Early kings closed on Kenai, Russian River opening early

Sport fishing for Kenai River kings will close Wednesday for the remainder of June and be partially closed until August 1, while sockeye fishing in the Russian River Sanctuary area will open Tuesday until August 20.

For the remainder of June, the Kenai River will be closed to sportfishing for kings from its mouth to the outlet of Skilak Lake. In July the river will open for kings downstream of a marker about 300 yards downstream of the Slikok Creek mouth at approximately river mile 19, according to an emergency order the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued Monday.

The sonar at Kenai River mile 13.7 had recorded an estimated 2,116 large salmon as of Sunday. Fish and Game projects a run of 3,095 large kings if the run timing is average or 3,609 if it is three days late — in either case, not enough to meet the escapement goal of 3,900 to 6,600 fish.

“This closure is not an easy decision; however even after prohibiting harvest of king salmon in the fishery last week, we are not projecting to meet the escapement goal and need to take this next step,” Fish and Game’s Cook Inlet Coordinator Matt Miller is quoted as saying in the announcement. “King salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet, including the Kenai River runs, are experiencing a period of low productivity and the restrictions and closures are being felt across the state.”

Fish and Game previously restricted the Kenai and Kasilof rivers to catch and release king fishing with emergency orders on June 11. At that time, an estimated 1,609 kings had passed the Kenai’s mile 13.7 sonar.

The sanctuary area around the Russian River’s confluence with the Kenai River normally opens July 15. As of Sunday, 7,759 sockeye had passed the Russian River weir, according to a Fish and Game press release announcing the early opening. Fish and Game estimates their escapement goal of 22,000 to 42,000 sockeye will be met.

“Sport fishing for sockeye salmon in the Russian River area will likely remain good to excellent for the next several days,” the release states. After July 15, the Russian River Sanctuary will fly-fishing only.

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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