The popular personal-use sockeye salmon fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River will close at 12:01 a.m. Monday to ensure adequate returns into the river, the Alaska Department of Fish and Fame said Thursday. The state said it was also putting restrictions on sport and commercial fisheries.
The dipnet fishery had been scheduled to end Tuesday.
In an emergency order, Fish and Game said the closures were necessary to meet the state's escapement goal of between 700,000 and 1.2 million Kenai River late-run sockeye. As of Wednesday, an estimated 367,895 sockeye had passed into the river, Fish and Game said.
"Sockeye salmon passage by the sonar at river mile 19 have been behind this season, but other indicators suggested perhaps a late run timing," Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller said in a written statement. "An assessment of the data earlier this week indicated it may just be a weak run. Without further restrictions to sockeye salmon harvest, the goal for Kenai River sockeye salmon is not expected to be achieved."
Fish and Game also announced that the sportfishing limit on the Kenai for sockeye, or reds, would drop from three a day and six in possession to one per day and two in possession starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The limit remains at three per day and six in possession above Skilak Lake, where anglers are targeting Russian River sockeye, Fish and Game said.
Fish and Game noted that dipnetting for sockeye remains open at Fish Creek, in the Mat-Su, through July 31 and at the Kasilof River on the Kenai Peninsula through Aug. 7. "Dipnetters have reported success at both of these fisheries in recent days," Fish and Game said. Dipnetters can't keep king salmon caught in either fishery.
The Kenai personal-use fishery, limited to Alaska residents, has become extremely popular for residents of Southcentral Alaska in recent years as a way for families to harvest large numbers of sockeye.