Boats crowd the mouth of the Deshka River to fish for king salmon in this June 15, 2007 file photo. Strong early returns of king salmon mean restrictions there and on the Anchor River will be eased.
These are giddy days for Southcentral king salmon anglers, who in recent years have grown accustomed to an unremitting string of fishing closures and restrictions.
On Thursday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had a double dose of good news. Due to strong early returns, anglers will get four more days to fish for king salmon on the Kenai Peninsula’s Anchor River, while on the popular Deshka River in the Mat-Su, bait and treble hooks will be allowed.
Through Tuesday, 8,259 kings had passed the Deshka fish-counting weir at river mile 7, making state biologists certain they’ll reach the minimum escapement goal of 13,000 fish. Typically, about 20 percent of the run has passed the weir by this date.
Beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday, the loosened regulations regarding bait and multiple hooks go into effect at the Deshka.
On the Anchor River and nearby marine waters, biologists lifted restrictions in place for this weekend and next Wednesday. The river will be open from 12:01 a.m. Saturday through 11:59 p.m. Monday. On Wednesday, it will be open from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Through Wednesday — three days before the Anchor River run’s historical halfway point — 4,074 kings had been counted. A year ago, the entire run totaled 2,496, Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Carol Kerkvliet said Thursday.
“It’s very encouraging,” she added.
Kerkvliet said the historical midpoint of the run is June 13. Until the run is over, it won’t be known if this year’s run is bigger than recent history or earlier than recent history.
“It could be both,” she said.
Last year’s run of 2,496 was the lowest recorded on the Anchor, she said, and continued a recent trend of low returns. That led to a preseason emergency order earlier this year to close the Anchor to king fishing on all five Wednesdays and the first and last of the fishery’s five weekends. This is its fifth weekend.
The king run reaches its historical midpoint Saturday, leading biologists to project that this year’s run will be around 9,000 kings. The last time that many kings returned to the Anchor was 2007, when about 9,600 of them made it upriver.
The escapement goal for the Anchor River is 3,800 to 10,000 king salmon.