You could see this one coming.
All the signs were dismal pointing toward the 2014 Kenai River king salmon season. Then came the news the famed river would be closed to fishing until July 1.
Now comes the sobering news the Kenai will be closed to all sport and commercial fishing for the remainder of the season that was scheduled to run through July 31.
Just last week, the river was limited to a first: catch-and-release only with barbless hooks due to declining return projections.
From the Peninsula Clarion:
The closure, effective Saturday, triggers a closure of commercial setnet fishing on the East Side of Cook Inlet and is meant to conserve Kenai-bound king salmon which are not currently projected to return in large enough numbers to make the escapement goal on the Kenai River.
As of July 23, the sonar estimate of king salmon passage into the Kenai River was 8,023 fish and current projections put the final escapement between 13,500 and 14,000 fish — below the river’s escapement goal range of 15,000-30,000 fish.
Daily estimates of king salmon passage into the river have remained in the low hundreds of fish — the highest passage to date was Sunday, which saw more than 1,000 fish pass the sonar. Counts have since dropped significantly.
Fish and Game sport fish division area management biologist Robert Begich said the high passage on Sunday helped bump projections upward but continued low counts kept projections lower than what is needed to make the escapement goal.
Begich said projections would have to increase dramatically for the fishery to be reopened.
“If 5,000 kings came into the river overnight, if a miracle happened, yeah we’d turn it back on,” he said. “We just want to make the goal and it’s just a day-to-day thing. It’s going to take a lot to (reopen).”