Thanks to occasional ASJ contributor and regular Northwest Sportsman correspondent Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait Company for sharing these Kenai River king salmon photos via guide Mike Kelly of Fish Reaper Guide Service (360-269-7628).
These photos could be a sign of things to come on the Kenai for trophy Chinook later this summer for the late run. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists are predicting a count of 30,000 late-run Chinook.
|Location: Kenai River (Chinook)
Species: Chinook – Late Run
|The selected years are color-coded in the graphs below:
As you can see from the chart above created by ADFG, a goal of 30,000 kings would be a dramatic rebound from recent years,. though the black line representing 2015 did show an increase in 2015.
Still, as this Alaska Journal of Commerce report from DJ Summers states, the projections would represent a major surge on the embattled Kenai:
As the state’s largest salmon fishery waits for its midpoint, managers of the state’s most popular river are expanding opportunities for both recreational and commercial fishermen.
An improving run of king salmon on the Kenai River has prompted fisheries managers to loosen the lynchpin of the area’s commercial sockeye management, which ties king sport fishing to commercial sockeye.
Beginning on July 9, ADFG allowed the use of bait in the Kenai River from its mouth upstream to 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek. ADFG managers have typically left such restrictions in the last few years until later in the season in the face of statewide dwindling chinook production.
Paired restrictions between the king sport fishery and the commercial sockeye fishery require sockeye fishermen to have limited hours when kings are closed to bait. Managers place a no bait restriction on Kenai kings when it is projected fewer than 22,500 kings total will return to the river.
This year, ADFG has forecast 30,000 kings in the late run, about half the average over the last 30 years but at the top end of the escapement goal of 15,000 to 30,000 fish.
So far, the late run Kenai kings in 2016 have outperformed the last three years. As of July 11, 6,419 kings have passed ADFG sonar counters. The preceding three years produced an average passage of 3,262 by the same date.