AD Header Dropdowns

AD Main Menu

Hordes of red salmon rushing up Alaska's Kenai River

Alex DeMarban
Dipnetters make their way to the mouth of the Kenai river on Sunday, July 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Dipnetters pulled in a good catch of sockeye salmon at the mouth of the Kenai river on Sunday, July 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
After 5 hours dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai river on Sunday, Allyssa Frost and her friends had managed to catch over 100 sockeye salmon. July 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Holly Thistle, a first-time dipnetter from Big Lake, with her catch of sockeye salmon. July 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
3-year-old Jackson Gregory of Anchorage whacks his first sockeye salmon at the mouth of the Kenai river on Sunday, July 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Mike Leiker of Anchorage caught 6 sockeye salmon in 1 1/2 hours on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at the mouth of the Kenai river.
Loren Holmes photo
A good run of sockeye salmon at the mouth of the Kenai river is good not only for those fishing, but also for the local seagulls. July 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A friend of Allyssa Frost's adds another sockeye salmon to the day's catch. The group had collected over 100 salmon in just over 5 hours. July 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Jessica Wynn celebrates her friend Rachel Seeger's first dipnet-caught sockeye salmon. July 15, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Rebekah Luhrs of Anchorage hauling in a sockeye salmon from the mouth of the Kenai River on July 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
A sockeye salmon fights for its life from a cooler at the mouth of the Kenai River on July 15, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Ray Miller strains against the weight of 25 sockeye salmon on his way back to his car at the mouth of the Kenai River on Sunday, July 15, 2012. "Almost makes me appreciate silver salmon fishing with rod & reel," he said.
Loren Holmes photo

Like clockwork, hordes of red salmon began rushing up the Kenai River this weekend, making life better for dipnetters -- as well as commercial and subsistence fishers.

"The fish have arrived," said Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for sport fishing in Soldotna.  

The Kenai River in-river sonar at Mile 19 recorded 119,000 sockeye storming through on Sunday, said Pawluk. That's about six times the 20,000 or so fish that had pushed into the river the day before, according to Pawluk.

The single-day record came last summer on July 17, when more than 230,000 reds were counted.

Kenai dipnetting draws hordes of fishermen to the river mouth, looking to stock their freezer with tasty, protein-rich sockeye. Fishing traditionally gets hot around July 15.

As of Sunday, the total number of red salmon counted by the sonar so far was 228,000. To ensure the sockeye run stays strong, state fisheries biologists have set a goal of between 700,000 to 1.2 million fish nosing past the sonar, headed upstream to spawn.

Many dipnetters try to time their visit to the mouth of the Kenai to avoid commercial fishing openings, which limit the number of fish available. Those are typically Monday and Thursday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., though state fisheries biologists can add additional openings if the run is strong.  

As always, Alaska Wildlife Troopers will be at the mouth to make sure everyone is following the law. Here's an article from the Peninsula Clarion newspaper with tips for dipnetting legally.