Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 12:15 PM on Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kenai personal-use fishery now open

By Rashah McChesney
Morris News Service - Alaska

The Kenai River personal-use dipnet fishery opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday for a season that historically has brought several thousand people to Kenai until the fishery's close July 31.

The group aims to catch some of the more than 1 million sockeye salmon that enter the Kenai River every year. As of Sunday, 42,946 have been counted by a sonar located 19 miles upstream from the mouth of the river. The optimum escapement goal for Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon is 700,000 to 1,200,000.

Last year, Kenai River dipnetters harvested an estimated 537,765 sockeye salmon due in part to an expanded fishing period by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Dipnetters will not get a chance to harvest kings this year as an emergency order released Friday prohibits retention of king salmon due to low numbers of kings in the river. Kings cannot be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

In June the Kenai City Council voted to raise camping fees at the North and South beaches to $20 per 12-hour period.

The city estimates that only 3 percent of fishery participants are Kenai residents, while hundreds of tents spring up on the beaches for the duration of the season, sheltering dipnetters from around the state. The fishery is open to Alaska residents only.

The fishery is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fish and Game has released several guidelines for people who participate:

• The total yearly harvest of salmon is limited to 25 per head of household plus 10 salmon for each additional household member. Permits are limited to one per household.

• All fish retained must have the tips of both tail fins clipped and should be recorded before leaving the beach.

• Participants are asked to stay off the dunes and remove their trash.

• According to Fish and Game, fishing success in the first few days of the dipnet fishery likely will be poor as "few fish are moving at this time."

* Dipnetting from a boat is allowed, but two-stroke motors are prohibited and people should be prepared for long waits at the Kenai City Dock.