Betty Hatch wades out into the mouth of the Kenai River with a dipnet in hand on Monday, July 10, 2023, at the Kenai Beach in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Betty Hatch wades out into the mouth of the Kenai River with a dipnet in hand on Monday, July 10, 2023, at the Kenai Beach in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River dipnetting off to slow start

Monday marked the first day of dipnetting on the Kenai River, but shortly after the opening’s first high tide, few could be seen with nets in the water. The late-run of sockeye salmon on the Kenai River has been relatively slow to start, lagging far behind the last few years.

A fishing report published Friday by the Department of Fish and Game called sockeye salmon fishing on the Kenai River “slow” but said that the run “will improve over the next several weeks.”

According to fish counts made available by the department, only around 35,000 sockeye had been counted by sonar in the river as of Sunday. That number lags far behind the counts at the same time for the last four years, where between 68,000 and 95,000 sockeye were recorded. In each of those four years, the sustainable escapement goal for the species was exceeded, last year with a final count of around 1.6 million.

The sockeye scarcity was being felt by anglers on the sands Monday. Shortly after high tide, only seven nets were in the water at the Kenai Beach on the Kenai River’s North Shore. Aside from one brief moment where a sockeye entered and then escaped a net, each of the anglers stood still in the rolling surf — still hoping to strike red.

Jacob Cook, a Wasilla resident, said he was out dipnetting for the very first time. Around an hour after starting, he said he hadn’t caught a single fish — and in that time he’d only seen a few of his fellow anglers land anything.

But, Cook said he’d had fun, and that he and his family had a couple more days in town to pursue greater fortune.

The Kenai River personal use sockeye salmon dipnetting fishery opened at 6 a.m. on Monday, and will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day until the end of the month.

More information about fishing regulations and availability can be found at

Reach reporter Jake Dye at

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