Anglers practice social distancing on the upper Kenai River in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in late June 2020. (Photo provided by Nick Longobardi/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Anglers practice social distancing on the upper Kenai River in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in late June 2020. (Photo provided by Nick Longobardi/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Kenai River fishing rules tightened

Only unbaited single hooks and artificial lures will be allowed.

For the first half of August, all fishing on the Kenai River will be limited to unbaited single hooks and artificial lures, according to a Wednesday press release from Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game.

From Aug. 1 at 12:01 a.m. until Aug. 15, anglers will be prohibited from using bait and multiple hooks from the mouth of the Kenai River upstream to Skilak Lake. Only unbaited single hooks with artificial lures will be allowed.

This change applies to fishing for any species on the Kenai River, but the decision is in response to the low numbers seen in this year’s late-run of Kenai River king salmon.

As of Monday, approximately 6,019 large king salmon were recorded by sonar at river mile 13.7 for the late run. Current inseason projections indicate that the run will likely not meet its optimal escapement goal of between 15,000 and 30,000 large fish, which was set by the Alaska Board of Fisheries earlier this year. Paired restrictions will also be implemented in the commercial fishery to reduce the harvest of Kenai River kings, including hour and gear limitations.

“The 2020 Kenai River king salmon late-run is not currently projecting to achieve the escapement goal and it is warranted to restrict the use of bait and multiple hooks in order to reduce the mortality of incidentally caught king salmon,” area management biologist Colton Lipka said in the release. “On average, 35% of the run passes the sonar during the first two weeks of August.”

All king salmon fishing will be closed starting Aug. 1, including catch-and-release fishing. King salmon caught accidentally may not be retained, possessed or removed from the water and must be released immediately.

ADF&G advises anglers to avoid fishing for coho salmon in areas of the river where kings are concentrated and to cut leaders or lines to avoid stressing king salmon that are hooked accidentally.

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