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Area Sport Fishing Reports
Northern Kenai

fish Scales
Northern Kenai Peninsula Sport Fish Management Area
King Salmon
Kenai River - Early Run

The outlook for the early-run of Kenai River king salmon in 2021 was below average, with a large fish (>75 cm mid eye to tail fork length or approximately >34 inches in total length) forecast of 4,391 fish. The 2021 forecasted total run was within the optimal escapement goal (OEG) of 3,900 - 6,600 large fish which allows the fishery to be opened under general regulation. The total estimated passage through June 30, 2021, at the river mile 14 sonar was 4,131 large king salmon. ADF&G applies harvest and catch-and-release mortality estimates of king salmon above the sonar to generate a preliminary spawning escapement estimate of 4,045 large early-run king salmon and a total inriver run estimate of 4,145 large fish. The return is slightly below the preseason forecast and the historical average of 5,200 large fish. The mid-point of the run occurred on June 12 which is one day late when compared to the historical mid-point.

Preliminary age composition estimates from length groups show a low presence of 4-ocean fish, making up ~39% of the large fish run which is below average. The 4-ocean fish are progeny of the 2015 brood year which also had a low return of 4-ocean fish. The predominate age classes for large fish this year are the 3-ocean fish (59%) and the 4-ocean fish. The 3-ocean fish appear to have compensated for the low return of 4-ocean in their contribution to overall large fish abundance.

Both the OEG and the sustainable escapement goal (SEG) were achieved. The SEG has been achieved in four of the last five years while the OEG has been achieved in three of the last five years. Both goals were exceeded once in 2017.

Management Actions

On June 17, 2021, king salmon fishing was restricted to catch and release from the Kenai River mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake until June 30. The restriction continued in waters from an ADF&G regulatory marker located approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake until July 21 when king salmon fishing was closed until July 31 due to low late-run king salmon abundance.

Netting (preliminary)

Approximately 63% were large fish or >75 cm in total length.

Sex ratio of large fish >75 cm was 26% male and 74% female.

King salmon of all sizes sampled were predominately ocean-age 3 fish (51%) followed by ocean-age 4 fish (26%), ocean-age 2 (12%), ocean-age 1 fish (10%) and ocean-age 5 (1%).

Harvest (preliminary)

101 large king salmon were harvested in the early-run sport fishery (includes catch-and-release mortality).

Table 1. Summary of preliminary catch, harvest, and escapement, Kenai River early-run king salmon (> 750 mm) fishery, 2021.
Escapement Goal Range 3,900 - 6,600 large king salmon (> 75 cm)
Total Catcha 410
Total Harvesta Below sonar = 15; Above sonar = 86; Total = 101
Sonar Estimate In-River 4,131
Preliminary Escapement 4,045
a Lower River (below Soldotna Bridge)
Kenai River - Late Run

The outlook for the late-run of Kenai River king salmon in 2021 was well below average, with a large king salmon (>75 cm mid eye to tail fork length) forecast of approximately 18,406 fish. Although the forecasted total run of large fish approximated the mid-point of the large fish OEG of 15,000 - 30,000 fish, historical harvest data indicated the OEG would not be met without restricting fisheries. The total estimated passage through August 20, 2021, at the river mile 14 sonar was 11,832 large king salmon. ADF&G applies harvest and catch and release mortality estimates and spawning downstream of the sonar estimates to generate a preliminary spawning escapement estimate of 12,176 large king salmon and a total run estimate of 12,519 large fish. The mid-point of the run occurred on July 31 which is four days late when compared to the historical mid-point.

Preliminary age composition estimates are similar to historical distribution among age classes for large fish. The predominate age classes for large fish are the ocean-age 4 fish (64%) and the ocean-age 3 fish (32%). The ocean-age 3 large fish were below average but the low abundance of both predominate age classes indicates poor production from 2015 and 2016 parent years and corresponds with the overall low abundance of the 2021 return.

Neither the OEG nor the SEG were achieved in 2021. This is the third consecutive year that the late-run has not achieved the SEG. The lower bound of the OEG has not been met since establishment in the spring of 2020.

Management Actions

On July 1, 2021, the use of bait was prohibited on the Kenai River from its mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake. In addition, the retention of king salmon of any size was prohibited from an ADF&G regulatory marker located approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek, upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake through July 31.

On July 14, 2021, retention of king salmon of all sizes was prohibited from the mouth of the Kenai River upstream to an ADF&G regulatory marker located approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek. In addition, only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure was allowed.

On July 21, 2021, king salmon fishing was closed from the Kenai River mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake until July 31, 2021. The use of bait and multiple hooks were also prohibited while fishing for other species.

On August 1, 2021, bait and multiple hooks were prohibited from the mouth of the Kenai River upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake until August 15 to reduce incidental catches of king salmon while fishing for other species.

Netting (preliminary)

Approximately 63% of king salmon were >75 cm in total length.

Sex ratios for large fish >75 cm was 46% male and 54% female.

King salmon of all sizes sampled were predominately ocean-age 4 fish (41%) followed by ocean-age 3 fish (33%), ocean-age 2 fish (20%), ocean-age 1 (3%), ocean-age 5 (3%).

Harvest (preliminary)

222 large king salmon were harvested in the sport fishery (includes catch-and-release mortality).

209 Kenai stock large king salmon were harvested in the East Side Set Net commercial fishery.

Table 1. Summary of preliminary catch, harvest, and escapement, Kenai River late-run king salmon (> 75 cm) fishery, 2021.
Escapement Goal Range 15,000 - 30,000 large king salmon (>75 cm)
Total Catcha 370
Total Inriver Harvesta Below sonar = 79; Above sonar = 143; Total = 222
Sonar Estimate In-River 11,832
Preliminary Escapementb Approximately 12,176
a Lower River (below Soldotna Bridge).
b Includes estimate of kings that spawn downstream of sonar.
Kasilof River

This spring, approximately 140,256 king salmon smolt were successfully stocked into Crooked Creek to augment natural production and enhance recreational sport fishing opportunity in the Kasilof River. The natural component of the Crooked Creek early-run king salmon return is managed to achieve a SEG of 700 - 1,400 king salmon. The estimated escapement of wild (naturally-produced) king salmon was 594 fish. The egg take goal for future stocking of Crooked Creek was 33 pairs of naturally-produced king salmon of which 20 pairs were spawned in 2021.

Management Actions

On June 17, 2021, the early-run king salmon bag and possession limits were restricted to two hatchery-produced fish, 20 inches or greater in length in the Kasilof River drainage. The retention of naturally-produced king salmon was prohibited.

On July 1, 2021, bait and multiple hooks were prohibited in the Kasilof River drainage.

On July 14, 2021, the retention of king salmon was prohibited while sport fishing in the Kasilof River downstream of the Sterling Highway Bridge. Bait and multiple hooks continued to be prohibited.

Sockeye Salmon
Kenai River

The Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) sockeye salmon forecast projected a total run of 4.4 million fish: 2.3 million fish in the Kenai River, 881,000 fish in the Kasilof River, with the remaining 1.2 million fish comprised of Susitna River, Fish Creek, and unmonitored systems. Based on the preseason forecast, the sockeye salmon run was managed on the middle tier for runs of 2.3 - 4.6 million Kenai River sockeye salmon, with an inriver goal of 1.1 - 1.4 million sockeye salmon. On July 27, 2021, ADF&G projected the total Kenai River sockeye salmon run to be 2.1 million fish and was then managed to the lower tier for runs less than 2.3 million with an inriver goal of 1.0 - 1.2 million sockeye salmon. Subsequently, after significantly greater than average numbers of sockeye salmon entered UCI in August, the preliminary inriver sonar passage estimate was 2,441,825 sockeye salmon. Subtracting the recent 10-year average harvest upstream of the sonar (292,870 fish) produces a preliminary escapement estimate of 2,148,955 sockeye salmon. Final estimates will be available when the 2021 Statewide Harvest Survey is completed in the fall of 2022.

Management Actions

On August 5, 2021, the sockeye salmon bag and possession limits were increased to six per day and 12 in possession.

Russian River - Early Run

The escapement goal for Russian River early-run sockeye salmon is a biological escapement goal (BEG) of 22,000 - 42,000 fish. The weir count on July 14, 2021, was 46,976 sockeye salmon and exceeded the BEG.

Management Actions

On June 24, 2021, the Russian River Sanctuary Area opened early for sport fishing.

On July 1, 2021, the sockeye salmon bag and possession limits were increased to six per day and 12 in possession for the Russian River and a section of the mainstem Upper Kenai River.

Russian River - Late Run

The escapement goal for Russian River late-run sockeye salmon is a SEG of 44,000 - 85,000 fish. The final Russian River weir count on September 07, 2021, was 123,950 sockeye salmon and exceeded the SEG.

Management Actions

On August 11, 2021, the bag and possession limits for sockeye salmon were increased to six per day and 12 in possessions for the Russian River and a section of the mainstem Upper Kenai River.

On August 21, 2021, the Russian River Sanctuary Area and waters of the mainstem of the Upper Kenai River downstream to the powerline sockeye salmon season were extended through September 6.

Kasilof River

The forecast for Kasilof River sockeye salmon was 881,000 fish. Kasilof River sockeye salmon are managed for a BEG of 140,000 - 320,000 salmon, and an OEG of 140,000 - 370,000 fish. The sockeye salmon sonar enumerated salmon passage through August 15, 2021, with a preliminary estimate of 521,859 fish.

Management Actions

On July 3, 2021, sockeye salmon limits were increased in all portions of the Kasilof River open to salmon fishing to six per day and 12 in possession.

Coho Salmon
Kenai River

Kenai River coho salmon are not monitored for abundance inseason and are managed through angler reporting, observations, and conservative general regulation. Angler reports indicate that coho salmon were showing up in the harvest during the last week of July and catches were reported as good through August and slowed into September. September reports generally indicated a mix of angler success from day to day with an overall trend that was below average for the second run.

Management Actions

On August 1, 2021, bait and multiple hooks were prohibited in the Kenai River from its mouth upstream to Skilak Lake to minimize incidental catch of late-run king salmon.

Personal Use Dipnet Fisheries
Kasilof River and Kenai River

Final results from the 2021 season have not been compiled, but preliminary information indicates 26,501 Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use permits were issued. The number of paper permits and total permits issued is not yet known. Typically, about 86% of the Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use permits have some Kenai River harvest reported on them. The Kasilof River dipnet fishery opened by regulation from June 25 through August 7, 2021. The area open to dipnetting was expanded for the Kasilof fishery on July 3. The Kenai River dipnet fishery opened by regulation on July 10- through July 31, with no retention of king salmon allowed.

Harvest Reports

The total number of Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use permits issued for the 2021 season is not yet known. To date, 19,849 Upper Cook Inlet Personal Use permits have been reported online, with an initial return rate of 75%. Reminder letters will be mailed to permit holders who have not yet returned their harvest record. Typically, permit returns from the reminder letters brings the total permit returns to approximately 82%. Harvest reporting will close one month after a second reminder letter in November. Estimates of total harvest will be available in January 2022.

Management Actions

On July 3, 2021, the Kasilof River dipnetting area was expanded. Dipnetting from the shore was allowed from ADF&G markers on Cook Inlet beaches upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge and dipnetting from a boat was allowed from ADF&G markers located on Cook Inlet beaches upstream to ADF&G markers at approximately river mile 3 of the Kasilof River.

On July 10, 2021, the retention of king salmon in the Kenai River personal use fishery was prohibited.