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Fishing

Kenai River dipnetting opens Wednesday - and fish counts are promising

A dipnetter brings his net back to shore on Sunday. Thousands of people were on the Kenai River to dipnet for sockeye salmon Sunday July 19, 2015. (Anne Raup / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alaska’s largest personal use dipnet fishery will open at the mouth of the Kenai River at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The annual sockeye salmon fishery is expected to bring thousands of dipnetters to the river, which annually sees a harvest of as many as half a million salmon. The fishery is open to Alaska residents only and a fishing license and free permit are required.

Each head of household is allowed 25 sockeye, plus 10 more fish for each additional household member. Limits are combined throughout all Alaska personal use fisheries. People may also harvest up to 10 flounder.

The Kenai River fishery ends July 31. Fishing is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The area open for shore-based dipnetting includes the south bank of the river from the Warren Ames Bridge downstream to the Kenai Landing dock, as well as the mouth of the river downstream from Riska (No Name) Creek. People may also dipnet from boats from the bridge downstream to the Kenai City Dock. For complete regulations, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website at adfg.alaska.gov.

Parking is available for a fee at the north and south beaches. The north beach can be accessed off South Spruce Street and the south beach off Cannery Road. Drop-off fees are $10, day use parking is $20, overnight parking is $45-$55 and camping is $25. The boat launch fee at the Kenai City Dock is $35. The city has a dipnetting app that includes tide tables and fees and has more information on its website at kenai.city/dipnet.

Personal use dipnet fishing on the Kasilof River opened June 25. Personal use dipnet salmon fisheries also take place on the Copper River, Fish Creek in the Mat-Su (by emergency order only), China Poot Bay and Kachemak Bay. Check the ADFG websitefor times and dates.

Last year, 165,000 salmon were harvested on the Kenai River, which saw an early closure due to low returns. The harvest was the smallest since 2006.

This year’s return is tracking well ahead of last year’s, with about 80,000 sockeye already counted past the department’s sonar site as of Monday, when more than 21,000 fish were counted. The total is more than double that of last year, when just 38,000 fish were counted by July 8.

To participate in the fishery, residents must posses a valid fishing license and a permit. Permits must be filled out each time you fish and are required to be carried at all times while fishing. Additionally, salmon caught in the personal use fishery must be marked by clipping the tips of their tail fins before they’re concealed from view or transported from the fishing site.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Kenai River personal use fishermen may retain king salmon; an emergency order issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on July 2 disallowed retention of king salmon.

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