Massive returns of sockeye salmon have caused the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to again liberalize the popular Russian River fishery.
The bag limit on the Russian River and Upper Kenai will become nine fish per day starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, June 19, with the possession limit raised to 18 sockeye. The emergency order is in effect through July 7.
According to online fish counts, more than 45,000 early run sockeye have been counted past the Russian River weir since June 7. That’s more than last year’s total escapement of 44,110 fish and is already beyond the department’s biological escapement goal of 22,000 to 42,000 early run sockeye. The department stops counting early run sockeye on July 14.
“With these numbers, it is appropriate to increase the limits and allow anglers and opportunity to harvest more sockeye salmon,” said area management biologist Colton Lipka in a press release.
The order includes the Russian River from its confluence with the Kenai upstream to a marker 600 yards downstream of the Russian River Falls, as well as the Kenai River from Skilak Lake upstream to an ADFG marker 300 yards upstream of Sportsman’s Landing; that includes the “sanctuary” area immediately downstream of where the two rivers converge.
The emergency order comes on the heels of two previous attempts by the department to have anglers catch more of the run, including decisions last week to increase the bag limit from three to six fish and open the “sanctuary” area at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers.