Fishermen flocked to the mouth of the Kasilof River Wednesday morning for the opening of the personal use gillnet fishery.
Rows upon rows of camping tents lined the southern beach of the Kasilof River mouth Wednesday. Those tending their gillnets hauled in sockeye salmon by midmorning, while those on the north beach prepared to haul theirs out when the tide came in.
The fishery opened at 6 a.m. with fewer restrictions than in previous years thanks to more king salmon entering the Kenai River. By Monday, the king salmon sonar in the river had counted 6,080 fish, exceeding the lower limit of the escapement goal and about 100 fish less than the total cumulative count for 2015’s early run.
The river has been open to catch-and-release only since June 4, and though participation was weak at first, it’s picked up a little. Surveyors from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game found catch rates were excellent on the lower river this weekend, said Jason Pawluk, the assistant area biologist for the Division of Sport Fish in Soldotna.
“There are still not a lot of people out there compared to what it could be this time of year,” Pawluk said.
Because the king run seems to be larger than in previous years, the department is considering opening up additional fishing opportunity on the Kenai River for retention, he said.
Kings are still running on the Kasilof as well, though the run seems to have slowed down. Catch rates were high in late May and early June; though guides and private anglers are still able to land kings, they are fewer, said Ken Lacy, the owner of Ken’s Alaskan Tackle in Soldotna.
“The Kasilof River has been staying consistently fair,” Lacy said.
This weekend is the final weekend for king salmon fishing on the Anchor River on the lower Kenai Peninsula, though it will be open on Wednesday, June 22 as well. The Anchor River, Ninilchik River and Deep Creek have been seeing good runs of small king salmon with good success, Lacy said.
The lakes on the peninsula are consistently producing, and halibut fishing has been good, Lacy said. Some people fish for halibut near the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, catching somewhat small halibut there, he said.
“They’re catching up to 25 pounders right off the beach,” he said.
On the upper Kenai River, rainbow fishing opened last weekend as well. It was generally fair at the beginning of Saturday, but as participation picked up, it slowed down, which is typical, Pawluk said. Rainbow trout are fairly consistently available.
The Russian River early run of sockeye is now making its way into the river, but so far the numbers are fewer than last year’s run at this time. The fishery on the upper Kenai River opened for sockeye fishing near the Russian River confluence last weekend, but many said the fishing was relatively slow, Pawluk said.
It remains to be seen whether the run is later or actually smaller than last year’s run, he said.
“Next weekend is probably going to be better,” Pawluk said. “The peak could be a week or two from now.”
The Swanson River and Bishop Creek drainages opened for fishing Wednesday. On the Swanson River, anglers can use bait, fish for salmon and retain rainbow trout, with a bag limit of five per day and five in possession, though only one can be 20 inches or longer. Bishop Creek is closed year-round to salmon fishing, but the other general regulations for the Kenai Peninsula apply.
In Seward, the Resurrection River downstream of the Seward Highway and Nash Road will open on June 16 with unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures only. Sockeye have been reported in good numbers in the area.
In the saltwater, halibut fishing is reportedly good near Resurrection Bay. The Seward halibut derby began June 1 and runs throughout the month of June; the largest reported fish so far is 179.8 pounds, according to the weekly sportfishing report for the area. As the weather improves, more halibut are likely to move into Resurrection Bay.
Some king salmon have been caught from shore in Resurrection Bay near the outfall of Seward Lagoon. The Seward Lagoon will host a youth-only fishery this weekend for anglers 15 years old or younger; fishing for all other species will be closed.
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