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.