Russian River sockeye limit to double, sanctuary opened with strong salmon return

COOPER LANDING, Alaska (KTUU) - The Department of Fish and Game has opened a stretch of river typically closed until mid-July and will double the limit for sockeye due to high salmon returns.

A fisherman tries hooking a sockeye salmon on the Russian River on an early opening day in 2019. (KTUU)

Starting Friday, June 14 at 12:01 a.m., and running through Sunday, July 14, the usual limit of three sockeye salmon will increase to six per day.

Wednesday morning the Alaska Department of Fish & Game opened the Russian River Sanctuary to fishing. The stretch of water from Sportsman's Landing on the Kenai to 100 yards upstream of the mouth of the Russian River is typically closed to fishing until July 14.

After running up the Kenai, salmon hold in the area before running up the Russian River.

"By its natural state it's easier for fishermen to harvest fish there," said Colton Lipka, Area Management Biologist with ADF&G. "It gives the fish a place to hang out and rest."

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The delayed harvest in the sanctuary is standard to ensure that enough fish escape for a sustained yield. The escapement goal for the early-run sockeye salmon is 22,000-42,000.

As of Wednesday, 13,765 fish had passed the Fish and Game fish count weir at lower Russian Lake. More than 5,200 sockeye managed to escape anglers' hooks on the river to pass the weir on opening day Tuesday.

"The sanctuary is open because we have surplus escapement," Lipka said.

ADF&G asks that anglers planning to clean fish at the river take the fish to the mainstem Kenai River cleaning tables located at the confluence and ferry crossing, cut carcasses into smaller pieces and throw them into deep, flowing waters as to not make easy meals a draw for bears.

The area closes to sockeye fishing on August 20.

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