COOPER LANDING — Sockeye salmon are running on the Kenai Peninsula and fishermen are taking note.
Crowds flooded the Russian and Kenai Rivers over the past week as the Russian reached its early-run escapement goal on Tuesday, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jenny Gates.
The goal, set at 22,000 to 42,000, was cleared with 43,200 fish counted by Tuesday.
“The last day of the early run will be July 14, so we do have 16 more days worth of counts coming in,” Gates said. “Fishing remains consistent and steady. People are still getting limits up there and I would expect folks to continue to get limits through the weekend and tapering off probably next week.”
Rolly Anunciación and his nephew, Harry Anunciación, were two of the anglers capitalizing on the strong run Tuesday. They stood with wide grins and a bounty of sockeye as they waited to board the Russian River ferry.
“If you’re catching fish, it’s good fishing,” Harry Anunciación said. “It’s hard work. A lot of hits and misses. It’s part of fishing.”
Fishermen stood almost shoulder to shoulder in the water Tuesday in the classic Russian River combat fishing formation.
On Saturday, the bag limit increased to nine fish per day and 18 in possession. Gates said the last time that happened was in 2019, when escapement goals were easily cleared.
Rolly Anunciación caught his limit of nine, while Harry took five himself.
Gates said the “robust” first run appears to be on time and just over halfway through by Tuesday, according to historical data. She said from reports she received Tuesday, anglers were still catching limits in a relatively short amount of time and traffic was flowing in and out fairly well at the Russian River Campground.
After catching his sixth fish of the day, Tim Tuter took a break to watch his family partake in the action on the Kenai River just downstream from the Russian River confluence.
Tuter was born and raised in Soldotna and now lives in San Diego. He said his family still makes an annual trip up to do some fishing.
“We come up here every year,” he said. “Fishing has been good. We’re not getting our limit but we’re having fun.
“The girls are trying to compete with the seasoned fishermen on the Russian River.”
Manny Rivera and his wife Gloria Rivera were cleaning fish at a table in the flowing water of the Kenai River. They make an annual pilgrimage from Anchorage.
“We come down here for a couple days around this time of year and today is my birthday,” he said.
Bill Roth reported and made photos from Cooper Landing. Chris Bieri wrote and reported from Anchorage.