Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

The personal use set gillnet fishery on the Kasilof River will be closed until June 20, the State Department of Fish and Game announced Tuesday.

The fishery, which was set to open on June 15, targets sockeye salmon and Kasilof River king salmon, an advisory announcement from the department says, “but also harvests an unknown number of king salmon bound for the Kenai River.”

The announcement says that as of Sunday, only 355 king salmon had been counted for the Kenai River’s early run. Fish counts available from the department say that an additional 63 were counted on Monday, for a total of 418.

Projections based on the counts, the announcement says, indicate that the run will fail to meet the optimal escapement goal of 3,900 large king salmon and the department’s forecast of 2,630 large king salmon. The personal use fishery’s opening will be delayed to reduce king mortality.

“We understand reducing the number of days will impact Alaskans who utilize this fishery to harvest sockeye salmon,” says Phill Stacey, sport fish area management biologist, in the release. “With the low numbers of king salmon we’ve seen so far, the department needed to take further action to reduce mortality of Kenai-bound king salmon. This five-day closure will get us past the historical three-quarter point of the Kenai king salmon early run and reduce the number of Kenai king salmon incidentally caught in this fishery.”

The fishery was closed entirely last year, the announcement says, but this year will be operated with new gear restrictions approved by the State Board of Fisheries earlier this year.

Under the new regulations, personal use gillnets must now be restricted to a maximum of 60 feet in length, 4.75 inches stretched mesh, and 29 meshes deep.

“That reduction in gear is the difference between a total closure and a partial closure this year,” the announcement reads.

For more information about fishing regulations and opportunity, visit adfg.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.