Fishing report: All eyes on the Kenai as sockeye numbers build, king fishing steady

Angling eyes are on the Kenai River this week as sockeye numbers are building and king salmon fishing remains steady.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers reported a pulse of sockeye salmon hitting the mouth of the Kenai late Saturday and Sunday, giving personal-use dipnetters a good opportunity to catch their limits. The pulse has also provided rod-and-reel anglers with good fishing further upstream.

Jason Pawluk, Fish and Game assistant area management biologist, theorized that high winds leading into last weekend may have helped push that pulse of sockeye into the river.

“Dipnetters got into that little pulse, and we saw some fish move into the river, and bump up the sonar counts,” Pawluk said. “… We’re seeing (sonar counts) come back down, but now in-river anglers have some fish to follow upstream.”

The sockeye sonar on the Kenai River spiked at 49,158 on Sunday and 53,600 on Monday before dropping down to 32,412 Tuesday.

Good news for sockeye fishermen is also on the horizon: Pawluk said Fish and Game’s offshore test boat in Cook Inlet picked up one of its highest index values ever on Wednesday, meaning that there’s a large number of fish out in the inlet that could be hitting the river in the coming week — though exactly when is anyone’s guess.

Fish and Game also is reporting positive news in the Kenai River king salmon fishery, where sonar picked up an estimated 1,018 kings on Friday and 828 kings on Saturday, dropping down to 489 Sunday and 438 Monday.

Pawluk said that on Tuesday, the river saw its highest angler effort of the season, as well as its biggest harvest.

“There’s fish in the water,” said Jim Johnson of Alaska’s Kenai Jim’s Lodging and Guide Service. “There’s not a lot of them, so you have to work pretty hard.”

According to Pawluk, biologists also are seeing the king salmon run switch from younger, smaller fish to older, larger fish in their fish sampling.

Emergency orders restricting anglers targeting kings to an unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure remain in place on the Kenai River.


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