Subsistence board: no kings for Kenai gillnet fishery

The upcoming subsistence gillnet fishery on the Kenai River can target sockeye, but kings are off limits. 

An emergency Special Action of the Federal Subsistence Board closed the federal subsistence fishery for early-run chinook salmon in all federal public waters in the Kenai River downstream from the outlet of Skilak Lake beginning June 18 and lasting through Aug. 15. Chinook salmon are not to be targeted or retained, and must be released alive without being removed from the water. All subsistence fisheries, including rod and reel, dipnets and community gillnets, are included. 

The federal board made the emergency order on June 17, and federal in-season manager of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Jeff Anderson, confirmed that it remains in effect for the late run of Kenai River kings.

The gillnet for the Ninilchik Traditional Council was approved by the Federal Subsistence Board in January despite state and federal biologist objections to the indiscriminate nature of a gillnet in a time of low abundance for chinooks. 

The federal emergency order follows Alaska Department of Fish and Game orders for the Kenai River, which had closed the sport fishery for chinook until June 30 in the entire river and from regulatory markers downstream of Slikok Creek through Skilak Lake through July 31. 

Previously, the Ninilchik Traditional Council had been allowed to harvest 1,000 chinook salmon. 

Whether or not the salmon would survive being released from the gillnet will depend in large part on how the net is managed by the Ninilchik Traditional Council. Those details will be included in the operational plan the council has provided to Anderson.