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Southcentral king salmon sport fisheries restricted by emergency orders

Matanuska-Susitna, Kenai Peninsula area sport and commercial fisheries affected
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:27 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued four emergency orders restricting king salmon fishing in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and on the Kenai Peninsula to catch-and-release.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the Kasilof River early-run king salmon sport fishery is limited to two hatchery-produced fish 20″ and greater in length on the Kasilof River upstream to the Sterling Highway bridge. The emergency order limits naturally produced king salmon to catch-and-release on a single hook either baited or unbaited, or on an artificial lure. The emergency order begins at 12:01 a.m. May 1 and extends until 11:59 p.m. on June 30.

“To ensure an adequate escapement and collection of broodstock of naturally-produced king salmon in 2022, ADF&G has determined restrictions to the early-run king salmon sport fishery in the Kasilof River are needed to achieve these goals,” Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka said in the order.

Hatchery-produced fish are recognized by “a healed adipose fin-clip scar.”

Naturally-produced salmon are recognized by and intact adipose fin as well as a small fleshy fin on the back of the fish, slightly ahead of the tail. Fish and Game defines a single-hook as a hook with only one point. The early-run escapement goal of 700-1,400 naturally-produced king salmon are monitored through a weir on Crooked Creek.

The Kenai River emergency order begins at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 and extends until July 31 at 11:59 p.m. The order restricts king salmon sportfishing to catch-and-release only on one unbaited, single-hook from the mouth of the Kenai River upstream to the Fish and Game marker at the outlet of Skilak Lake. The optimal escapement goal of 15,000-30,000 kings of 75 centimeters in length and longer. The management plan for the Kenai River states that personal use and commercial fisheries are also restricted.

“In order to achieve the Kenai River late-run king salmon escapement goal, we are starting the July fishery season by limiting it to catch-and-release fishing only,” Lipka wrote in the order.

This is based on the preseason forecast of about 16,000 large fish and recent trends, the order states.

The emergency orders limit sport fishing to catch-and-release on the Little Susitna River drainage and the Susitna River drainage in the Mat-Su from 6 a.m. on May 1 until 11:59 p.m. on July 13. The emergency order states that anglers may use one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure from the mouth of the Little Susitna River upstream to the Parks Highway and in all waters of the Susitna River drainage. Any king salmon that is caught must be released immediately without removing the fish from the water.

“The forecast for the Deshka River in 2022 indicates the escapement may be achieved near the lower bound of the escapement goal range without a harvestable surplus,” Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey said in the order.“ Catch-and-release fisheries will provide anglers an opportunity to fish from the outset of the season while run strength is monitored at the Deshka River weir should additional actions be necessary to either close fisheries or relax restrictions during the season. Other stocks of the Susitna River drainage (Yentna, Eastside, and Talkeetna) continue to perform near the lower bound of their escapement ranges; in these areas, trends in abundance and/or harvestable surpluses are not predictable, warranting catch-and-release only fishing practices,”

According to the Northern District King Salmon Management plan modified at the Alaska Board of Fish meeting in 2020, when the Deshka River sport fishery is restricted to catch-and-release, the king salmon commercial fishery “shall be limited to no more than six hours in duration.”

“The Little Susitna River achieved its escapement goal last season with the majority of the season being restricted to catch-and-release fishing,” Ivey wrote in the order. “The last several years demonstrate no apparent trend in abundance. The Little Susitna king salmon fishery has the potential for higher sport harvest rates relative to other Northern Cook Inlet sport fisheries. The SEG is likely to be achieved through non-retention in 2022 if the final run size compares to the recent 3-year average. A weir will be used to evaluate run strength in-season on a daily basis should additional actions be necessary to either close the fishery or relax restrictions during the season.”

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