If the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preseason forecast for the early run of chinook salmon on the Kenai River proves to be accurate, it will be the second lowest run on the river in 30 years. However, the newly released run forecast of 5,265 fish is more than twice the 2014 forecast for the struggling salmon run.
Despite the promising uptick in numbers, area manager Robert Begich said the upcoming fishing season would likely be managed similarly to last season. In 2014, managers announced a rare preseason closure of fishing for early run king salmon. Begich said anglers should look for management actions from the department soon.
While the numbers of fish forecasted to return is more promising than last year’s forecast, the outlook for early run chinook is still well below average and would not make Fish and Game’s escapement goal of 5,300-9,000 fish.
Kenai king salmon runs typically range in age from 3 to 7 years old, meaning biologists look at runs from 2008 forward as a predictor of the upcoming season’s return. One factor is the return per spawner, or how many fish made it back into the river from a parent generation.
While the 2008 king salmon run was within the Kenai River’s goal range at the time, Begich said several factors could reduce the number of fish returning from being spawned in those years.
“It just depends on whether or not they return more than one fish per spawner,” he said. “There haven’t been good production years recently, so we still don’t know until it happens. It’s just the forecast.”
The outlook for the late run of Kenai king salmon is also slightly higher than the previous year at 22,115 fish. However, it is still well below average according to Fish and Game’s forecast.
Still, if the forecast is accurate the run will be within its escapement goal of 15,000 to 30,000 fish.
Reach Rashah McChesney at email@example.com.