Starting Saturday, anglers at the Russian River confluence can head up into the heart of the fishery to target sockeye salmon and can retain more of them.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has opened the Russian River Sanctuary, an area around the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers usually closed to all fishing between May 1 and July 14 each year. Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, the sanctuary opens for fishing to help control escapement, as projections show more sockeye coming back than the upper end of the escapement goal, according to an emergency order issued Friday.
The bag and possession limit will also double effective Saturday, to six sockeye per day with 12 in possession, according to the emergency order.
“Anglers are reminded that they may possess only the limit allowed for the waters they are actively fishing,” the emergency order states. “If a Russian River angler has more than six sockeye salmon in possession, then that angler may not fish in waters with a possession limit of six.”
Fish and Game manages the early Russian River sockeye salmon run for a biological escapement goal of between 22,000–42,000 fish. As of Thursday, about 14,911 sockeye had passed through the Lower Russian Lake weir, and the run is only about 30 percent complete, according to the emergency order. After July 14, the official end of the early run, sockeye continue to return to the Russian River system but are noted as the late run and managed under a different escapement goal.
Lower water levels and a larger run have made for better fishing in 2017 than in 2016 so far. Anglers have been lucky on both the Kenai River stretch of the fishery and in the clear water of the Russian River itself since the fishery opened June 11.
Fishing conditions will likely stay good for the next few days, according to the emergency order. Because of the risk of bear activity as the salmon runs peaks, anglers should be careful and take their fish out whole if possible, and if they choose to clean their fish near the river, to throw the fish waste far out into the fast-moving water so as not to attract bears to the area.