With high numbers of sockeye returning to the Russian River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game increases the bag limit from three fish to six for the remainder of the late run.
The limits increased at 12:01 a.m. this morning and extend until the end of the sockeye salmon fishing season on August 20.
Colton Lipka, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the race has already reached the lower end of the department’s sustainable escapement goal. 44,000 to 85,000 fish, so it’s time to let anglers catch more fish. As of Monday, the department had 47,644 sockeye at the Lower Russian Lake outfall.
“General reports indicate that the fishery is at least fair right now. The fish are a bit pulsating so expect to spend some time up there,” he said.
Lipka said this late race is not as exceptional as the start of race, which far exceeded the expected escapements. He said anglers should allow extra time to reach their limits.
In addition to a catch limit of six per day, anglers can be in possession of 12 fish. Lipka said only one of them could be a coho.
The increased limits apply to the Russian River, the confluence of the Russian River and the main stem of the Kenai River downstream from Sportsman’s Landing to Kenai Lake. If a Russian River angler has more than six sockeye in their possession, they are not allowed to fish in other waters that have a catch limit of three or a possession limit of six fish.
This summer, those hoping to fish the Russian should watch out for Russian River Campground Closurescheduled for August 15. The US Forest Service is conducting a road resurfacing and hillside reinforcement project that will limit access to the campground road from mid-August through early June next year.
Lipka said for the last four days of sockeye season this month, the only access to the river will be via the Russian River Ferry or the boat launch at Sportsman’s Landing. Lipka said ferry operators plan to operate through Labor Day, providing plenty of chances for fishermen to get out before the Aug. 20 season closes.
Once the sockeye salmon fishing season is over, these same access changes will apply to those fishing for coho or rainbow trout.
“It’s a very necessary interview. So we appreciate everyone’s patience,” Lipka said.
A fishing and game advisory reminds anglers to remove fish carcasses from the clear water of the Russian River and only discard small chopped pieces in deep, running water. Lipka said the recall was part of an ongoing effort by the Forest Service to keep the Russian River clean and avoid attracting bears to popular fishing grounds – which he says hasn’t always been the case. .
“Every felled tree that was in the water looked like a Christmas tree of slaughtered fish carcasses,” Lipka said. “And there were whirlpools you could get into and it would just be knee-deep or thigh-deep with rotten fish.”
Fish and Game is also asking people to stay on approved trails and walkways to protect fish habitats.