Sockeye salmon counts spike in Kenai and Kasilof rivers

To date, around 140,000 sockeye have been counted on the Kenai

For the last several weeks, the sockeye salmon runs on the Kenai River and the Kasilof River have been described by the State Department of Fish and Game as “slow.” As of Sunday, numbers are finally heating up.

According to fish counts available from the department, based on sonar counts of sockeye salmon passing through the rivers, the number of sockeye salmon counted daily spiked around tenfold between Friday, July 14 and Sunday, July 16.

On the Kenai River, since the start of the late run on July 1, counts have ranged from roughly 3,000 fish per day to 8,000 fish per day. On Thursday, around 5,000 fish were counted. On Sunday, 55,000 passed the sonar. To date, around 140,000 sockeye have been counted on the Kenai, still far below counts from the last four years. Last year at this time 170,000 had been counted; in 2019 there were 244,000.

The biological escapement goal for sockeye salmon on the Kenai River is between 1.1 and 1.4 million, a count that has been surpassed in each of the last four years.

On the Kasilof River, 60,000 sockeye were counted Sunday, up from only 5,000 Friday. That influx of salmon brings the cumulative total to 335,000, surpassing the species’ biological escapement goal for the river. More sockeye have been counted at this point in the run than at the same point in the last four years.

According to graphs comparing daily counts in the last several years, the spikes in both rivers are coming a little earlier than similar spikes recorded last year — spikes that continued to climb for roughly a week before coming back down.

The next local fishing report will be published by the department on Thursday.

More information about fish counts, regulations and availability can be found at

Reach reporter Jake Dye at