An emergency order from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closes the Kenai downriver of Skilak Lake to subsistence fishing for kings, effective from 12:01 a.m. Friday, June 22 through 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, July 14.
“Through June 18, all indices used to assess the abundance of early-run Chinook salmon in the Kenai River indicate a run that is well below average and lowest on record,” wrote USFWS biologist Doug Palmer. “The present passage rates of early-run Chinook salmon into the Kenai River indicate that insufficient numbers of Chinook salmon will reach the Kenai River to achieve the optimal escapement goal of 5,300-9,000 fish.”
A separate order from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closes the Kenai, from its mouth upstream to Skilak Lake, to fishing for kings from 12:01 a.m. on Friday through 11:59 p.m. on June 30. Another provision of the order closes part of the river, from Fish and Game regulatory markers 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek’s mouth up to the outlet of Skilak Lake, for kings from 12:01 a.m. on July 1 to 11:59 p.m. on July 14.
King fishing is closed on Moose River, from its confluence with the Kenai to the northernmost edge of the Sterling Highway bridge, for the duration of both orders from Friday through July 14.
“No king salmon of any size may be retained,” state biologists wrote. “King salmon may not be targeted and any king salmon caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.”
Another Fish and Game order, issued due to heightened fishing expected after the Kenai River restrictions, bars the use of bait or multiple hooks in the Kasilof River, from its mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway bridge, from 12:01 a.m. Friday until 11:59 p.m. on June 30.
Biologists also say naturally raised king salmon remain off-limits on the Kasilof.
“The previous restriction to the Kasilof River fishery to the harvest of hatchery-reared king salmon only, regardless of size, remains in effect,” biologists wrote. “Hatchery-reared king salmon are distinguished from naturally-produced king salmon in the Kasilof River by a healed adipose fin-clip scar. The adipose fin is the small, fleshy fin on the back just ahead of the tail.”