ANCHORAGE -- Citing a dismal escapement count, the Department of Fish and Game announced Thursday it will close the main stem of the Kenai River to sockeye sport fishing.
The emergency order is effective starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the state agency said in a news release. The closure will continue until the end of the year, unless it's changed by a later order.
Fish and Game officials said the order is necessary to protect late-run sockeye stocks. James Brady, the department's regional supervisor, had said earlier that he expected to meet the escapement goal for reds. That goal, however was cut last week to 600,000 to 850,000 reds due to the low return.
``To date, the sonar count stands at approximately 570,000 sockeye salmon,'' Thursday's news release said. ``Commercial fishing in Cook Inlet has been severely restricted during the last several regularly scheduled fishing periods in order to achieve the in-river escapement goal. As a result of rapidly declining passage rates of sockeye salmon in to the Kenai River, the department can no longer confidently project meeting the lower end of the optimum escapement goal without further reductions in harvest potential.''
The order applies to rod-and-reel anglers, as well as catch-and-release fishermen, said Jeff Fox, the department's area biologist in Soldotna.