Changes in Regulations and what it Means for Anglers Traveling to the Kenai Peninsula.

Whenever fishery managers place more regulations in a fishery, the initial reaction from all users is typically some type of panic. In general, people tend to fear change especially in things for which they are passionate and holds some sort of traditional value. Changes in fishing regulations for people in Alaska are pretty normal, especially when compared to other states. Alaska also has the reputation for doing a particularly good job at managing its natural resources, albeit some people would argue otherwise. While the individuals within the various departments “do a good job,” this is also partly the case because Alaska (as a whole) does not have to deal with as many of the environmental issues that plagues much of the lower 48 states: urban runoff, urban development, damming, big agriculture, etc. In this way resource managers are given a cleaner canvas to work with. Even though we call it “resource management” its actually people that need managing, not fish and wildlife–they would probably do just fine without us!

Cook Inlet Drift Fleet readying for sockeye season. Managing a limited resource with a theoretically unlimited amount of users and opinions can prove difficult.

As the population of Alaska continues to grow, we should continue to expect more regulations with our fisheries. At the same time, as we see more people becoming involved with fishing in Alaska we will likely (and hopefully) see additional regulations and changes to management that addresses the growth in the recreational, commercial and personal use sector. Recently passed were some changes to the Kenai peninsula recreational fishing regulations. Some of which will impact our day to day fishing excursions, others not so much. So I went ahead explained how each of these new regs could impact anglers traveling to the Kenai peninsula this summer. (Note: my comments on the regulation are italicized. Those regulations that show no comment are those of either little significance or were already in place for sometime with minor changes).

New Sport/personal Use Fishing Regulations For Kenai River And Northern Kenai Peninsula Area In 2017

All Kenai Peninsula Freshwaters

  • Bench Creek fishing closure from May 1 through June 10. 
  • Swanson River fishing closure from May 1 through June 10. 
    •  This regulation has been in effect for a number of years as to protect spawning rainbow trout. 
  • In the Kasilof River drainage, retention of rainbow trout/steelhead is prohibited, and the entire drainage is closed to fishing for rainbow trout/steelhead from May 1 through June 10. 
    • This is actually a new regulation that none of us saw coming. Retention of rainbow steelhead trout on the Kasilof had been prohibited for a number of years and most of the fishing pressure took place at the Crooked Creek campground. And yes, I admit, I bare witness to many a steelhead drug up on to the shore while shooting eggs everywhere only to be kicked back into the water by other anglers. I imagine that some of the hardcore fly guys lobbied fort this regulation which is fine with me despite having a lot of fond memories of catching steelhead in the spring. The upper Kasilof in May is the the most technical float on the peninsula and provided good rowing practice in the early season. All in all, if it helps our fall steelhead fishing, and takes pressure off the river, I support this new regulation. 
  • In the Kasilof River, a person may not fillet, mutilate, or otherwise disfigure a king salmon in such a manner that prevents determination whether the fish is a wild or hatchery fish until the person has stopped fishing in the Kasilof River drainage for the day and has moved more than 100 yards away from the Kasilof River.
    • This regulation has been in effect for a number of years as to prohibit people from “filleting and release.”

Kenai River Drainage

  • Only king salmon less than 36” may be retained:
    • This one is a biggie for many people but not really for us. Previous years, when we could fish the early run, a 42″ to 55″ inch slot limit was in place (any fish caught between these lengths had to be released). Now anything over 36″ will be released and we are okay with that. A majority of the early run fish we catch are under 36″ anyway, so this will allow guests to harvest some fish while protecting the bigger fish that carry the genes the river needs so badly. 
  • January 1 through June 30 downstream of Skilak Lake,January 1 through July 31 downstream of Skilak Lake to ADF&G markers located approximately 300 yards downstream of Slikok Creek. Bait is prohibited in these waters during the time the size limit is in effect.
    • We are in support of any regulation that prohibits bait. It’s simply not necessary to catch fish on the Kenai and bait openers bring a lot of people from Anchorage to the river. Bait also kills a lot of rainbow trout and dollies that are inadvertently gut hooked. It also makes cleaning the boat a pain!
  • From July l – August 15, additional Kenai River shoreline will be closed to fishing on the north bank near Honeymoon Cove at river mile 13, upstream to approximately river mile 14 near Stewarts Landing.
    • This is another interesting one. The shoreline here is eroding and it looks rather bare with little to no woody debris or vegetation, which is important salmon habitat. This is a popular sockeye spot and this limits the available space for sockeye fishing. 
  • Coho salmon season shortened upstream of Bings Landing to the ADF&G markers at the outlet of Skilak Lake, closing on November 1. 
  • Gear restricted to only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure upstream of Bings Landing to the ADF&G markers at the outlet of Skilak Lake from November 1 through December 31.
  • Size limit of rainbow trout/Dolly Varden reduced to one less than 16” in total length in the entire Kenai River drainage.
    • We are in support of making the whole river catch and release for rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. There typically plenty of salmon in the river to put in the freezer or throw on the campfire. 
  • Waters of Kenai River closed to all fishing from May 1 through June 10.
  • King salmon sanctuaries in effect from May 1 through July 31.
  • See regulatory map in Southcentral sport fish regulation summary book.
  • All Kenai River tributaries, except for the Russian River:
    • closed to fishing for salmon, only one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure, with a gap between point and shank of 3/8 inch or less is allowed.
    • have new periods closed to all fishing (see 2017 regulatory summary).
  • All king salmon sanctuaries and fly-fishing areas (except for the Russian River fly-fishing only area) now changed to artificial fly waters, where single-hook artificial flies may be used, for this purpose an artificial fly means a fly that is constructed by common methods known as fly-tying, including a dry fly, wet fly, and nymph, or a bare single hook, and that is free of bait.
  • Hidden Lake lake trout restricted to one per day, less than 16” in total length.
  • Liberal pike regulations repealed in Mackey Lakes, Derks Lake, Sevena Lake, and Union Lake.
  • Personal use household permits allowed to harvest one king salmon 20” or greater in length, and up to 10 king salmon under 20” in length.
    • This is definitely a step in the right direction. There is absolutely no reason someone should be able to keep a large Kenai (or Kasilof) king salmon for personal use when liberal sockeye limits are in place. Not only do Kenai King salmon need every help they can get, the economic value of that fish is far higher on the end of a sport fishing line. 
  • The area closed to dipnetting from shore in the Kenai River personal use fishery was increased from the mouth upstream to the Warren Ames Bridge on the north bank, and from the mouth upstream to the Kenai Landing dock on the south bank.
    • Apparently this shoreline has been getting hammered for quite sometime and the marsh grass that grows in this area is heavily affected by soil compaction, according to ADFG and biologists. It is also hard to enforce regulations on this shoreline so they just assume close to dip-netting. 

RIP Spring Steelhead fishing, “its not you, its me.” This is probably for the better. Thanks for the memories!304862_3554590994765_1390367778_n305726_1924844332117_4193691_n527982_3554591914788_243371581_n

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