ADFG closes early Kenai kings
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order on Feb. 18 closing the Kenai River early king salmon run to sport fisheries. The closure will be in effect May 1 – June 30.
The closure responds to a low forecast. Biologists forecast a return of 5,206 fish for the early king run. The optimal escapement goal for early-run Kenai River king salmon is 5,300 to 9,000. If the run does come in as forecasted, it will rank one of the lowest on record, 29th of the 31 years ADFG has been counting.
ADFG said that the closure matches the standard for the previous year, and will be maintained unless the department makes more optimistic measurements during the season.
“Since the 2016 total run forecast is similar to the 2015 run forecast when the fishery remained closed, and the forecast is less than the lower end of the optimal escapement goal, closing the fishery preseason is warranted until data from inseason assessment projects indicate that fishing opportunity can be afforded without jeopardizing achievement of the optimal escapement goal,” ADFG’s report reads.
Low king runs have kept the early-run fishery closed since 2013 when it was open briefly to catch and release angling. The Kenai is part of a statewide decline in chinook salmon stocks.
Low king runs will also affect the Kasilof River early king sport fishery. ADFG “prohibits the retention of naturally-produced king salmon except Tuesdays and Saturdays, and limits sport fishing gear to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure while sport fishing in the Kasilof River beginning 12:01 a.m. Sunday, May 1 through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, June 30, 2016.”
DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]