The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Sport Fish announced a new wave of fisheries closures for the Kenai Peninsula this week in response to continued low king salmon runs. The closures affect fisheries in Ninilchik, Kasilof and Cook Inlet.
In announcing the closures, the Division of Sport Fish said that king salmon runs are not showing signs of improvement and that conservative measures are needed to ensure future fishing opportunities.
“Early king salmon runs across the Kenai Peninsula are near or at record low levels,” Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka is quoted as saying in releases from the division.
In addition to the closures announced Monday, the Kenai River’s early-run king salmon sport fishery is closed from the mouth of the river to Skilak Lake between until June 30.
For the duration of July, king salmon fishing will remain closed in Kenai River waters from a Fish and Game regulatory marker located about 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake. The closure prohibits all sport king salmon fishing, including catch and release fishing.
Ninilchik River closed to sport fishing
Starting Thursday through July 15, the Ninilchik River remains closed to all sport fishing to protect returning king salmon and ensure future sport fishing opportunities, the division said.
Just over 180 naturally produced king salmon have been counted at the lower Ninilchik River weir as of June 12. The 2022 escapement is expected to be less than 500 king salmon, which is significantly lower than the 1,100 needed at the weir to achieve the sustainable escapement goal and the 750 to 1,300 needed for the brood stock collection goal, the division said.
The Ninilchik River’s king salmon counts have improved from last week, but continue to lag behind what is needed, Area Management Biologist Mike Booz said in a division release.
Kasilof River closed to king salmon sport fishing
The Kasilof River from its mouth to the outlet of Tustumena Lake is closed to king salmon sport fishing through July 15 to conserve king salmon in the river, the division said. During the closure, which began Wednesday, all king salmon fishing is prohibited. Any king salmon caught cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately. While fishing for other species, anglers may use only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure.
From July 16 to July 31, the late-run king salmon fishery will open to catch and release fishing from the river mouth to the Sterling Highway Bridge. During the closure, any king salmon caught cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately. Anglers may only use one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure.
A division release says that the Kasilof River’s early-run king salmon sport fishery is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to achieve an escapement goal of between 700 and 1,400 naturally produced king salmon as monitored through a weir on Crooked Creek.
King salmon in Crooked Creek, the division said, are used to supplement king salmon stocking programs in other parts of Southcentral Alaska.
Cook Inlet salt waters closed to king salmon sport fishing
Cook Inlet salt waters north of Bluff Point — between Anchor Point and Homer — are closed to king salmon sport fishing, including catch and release, through July 15. The closure, which took effect Wednesday, does not affect fishing for other species, such as halibut. Any king salmon caught cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately.
The closure was called a “conservative approach” to maximizing local king salmon escapement goals according to Booz. Booz is quoted in a division release as saying that Cook Inlet king salmon runs are “projecting to be the lowest escapement we’ve seen in all of the Kenai Peninsula streams.”
Kasilof River personal use gillnet fishery hours reduced
The Kasilof River’s personal use set gillnet fishery will now close daily at 5 p.m., effective Wednesday, to protect king salmon bound for the Kasilof River, the division said. Between June 15 and June 24, the fishery will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The closure goes a step further than the closure announced by the division on June 8, which reduced the number of hours the fishery is open daily from 17 hours to 12 hours.
Little Su, Tanana River closed for king sport fishing
Farther north, Fish and Game also announced that sport fishing for king salmon will be closed in all waters of the Little Susitna River from its confluences with Cook Inlet upstream to the Parks Highway bridge, starting Monday at 6 a.m. Those restrictions include catch-and-release, and any king salmon caught must be released immediately and may not be removed from the water before its release.
Also when fishing for other species, sport fishing gear is limited to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure. The regulations are in place through July 13.
The Tanana River drainage (which includes the Chena, Salcha and Goodpaster Rivers) is also closed to sport fishing for king salmon, starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The closure prohibits all sport fishing for king salmon, including catch-and-release.
Fish and Game said the 2022 Yukon River drainage king salmon run was expected to be weak, and the preseason forecast was for a drainage-wide run size of 99,000 to 150,000 king salmon. Data accumulated so far this season indicates the run strength is weak and the run is late.
More information about fishing regulations can be found at adfg.alaska.gov.
Anchorage Daily News staff contributed to this report.