More restrictions for Kenai, Kasilof king salmon

Anglers won’t be able to keep a king salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers after Wednesday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Monday that the two rivers would be limited to catch and release for king salmon effective Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. through July 31. The restriction comes in response to weak runs in the two rivers.

By historical run timing, the runs should be about 25 percent complete by July 17, according to the July 13 update to the inseason run summary. As of July 15, 2,898 large kings had passed the sonar. Fish and Game is not expecting to achieve the escapement goal without further harvest restrictions, according to the Monday announcement.

“(Fish and Game) staff will be closely monitoring this fishery as the season progresses and additional actions may be taken if necessary,” the announcement states.

Fishing for kings on the Kenai River remains closed between the outlet of Skilak Lake and a marker 300 yards downstream of the mouth of Slikok Creek. Anglers can still fish from that marker downstream to the mouth of the Kenai River but can only use one unbaited, single-hood, artificial lure when sportfishing in the area and king salmon have to be released immediately without being removed from the water, according to the announcement.

The restrictions on the Kasilof River, issued concurrently Monday, are to prevent additional pressure on the Kasilof kings due to the closures on the Kenai River, according to the announcement.

“King salmon fishery closures are being felt throughout Alaska. The 2018 Cook Inlet king salmon runs have consistently and significantly underperformed preseason expectations,” said Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller in the announcement. “Regulation restrictions and closures have been issued for the Kenai River king salmon sport fishery during July. These emergency orders will likely result in an increase in the sport fishing effort and catch of king salmon in the Kasilof River during July. Therefore, to minimize the effects of conservation actions for the Kenai River, it is warranted to prohibit bait and multiple hooks on the Kasilof River to ensure adequate escapement of Kasilof River late-run king salmon.”

The restrictions on the Kenai River impact the commercial set net fishermen as well. When the Kenai River sportfishery is restricted to catch-and-release only, setnetters in the Upper Subdistrict cannot fish more than 24 hours per week and are only open when the Fish and Game commercial fishery managers issue emergency orders opening them.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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