Less than a week after announcing the famed king salmon fishery in the Kenai River was closed due to a poor king salmon return, Alaska Fish and Game decided to reopen it Saturday (June 12) to mainly catch and release fishing after a surge of fish entered the system.
This should come as a big relief for fishing guides who rely on luring tourists and anglers to fish the renowned river that produced the largest ever sport caught king of 97.25 pounds caught by Lester Anderson on May 17,1985.
The most recent and ninth largest king salmon ever caught occurred on July 31, 2002 when Fred Houtman caught an 89 pound, 4 ounce king on the Kenai. In fact nine of the top 10 largest king salmon have come from the Kenai.
An estimated 3,475 kings have passed the Kenai River sonar station through Thursday, June 10.
Present assessment of run strength indicates catch-and-release fishing for kings will not cause the number of spawning early-run king salmon to fall below the 5,300 to 9,000 escapement goal.
Department staff will continue to closely monitor the early-run king salmon return as it develops and run projections achieve a greater level of precision. If run strength continues to improve, additional restrictions may be rescinded.
The Kenai River is now open to catch-and-release fishing for king salmon, and those less than 20 inches in length or trophy-sized kings of 55 inches or greater in length may be kept.
Sport fishing for Kenai king salmon will be allowed as follows:
From Saturday (June 12) through June 30 in the Kenai River from its mouth upstream to the Soldotna Bridge king salmon greater than 20 inches in length but less than 55 inches in length may not be possessed or retained, may not be removed from the water, and must be released immediately.
From July 1-14 in the Kenai River from the Soldotna Bridge upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake and in the Moose River from its confluence with the Kenai River upstream to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway Bridge, king salmon greater than 20 inches in length but less than 55 inches in length may not be possessed or retained, may not be removed from the water, and must be released immediately.
Anglers are reminded that only one unbaited single-hook lure is allowed during these time periods.