Gina Plank processes sockeye salmon caught on the first day of Kenai River dipnetting with her table set up on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Gina Plank processes sockeye salmon caught on the first day of Kenai River dipnetting with her table set up on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River open for dipnetting

As of Tuesday, a total of 226,000 sockeye had been counted in the Kenai River’s late run

The Kenai River’s personal use sockeye salmon dipnet fishery opened Wednesday morning. Dipnetting will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day until July 31.

Wednesday afternoon, Kenai’s beach was relatively quiet. Nets in the water were far outnumbered by loitering gulls, and neither were partaking of many salmon.

Despite appearances, fish counts available from the State Department of Fish and Game indicate that more than an average number of sockeye have been counted by sonar so far this season. On Tuesday, around 48,000 sockeye were counted in the Kenai River’s late run, with a total of 226,000 as of that day. That count far exceeds those of each of the four recent years — last year at this time only 35,000 had been counted, but a total of over 2.3 million were counted by the end of the run.

Similar strong runs have been observed at nearby Kasilof and Russian rivers, motivating emergency orders and liberalized restrictions. As of Wednesday evening, no emergency orders had been issued for the Kenai River personal use fishery.

According to the department’s website, the peak harvest days for sockeye salmon on the Kenai River are historically observed between July 16 and 25. They also note that the fishery is managed by emergency order, meaning that regulations can change and the fishery can be closed “at any time.” Fishers should acquire updated information before fishing.

Only Alaska residents can participate in a personal use fishery. Any angler 18 years old or older must possess a valid sport fishing license. A permit, which is effective for an entire household, must also be acquired before fishing. The department says permits can be obtained from private vendors or at department offices — like the Fish and Game office in Soldotna. A list of private vendors can be found on the department website.

Viewed on the department’s online store, a sport fishing license costs $20, while the Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use Salmon Permit is free.

On the permit, the date, location and harvest by species must be filled in each time an angler fishes — even if no fish are caught. All reporting must be submitted via the department’s harvest reporting webpage by Aug. 15, even if the permit was left unused or if no fish were caught for the season. Failure to report by the deadline will result in the loss of personal use fishing privilege in the next year, the department says.

The bag limit for Upper Cook Inlet personal use salmon fisheries — which include not just the Kenai but also the Kasilof River and Fish Creek — is 25 salmon and 10 flounder for the holder and 10 additional salmon for each additional household member. Each caught salmon must be “marked” by clipping both ends of the tail fin using scissors or shears. Marking must be done “before the salmon is concealed from plain view” or the angler may be subject to fines.

Dipnetting on the Kenai River is allowed from the shore at the mouth of the Kenai River, extending north and south into Cook Inlet to commercial fishing markers and upstream to a line from No Name Creek. Anglers can also dipnet from the shore on the south bank between the Kenai Landing Dock to the downstream edge of the Warren Ames Bridge.

Dipnetting from a boat is also allowed between department markers near the Kenai City Dock upstream to the downstream edge of Warren Ames Bridge, with the same requirements for permitting, limits and marking. The department notes that there are no nearby public boat launches — the closest is upstream of the Sterling Highway bridge.

All caught fish must be recorded on the permit and have clipped tail fins before leaving the area or anglers may be subject to a fine.

More information about fishing regulations and availability can be found at adfg.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

A fisher stands with his net at the ready on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher stands with his net at the ready on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher and two children carry their net into the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher and two children carry their net into the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Fishers stand with net extended in the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Fishers stand with net extended in the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher carries their net into the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher carries their net into the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher stands with net extended in the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher stands with net extended in the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Fishers stand with nets extended in the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Fishers stand with nets extended in the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher carries their net into the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher carries their net into the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher untangles a freshly caught sockeye salmon from his net on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher untangles a freshly caught sockeye salmon from his net on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher untangles a freshly caught sockeye salmon from his net on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher untangles a freshly caught sockeye salmon from his net on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher carries a freshly caught sockeye salmon from the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A fisher carries a freshly caught sockeye salmon from the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A freshly caught sockeye salmon is deposited in a cooler on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A freshly caught sockeye salmon is deposited in a cooler on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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