Alaska residents have been manning their dipnets along the shores of the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers this month, bringing in fish to fill their freezers. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, though, the best fishing is just starting.
Kenai River dipnet fishing has been good so far, with the sockeye run reaching its peak right about now.
High water conditions, turbidity and water clarity have been impacting salmon fishing on the Kenai, but, although the water remains high, it has cleared and fishing is improving.
King fishing on the Kenai River is still slow, with the prized game fish trickling in. Because of slow returns this year, dipnetters are reminded that any king salmon accidentally caught in a net must be released immediately and returned to the water.
Fish and Game has prohibited the use of bait in king fishing on the Kenai River.
“The paired restrictions were included in the king salmon plan to help share the burden of conservation among the user groups – sport, commercial, and personal use,” stated Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka in a release. “We started the July king salmon sport fishery with no bait but we may be able to relax those restrictions as we start seeing kings inriver.”
King salmon of any size can be kept from the mouth of the Kenai to the Fish and Game marker 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek. Only kings less than 36 inches may be retained from that marker upstream to a second fish and game marker near the outlet of Skilak Lake.
The Kasilof River is seeing similar fishing, with slow king fishing and fair sockeye salmon sport fishing. Dipnetting on the Kasilof has been fair to good according to Fish and Game.
Starting Wednesday, Fish and Game expanded the personal use dipnetting area from the markers on Cook Inlet beaches, upstream to the Sterling Highway bridge. Dipnetters can also fish by boat from the markers to a second set of markers about 3 miles upstream.
Fish and Game also increased the bag and possession limits for sockeye from six per day to 12 fish in possession. Only two of those fish per day and two in possession can be coho salmon, though.
As of July 21, over 230,000 sockeye have passed through the Kasilof River sonar site, well within the 2019 escapement goal of 160,000 to 340,000 sockeye.
“Increasing the limits for sockeye salmon allows anglers an opportunity to harvest additional fish to fill their freezer,” Lipka said.
The Russian River area is still seeing good fishing. Anglers are reporting success, but a slow down from the excellent fishing earlier this season.
On the other side of the peninsula, Resurrection Bay is in salmon limbo.
Sockeye salmon and king fishing have slowed way down, but the coho salmon are moving in.