Bag limits increase as sockeye returns hit record highs on Kenai and Kasilof rivers

Wood River sockeye are pictured in this June 2016 photo. (Photo by KDLG staff)

A record number of sockeye passed through sonar on the Kasilof River on Thursday.

About 125,628 sockeye have been recorded on sonar there — a new daily record for the run, according to Brian Marston, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Regional Manager for Upper Cook Inlet Commercial Fisheries. . The surge brings the sockeye salmon run on the Kasilof to 568,703 fish this run.

Although the Kenai River did not hit a daily high that day, Marston said it was the eighth highest daily count since 1979.

Nearly 189,420 sockeye passed through the sonar at mile 19 of Kenai Wednesday. More than 519,247 late-run sockeye have been recorded in the river so far, bringing the department halfway to its in-river goal for the run of 1.1-1.4 million sockeye. . The course of the Kenai River historically peaks at the beginning of August.

Meanwhile, Fish and Game is loosening personal and sport fishing limits on the Kenai so anglers can tackle those large numbers of sockeye. Starting Friday, anglers on the Kenai can catch six sockeye a day and own 12.

Dip net fishing will also be open 24 hours a day starting Friday.

The sockeye run on the Kenai has exceeded the upper limits of the department’s goals in recent seasons. Last year, more than 2.4 million sockeye passed through sonar, raising concerns among commercial fishermen about excessive escapements.

Anglers are not permitted to catch king salmon. Fish and Game closed the Kenai and Kasilof to king fishing on Saturday. This also triggered the closure of the set net fishery on July 16.

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