The poor king salmon runs near the rivers of the Kenai Peninsula to fish
Poor runs had already closed the Kenai River to king salmon fishing in June.
And this week, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is closing several more king salmon sport fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kasilof and Ninilchik rivers, and the saltwater Cook Inlet.
Mike Booz, Lower Cook Inlet Sport Fishing Area Manager for Fish and Game, said the department is trying to be proactive in limiting and restricting king fishing amid slowing king salmon in Cook Inlet.
“I want nothing more than to have a good number of king salmon coming back to our streams every year,” Booz said. “But I think it’s going to be a test of patience here for what we’ve seen.”
King salmon populations are suffering in Cook Inlet.
Booz said the department has set breakaway goals. But he said the runs have not supported good fishing or harvesting opportunities.
He said last week it was clear the runs weren’t doing well enough to sustain the fishery.
“It was pretty obvious that these runs seemed to be some of the weakest we’ve seen here in Cook Inlet since we’ve been monitoring breakaways,” Booz said.
This is true for the Kasilof and Ninilchik rivers, which are also filled with hatchery-produced kings.
The Ninilchik River has been closed before, most recently in 2018. But Booz said it was the first time in his memory that the department closed the Kasilof to kingfishing.
The Anchor River and Deep Creek have also been closed to sport fishing since June 11.
And all of this is in addition to the recent closure of the popular Kenai King Early Run.
For Southern Peninsula sportfishing guides, this means rerouting Southern Peninsula king salmon streams to Central Peninsula sockeye runs.
This is what Grant Anderson with the Fly Box at Anchor Point plans to do, although it will come at a cost to his business
“It’s an extra hour’s drive each way, then an hour’s drive to Kasilof, an hour and 10 minutes or so to Kenai,” Anderson said.
He said he would be taking clients to Kenai this year, as he has for several years.
Booz said the department will do everything it can to restrict fishing amid the Kings’ multi-year downturn. He said that means making timely and prudent management decisions, which he says will likely have to continue moving forward.
“Ideally, I’d like to see the king salmon start turning right now,” Booz said. “But it feels like we’re in for the long haul.”
The royal saltwater fisheries of Kasilof and Cook Inlet closed on Wednesday. The Ninilchik River closes to king fishing on Thursday.
But if you want to fish for kings, there are a few options on the Kenai Peninsula.
Lower Cook Inlet is always open for King Salmon fishing. It’s just south of Bluff Point, near the same latitude as Diamond Creek. Boaz said that the king fishing there had been slow so far.
The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon in Homer and the Seldovia Slough also produce kings.
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