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Kenai River will be closed to sockeye sportfishing Saturday

The Kenai River will close to sockeye salmon sportfishing Saturday, according to an emergency order from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The order and accompanying statement Wednesday said the action was being taken to "protect returning sockeye salmon" and increase future fishing opportunities.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, "the Kenai River is closed to fishing for sockeye salmon from its mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge at the outlet of Kenai Lake, except those waters of the Upper Kenai River, Russian River, and Russian River confluence areas remain open," the statement said. "The waters of the Russian River confluence remain open to allow anglers to target Russian River sockeye salmon."

People interested in sportfishing in the area were directed to review the 2018 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations for a description of the Russian River area.

A July 24 assessment found the sockeye salmon run was projected at less than 2.3 million fish. With roughly 434,000 fish estimated to have made passage so far, the sustainable escapement goal "may not be met without a reduction in harvest," the state wrote.

Commercial fisheries were also facing restrictions, the statement said, and the Kenai personal-use dipnet fishery closed two days early.

"The department doesn't take this action lightly," Sport Fish Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller said in the release. "This fishery is important economically to the community and important to Alaskans trying to put salmon on the table; but when projections indicate we won't make the escapement goal, we have to take that final action and close the fishery."

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