For Conservation, Kenai King Sport Fishery Closes in June, Major Restrictions in July; Commercial Fishery Harvest of Kenai Kings opens June 25 with No Restrictions
Soldotna — Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) announced today that it is in full support of the management actions being taken by the ADFG Sport Fish Division to conserve early-run Kenai River king salmon.
“There is no doubt that historically low numbers of early-run king salmon are returning not only to the Kenai River but to all streams in Upper Cook Inlet and elsewhere in the State,” said KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) Sport Fish Division announced on June 19 that sportfishing for the early-run of king salmon of Kenai River origin would close for the season (through June 30) beginning 12:01 am Friday June 22 (EO 2-KS-1-19-12). “Given the unprecedented low number of early-run Kenai River king salmon,” the Department said “additional mortality associated with catch-and-release fishing cannot be justified.” Up to 50 early-run Kenai River king salmon are estimated to be saved with this action.
The closure for early-run Kenai River king salmon follows in the footsteps of the June closure, announced on June 13, for sport fishing of king salmon in the Cook Inlet marine waters within one mile along the Kenai Peninsula (EO 2-KS-7-13-12). Furthermore, the June sport fishery for naturally-produced king salmon on the Kasilof River was closed (EO 2-KS-1-12-12), and no bait, single hook restrictions put in place for hatchery-produced king salmon (EO 2-KS-1-19-12).
In addition, ADFG went on to announce that the use of bait would be prohibited while fishing for late-run king salmon in the Kenai River, and that king salmon could not be retained in those waters of the Kenai River upstream of Slikok Creek from July 1-14 (EO 2-KS-1-18-12). For July, this means that late-run Kenai River king salmon can be harvested in the lower river below Slikok Creek using single hook, no bait. The Sport Fish Division is also considering prohibiting the retention of king salmon in the July Kenai River Personnel Use fishery.
To date, in 2012, there have been 13 ADFG Sport Fish Division Emergency Order restrictions for king salmon in Cook Inlet. ADFG states that the 2012 early-run Kenai River king salmon return is the lowest on record, and king salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet are experiencing a period of low productivity and low run strength.
“These ADFG Sport Fish Division Emergency Orders are significant management actions aimed at reducing mortality of early-run king salmon in Cook Inlet waters, particularly those of Kenai River origin,” said Gease.
The Department stated in its preseason management forecast that “restrictions to commercial fishing may be made to reduce the harvest of king salmon to achieve adequate king salmon escapement.” KRSA and other members of the public are waiting anxiously for word from the ADFG Commercial Fisheries Division on what specific actions they plan to take to complement the many king salmon conservation actions already directed at the sport fishery.
“Surely, given the ‘unprecedented’ low numbers, we expect restrictions to be put in place by the Commercial Fisheries Division to minimize the commercial harvest of king salmon,” said Gease. The east-side set net commercial fishing season is scheduled to open on Monday, June 25, with no restrictions to date for king salmon conservation.