King fishing, youth fishery come to lower peninsula

The first weekend in June will offer more chances to fish for king salmon on the lower Kenai Peninsula’s rivers and marine fisheries.

The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek will open for king salmon fishing for their second weekend and the Anchor River for its third. The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit is seeing good returns of king salmon as well, said area management biologist Carol Kerkvliet with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Sportfish in Homer.

The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon will also feature a youth fishery this weekend for children younger than 16. A section of the lagoon will be cordoned off specifically for young anglers, and a Fish and Game biologist will be available at the lagoon between noon and 3 p.m. with gear and expertise, offering advice on how to fish for kings, how to properly release a fish or land it, she said.

“(They can learn) angler ethics, how to catch fish,” Kerkvliet said. “It’s the whole nine yards.”

The fishing lagoon is increasingly popular and is seeing good runs of kings returning, Kerkvliet said. Free loaner rods are available to all anglers for up to a week through the Homer Fishing Rod Lender Program and can be checked out through the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center or the Homer Fish and Game office.

Anglers on the Ninilchik River can currently catch both naturally- and hatchery-produced king salmon. Fish and Game is expecting large numbers of small-sized kings, less than 20 inches, on the river this year. Anglers can catch 10 kings less than 20 inches per day, with a bag limit of 10. However, when they land a king 20 inches or greater, that’s it for the day, Kerkvliet said.

Anglers should be aware of how to tell the difference between steelhead trout and king salmon. King salmon are moving upstream but steelhead are moving downstream toward the ocean this time of year. Anglers cannot retain steelhead — they must not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

For those looking more toward shellfish, clamming opportunities are all a boat ride away. The razor clam fishery on the east side of Cook Inlet has been closed because of concerns about stocks, but clammers can still head to the west side beaches for razor clams — Crescent River, Chinitna Bay and Polly Creek are all popular beaches, according to the fishing report. Littleneck and butter clams are available on the gravel beaches on the south side of Kachemak Bay from Seldovia to Chugachik Island, and butter clams are available on the islands in China Poot Bay. Sometimes the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issues warnings about paralytic shellfish poisoning, so those seeking shellfish should contact the DEC or check their website for updates, Kerkvliet said.

Most fishing on the central Kenai Peninsula is still focused on the lakes, as the Kenai River is closed to early-run king salmon fishing by emergency order. Many flowing waters will reopen on June 11 to sportfishing, including the sockeye salmon fishery at the Russian River. The personal use hooligan fishery seems to be done, said Jason Pawluk, the assistant area management biologist for the Division of Sportfish in Soldotna. The hooligan run is not forecasted or monitored, but anecdotally, it seemed that the run was either early before people were out fishing or the larger run did not come, he said. The sonar in the Kenai River is also seeing sockeye salmon move into the Kenai River system, but the run has not really peaked yet, Pawluk said.

So far, the early-run Kenai River king salmon numbers look positive, he said. The early-run numbers are greater than last year’s, with 1,864 kings having passed the sonar as compared to 702 by May 30 last year, according to Fish and Game’s fish count data. Pawluk said time will tell whether the run is early or whether this is the beginning of a larger run.

“We’re considering some management strategies this week if this continues that might provide some opportunity to sport anglers,” Pawluk said. “Things are looking really good right now, and the question is, ‘Is this a really early average run or is this a really big run?’ Time will tell, but what we’re seeing at Anchor River and at Deshka (River), when you look at their counts to date, all systems are way ahead of what they typically are. Right now, we’re definitely seeing some early entry into the Cook Inlet systems.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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