Kenai River dipnetting to close July 30

Friday, July 27, 2018 - 11:37
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth
  • Star photo by Matt Tunseth

This is the last weekend for personal use fishermen hoping to fill their freezer with Kenai River reds.

State biologists are closing the popular Kenai River dipnet fishery at 12:01 a.m. Monday, July 30 due to a poor return of sockeye salmon.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure in a Thursday press release. The season was originally scheduled to end at 11 p.m. July 31.

“Sockeye salmon passage by the sonar at river mile 19 have been behind this season, but other indicators suggested perhaps a late run timing,” wrote Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller. “An assessment of the data earlier this week indicated it may just be a weak run. Without further restrictions to sockeye salmon harvest, the goal for Kenai River sockeye salmon is not expected to be achieved.”

As of Thursday, 383,211 sockeye had been counted past the department’s sonar site at river mile 19. That’s more than 100,000 fewer than last year at this time and still well short of the department’s sustainable escapement goal of 700,000 to 1.2 million sockeye (or red) salmon.

The fishery is only open to Alaska residents, who are allowed 25 sockeye for the “head of household,” plus 10 more fish for each additional family member.

The Kenai River dipnet fishery — normally the site of hundreds or even thousands of personal use fishermen weilding long-handled nets — has been a dud this season, with fish passage rates far lower than what normally produces good catches. Just one day — July 21 — saw more than 60,000 fish counted, and only four days have seen more than 30,000. On Thursday, the department said just 15,316 sockeye passed the sonar counter.

In addition to the dipnet closure, the department also reduced the sockeye bag limit to one fish per day on the Kenai River below Skilak Lake.

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