alaska on Sunday, July 10, 2016. The popular Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery opened Sunday at 6 a.m. and will be open until July 31.

Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion A dipnetters hauls in a sockeye salmon he caught at the Kenai beach in Kenai, Alaska on Sunday, July 10, 2016. The popular Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery opened Sunday at 6 a.m. and will be open until July 31.

Dipnet extended to 24 hours

Dipnetters in the Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery will be able to fish around the clock starting Friday after 11 p.m. until July 31.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order Thursday expanding the hours for the dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily to 24 hours. Under the emergency order, the fishery will be open 24/7 until it closes for the year on July 31.

In the same order, Fish and Game managers raised the bag limit for sockeye in the Kenai River from three to six fish per person per day, with 12 total in possession, beginning after midnight Friday.

Fish and Game managers can raise the bag limit for sockeye and extend the hours for the dipnet fishery if the projected run of sockeye is greater than 2.3 million fish and the inriver escapement goal will be met, according to the Kenai River Late-Run Sockeye Salmon Management Plan. However, the increased bag limit and extended hours do not mean that anglers should expect fishing success to dramatically increase — the relaxed restrictions are only to provide more angler opportunity, according to the emergency order.

“To date, the cumulative late-run sockeye count for this year is significantly above average and we are projecting a run to the Kenai River greater than 2.3 million fish, but the steady entry pattern into the river and the warm and clear water conditions are contributing to low to moderate success for anglers and dipnetters,” said Jason Pawluk, the acting area management biologist for the Division of Sportfish in Soldotna in the emergency order.

Anglers should check the sportfishing regulations before heading out and should respect the riverbank restortion projects as well as avoiding trespassing on private property on the Kenai River, according to the emergency order. Boaters should also remember that during negative tides, such as the ones between July 22 and July 24, the Kenai City Dock will be closed for two hours before and after low tide, according to the emergency order.

The City of Kenai opposes the 24-hour dipnet opening and has repeatedly petitioned the state’s Board of Fisheries, which hands down all the regulations for Fish and Game to manage by, to stop extending the hours. City Manager Rick Koch circulated an email Wednesday notifying Fish and Game and all the current Kenai City Council members of the city administration’s opposition to the opening.

“As you are aware, the City uses the normally closed time period of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. to perform maintenance activities in support of the Fishery,” Koch wrote in the email. “Some of these activities necessitate the use of heavy equipment. Given the Department’s decision to open the Fishery to 24 hours, heavy equipment and Fishery participants will be in proximity to each other on the beach, increasing the risk of serious accidents.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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