The Alaska Department of Fish and Sports announced a new wave of fisheries closures for the Kenai Peninsula this week in response to continuing low rates of king salmon. The closures affected the fisheries in Ninilchik, Kasilof and Cook Inlet.
When announcing the closure, the Department of Sports Fish said the king salmon races were not showing signs of improvement and that conservative measures were needed to ensure future fishing opportunities.
“Early king salmon passing through the Kenai Peninsula is near or at record low levels,” District Department biologist Colton Lipka was quoted as saying in the department’s releases.
In addition to the closures announced Monday, the early-running King salmon fishery in the Kenai River from the estuary to Lake Skellac has been closed through June 30.
For the month of July, king salmon fishing will remain closed in the waters of the Kenai River from a fish and game regulatory sign located about 300 yards downstream from the downstream estuary of Silicock Creek to the Skelac Lake outlet. The closure bans all types of sporting king salmon fishing, including catching and releasing fish.
Ninilchik River closed to sport fishing
From Thursday through July 15, the Ninilchik River remains closed to all sport fishing to protect returning salmon and ensure future sport fishing opportunities, according to the division.
Just over 180 naturally produced king salmon were counted in the lower dam of the Ninilchik River as of June 12. Target and 750 to 1,300 are required for the goal of collecting brood stock, the department said.
Numbers of king salmon in the Ninelchik River have improved from last week, but they are still behind what is needed, Mike Bose, a biologist with the District Department, said in a statement from the department.
The Kaslov River has been closed to sport salmon fishing
The division said the Kasilof River from its estuary to the outlet of Lake Tostomena is closed to sport fishing for king salmon during July 15 to keep king salmon in the river. During the lockdown, which began on Wednesday, salmon fishing is completely prohibited. Any caught king salmon cannot be taken out of the water and must be released immediately. While fishing for other species, anglers may use one artificial lure without bait, and one hook.
From July 16 to July 31, the recently operated Royal Salmon Fishery will open to catch and release fish from the estuary to the Sterling Highway Bridge. During lockdown, any caught king salmon cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately. Fishermen may use only one artificial lure that is not covered by one hook.
The department’s release says the early Caslov River sport salmon fishery is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to achieve an escape target of 700 to 1,400 naturally produced salmon as monitored through the dam at Crooked Creek.
The division said the king salmon in Crooked Creek is being used to supplement king salmon stocking programs in other parts of south-central Alaska.
Cook saltwater inlet closed to sport salmon sport fishing
The salt waters of the Cook Inlet north of Bluff Point — between Anchor Point and Homer — are closed to sport salmon fishing, including catch and release, until July 15. The closure, which took effect on Wednesday, does not affect fishing for other species, such as halibut. Any caught king salmon cannot be taken out of the water and must be released immediately.
The closure was called a “conservative approach” to maximizing escape targets for local salmon, according to Bose. In one of its sections, Booz was quoted as saying that the Cook Inlet salmon populations “are expected to be the lowest slip we have seen on all streams of the Kenai Peninsula.”
Fishing hours have been reduced with gillnets in the Kasilov River for personal use
The division said the Kasilov River’s personal-use gillnet fishery will now close daily at 5 p.m., effective Wednesday, to protect king salmon bound for the Kasilov River. Between June 15th and June 24th, fishing will be open from 11am-5pm
The closure represented a step further than the one announced by the department on June 8, which reduced the number of daily fishing hours from 17 hours to 12 hours.
Little Su, Tanana River closed for fishing
In the Far 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 confluence with Cook Inlet upstream to the Parks Highway Bridge, starting Monday at 6 a.m. Release, and any king salmon that has been caught must be released immediately and may not be removed from the water prior to release.
Also when fishing other species, sport fishing gear is limited to one synthetic lure without bait, and one hook. Regulations are in effect until July 13.
The mouth of the Tanana River (which includes the Chena, Salcha, and Goodbuster rivers) is also closed for king salmon fishing, starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The closure bans all types of salmon sport fishing, including catch and release.
Fish & Game said the 2022 race for salmon draining into the Yukon River was expected to be weak, and the pre-season forecast was for a large-scale drain volume of 99,000 to 150,000 king salmon. The data accumulated so far this season indicates that running strength is weak and running is lagging.
More information about fishing regulations can be found at adfg.alaska.gov.
Anchorage Daily News staff contributed to this report.