The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced several new king salmon closures over the weekend, citing abundance that is “significantly less than expected.” New closures were announced for the Kenai and Kasilof rivers and also triggered a closure in Cook Inlet.
The optimal escapement goal for late-run king salmon is between 15,000 and 30,000 fish 75 cm mid eye to tail fork and longer. As of July 15, about 2,352 king salmon had passed the River Mile 13.7 king salmon sonar. Projections put escapement estimates at about 11,500 fish less than the current level of exploitation with average run timing.
The Kenai River is closed to king salmon fishing from July 17 through 11:59 p.m. on July 31 to “conserve returning king salmon and increase fishing opportunities in the future,” the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Sport Fish Division said. The closure affects the Kenai River from its mouth to the department markers located at the outlet of Skilak Lake and includes the use of bait and multiple hooks.
The closure, announced Saturday, applies to all sport fishing including catch and release. King salmon cannot be retained or possessed and any incidentally caught cannot be removed from the water. Bait/scent and multiple hooks are prohibited along the entire Kenai River.
Kenai River sockeye salmon passage into the river is about 19% complete as of July 16; the projected in-river run is between about 910,000 and 1.6 million sockeye salmon. The Division of Sport Fish reports that lower Kenai River sockeye salmon fishing “has been fair” and should improve.
While the Kenai River is high, making shore fishing challenging, the division encouraged anglers to try fishing at Centennial Park, Rotary Park, the Donald E. Gilman River Center, the Soldotna Visitor Center, Moose Range Meadows or Soldotna Creek Park.
The Kasilof River downstream of the Sterling Highway Bridge is closed to king salmon sport fishing from July 17 through 11:59 p.m. on July 31. Between the mouth of the Kasilof River and its outlet at Tustumena Lake, anglers can only use one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure during the closure, which cites a need to protect returning king salmon and increase future fishing opportunities.
The closure affects all king salmon sport fishing, including catch and release fishing. Any king salmon caught incidentally cannot be taken out of the water and must be immediately released. Bait/scent and multiple hooks are prohibited downstream of the Sterling Highway Bridge.
Kasilof River sockeye salmon escapement is about 51% complete as of July 16. The biological escapement goal of between 140,000 and 320,000 sockeye has been achieved. Escapement as of Saturday was about 291,000 fish with a projected final escapement of about 577,300 fish.
The Kasilof River sockeye salmon fishing is “good” per the Division of Sport Fish, which encouraged anglers to try fishing from the shore at Crooked Creek State Recreation site. Crooked Creek is closed to fishing. Bag and possession limits are six per day and 12 in possession.
Cook Inlet salt waters north of the latitude of Bluff Point are closed to king salmon sport fishing, including catch and release from July 17 through 11:59 p.m. on July 31. The closure, announced Saturday, is to protect late-run king salmon returning to the Kenai River and to ensure future sport fishing opportunities, the department said.
The area was already closed to king salmon fishing — from June 15 through July 15 — by emergency order.
Upper Cook Inlet Commercial Fishing Announcement #18 closes set gillnet fishing in the Kenai, Kasilof and East Forelands sections of the Upper Subdistrict. That order, announced Saturday, was triggered by the order closing the Kenai River drainage to king salmon fishing, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a press release.
The Kenai River Late-Run King Management Plan says that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game must close the commercial set gillnet fishery in the Upper Subdistrict if the projected late-run large king salmon escapement is less than 15,000 fish, the order says. As of July 15, the Kenai River late-run large king salmon passage was estimated to be 2,352.
“Inseason projections show all indices of abundance remain well below their respective minimum inseason management objective,” the order says. “At this time, it does not appear that the late-run will attain adequate escapement without significant restrictions to all fisheries that harvest this stock.”
Upper Cook Inlet Commercial Fishing Announcement #19 opens commercial fishing with gillnets in Drift Gillnet Area 1, the Expanded Kenai, Expanded Kasilof and Anchor Point sections of the Central District from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting Monday, July 18.
The Kenai River dipnet fishery is reported as “fair to good,” with fishing only allowed between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Retention of king salmon in the fishery is prohibited. The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is “good” with fishing allowed 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Retention of king salmon, Dolly Varden and rainbow or steelhead trout is not allowed in the Kasilof River dipnet fishery.
Only Alaska residents can participate in personal use dipnet fisheries. They are required to have an Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use permit as well as a sport fishing license. Harvest and participation in this fishery must be reported online through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game no later than Aug. 15.
John Hedberg Lake in Nikiski is reporting “excellent” fishing, while fishing for rainbow trout, Arctic char, Arctic grayling and landlocked salmon “should be good to excellent.” It is suggested by the Division of Sport Fish that anglers try fishing with dry or wet flies, like an egg sucking leech, bead head nymph or mosquito pattern. Small spoons and spinners size #0 or #2 as well as small bait under a bobber are recommended.
Kenai River and Russian River Emergency Order 2-KS-1-53-22 supersedes prior emergency orders and closes the Kenai River to fishing for king salmon and prohibits the use of bait and multiple hooks in the Kenai River from its mouth upstream to ADF&G markers located at the outlet of Skilak Lake. This closure prohibits all sport fishing for king salmon, including catch and release fishing. King salmon may not be retained or possessed; king salmon caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately. These regulatory changes are effective 12:01 a.m. Sunday, July 17 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 2022.
Emergency Order 2-KS-1-46-22 prohibits the retention of king salmon in the Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery. Any king salmon caught incidentally may not be removed from the water and must be release immediately and returned to the water unharmed. This regulatory change is effective through 11 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 2022.
Kasilof River Emergency Order 2-KS-1-54-22 supersedes previous emergency orders and closes king salmon sport fishing in the Kasilof River downstream of the Sterling Highway Bridge to the river mouth from 12:01 a.m. Sunday, July 17 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 2022. Additionally, only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure may be used when sport fishing from the river mouth upstream to the outlet of Tustumena Lake from 12:01 a.m. Sunday, July 17 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 2022. This closure prohibits all sport fishing for king salmon, including catch and release fishing. King salmon may not be retained or possessed, may not be removed from the water, and must be released immediately.
Emergency order 2-RS-1-45-22 expands the personal use salmon dipnet fishing area on the Kasilof River. Salmon may be harvested from the shore from ADF&G markers located on Cook Inlet beaches outside the terminus of the river upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge. Salmon may be harvested from a boat from ADF&G markers located on Cook Inlet beaches outside the terminus of the river upstream to ADF&G markers placed at approximately River Mile 3. This regulatory change is effective through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, August 7, 2022.
Emergency Order 2-RS-1-44-22 increases the bag and possession limit for salmon, 16 inches or longer, to six fish per and 12 in possession in all portions of the Kasilof River open to salmon fishing. No more than two salmon per day and two in possession may be coho salmon. This regulatory change is effective through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022.
Local LakesEmergency Order 2-NP-1-04-22 prohibits the retention of any species of fish in East Mackey, West Mackey, Sevena, Union, and Derks lakes for the 2022 season.
Emergency Order 2-DV-1-03-22 establishes a bag and possession limit of Arctic char/Dolly Varden in Stormy Lake of one fish, less than 16 inches in length for the 2022 season.