KENAI - The "sanctuary" area of the Russian River was opened up to sockeye salmon fishing Thursday morning.
The area was opened after it was determined that enough fish had gone up the river to liberalize fishing at the popular spot.
The sanctuary includes the Kenai River from Alaska Department of Fish and Game markers just downstream of the Russian River ferry crossing upstream to markers approximately 300 yards above Sportsman's Landing - including waters around the island near the Russian River mouth - as well as the lower 100 yards of the Russian.
"We're projecting we'll achieve the lower end of the goal," Area Management Biologist George Pappas said.
He said that more than 9,600 sockeye swam past the department's weir at Lower Russian Lake. The department believes as many as 5,000 additional fish also are holding in the sanctuary area waiting to move upstream.
The early run of Russian River sockeye is managed for an escapement goal of between 14,000 and 37,000 fish.
Pappas said he's heard that anglers have been having good success fishing both downstream of the sanctuary in the Kenai River as well as upstream in the Russian.
"There's been fair effort and fair success," he said.
The sanctuary opening is earlier than is typical, indicating the Russian run is shaping up to be a good one, Pappas said. He noted that the bag and possession limit of three fish per day per angler is still in effect.
Also looking strong is the early run of Kenai River king salmon. Pappas said the department estimates more than 7,700 kings have passed the department's sonar counter.
Once the department believes the run will exceed 14,400 fish, liberalizations in the fishery - such as allowing the use of bait - may be implemented.