Will this be the year the sockeye never came back to the Kenai?
Sockeye salmon fishermen on the Kenai River at still playing a waiting game. That is, waiting for the big surge of late run sockeye salmon that usually fills the river by now. And fills both stringers and freezers for most Alaska sport and personal use fishermen.
More Alaska and visiting anglers fish the Kenai, and in particular, the late sockeye run, than any other fishery in the state. And now a growing number of them are angry, asking if those fish will ever arrive, or will all end up in nets in Cook Inlet.
Despite a predicted low sockeye return to the river this year, commercial fishermen have already harvested almost a million sockeyes to date. That while so few sockeyes have gotten into the river that dip netters and sport fishermen are catching almost nothing.
So perhaps the run is going to be better than forecast, and is just arriving late.
To date just 210,000 sockeyes have been counted in the river, compared to more than 575,000 a year ago, and 379,000 in 2014. In 2015, there was a similar 250,000 fish by today’s date, and that run ultimately produced 1.7 million fish into the river, more than years before or since. But it was the end of July and into August before those fish arrived.
Or is it possible the commercial fishermen are doing a better job of catching most of the fish before they can get to the river?
They are fishing more. Thanks to Board of Fish action back in February, when the commercial fishermen demanded and got more days to fish and fewer restrictions on when fishing stops for the season,
Only in the last two days have more than 30,000 sockeyes per day have entered the Kenai–and that’s the lower limit of what most sport fishermen consider marginal for productive fishing–ADF&G officials are scrambling to increase the returns by closing commercial fishing for a few days.
Adequate spawning numbers this year are the only way to ensure future fish, for all categories of fishermen.
Here’s more from the hometown newspaper in Kenai on ADF&G’s efforts to make up lost ground:
Keep up with daily fish counts from ADF&G at: