Personal-use fishermen heading to Kenai for the dipnet fishery opening Thursday morning have many factors to take into account when planning their trip: traffic, beach access and tides could all impact how long it takes fishermen to get to the water, from the water, and the moment they can finally fish.
Kenai City Manager Rick Koch warned that fishery participants should pay close attention to their tide books, as extreme high and low tides are expected through the first week of the fishery. Extremely high tides will chase dip-netters off the beach, and at extreme low tides, the city's boat launch will be closed. Negative low tides are expected for July 10-17, the first week of the fishery.
Road and beach closures could also affect access to the sockeyes.
Beaver Loop Road, which connects Kenai Spur Highway to Beach Access Road, near the city's boat launch, is closed for installation of culverts. The fish passage project is expected to be completed later in July. Drivers should plan on using Kalifornsky Beach Road or Bridge Access Road.
Koch also said that on the South Shore beaches, the only access point will be at Dunes Road. (There had previously been an access point on Old Cannery Road.) Koch said the city added a second lane and second payment shack to get more traffic through.
If camping and parking on the beach is inaccessable due to high tide, Koch says the city will open parking at the softball fields. Fishers and campers who have paid at the beach will not have to pay at the softball field. The city closed the core of Old Town Kenai to off-street parking after parking congestion made it impassable to fire engines. Kenai Police will enforce parking in Old Town.
Another option often available to campers, the Kenai Landing, has closed this year. The landing's boat launch was closed last year, but the entire property has closed, and there will be no RV camping spots available there.
The sockeye salmon personal use dip net fishery opens at 6 a.m. Thursday. It remains open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through July 31. Fishermen are not allowed to retain king salmon, due to an emergency order from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
After years of complaints of smelly fish carcasses spoiling on the beach, the City of Kenai last year enacted an ordinance requiring fish carcasses be thrown into the fast-moving waters of the river or Cook Inlet. Koch said participants are largely obliged.
"If we've got rules that make sense, they follow them," Koch said. "It's certainly the rare exception that they don't, but when you have 15,000 people, it doesn't take too many" to make a mess.