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Fish and Game announces sport fishing closures for king salmon on the Kenai Peninsula

So far the early run king salmon count on the Kenai River is 1,030.
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 6:42 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed king salmon sport fishing on the Kenai, Ninilchik and Kasilof Rivers through the end of July, as well as closing the Cook Inlet saltwater fishery for now.

“This year is off to a really slow start with most of our chinook salmon escapement monitoring here on the Kenai Peninsula depending on the stock or system,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area biologist Mike Booz.

So far the early run king salmon count on the Kenai River is 1,030. The Department of Fish and Game considers an optimal early-season return to be in the 3,900 - 6,900 range.

Fish and Game closed the early run of king salmon on the Kenai River until July 31 for sport fishing. The Kasilof River is closed through July 15 for kings, with catch and release starting on July 16. The Cook Inlet fishery is closed to sport fishing for kings as well through July 15.

“We’re still not projected to make the escapement goal in these streams,” Booz said. “For these runs to make their goals they have to be with kind of unprecedented late run timing.”

These closures are difficult for people like Hunter Keogh, who operates Key-O’s Guide Service out of Ninilchik. Many of the locations Keogh offers his clients to fish were impacted by the closures.

“I only limited my boat this year in May one time on kings which is insane,” Keogh said. “I normally probably limit 75%-80% of the days. It definitely hurts a little bit.”

Keogh said the early season closures in May had a big impact on his business, but he doesn’t expect these latest closures to be as difficult.

The longtime family-owned guide service said with restrictions on king salmon fishing becoming more common, they’ve made the difficult decision to rethink how they do business.

“My father runs the Kasilof River and the Kenai River and he hasn’t killed a king salmon in the Kasilof or the Kenai in shoot like 8 or 9 years now,” Keogh said. “He has now turned to be a sockeye and silver salmon guide versus a king guide.”

For a complete look at statewide fishing closures and restrictions from the Alaska Department of Fish and game click here.

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