The Kenai River personal-use dipnet fishery opened at 6 a.m. today, luring the first few fishermen to one of the state's most popular fisheries.
Thousands of Alaskans – you must be a resident to participate -- flock to the mouth of the Kenai River annually to net their haul of the some 1.5 million sockeye salmon headed up-river to spawn.
But most of those fish haven't hit the river yet. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, only a few boats and few fishermen were on the river according to Robert Begich, an area sport fishing biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The bulk of the run is expected to pass through the river between July 15-25. As of Monday, 49,416 red salmon had been counted by the sonar at river mile 19.
In 2011, dip netters harvested an estimated 537,765 salmon, due in part to an expanded fishing period, according to the Peninsula Clarion.
The fishery is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. through July 31. Alaska fishermen can harvest up to 25 salmon per head of household and 10 more for each dependent.
Due to particularly weak returns, retention of any king salmon is prohibited in the dipnet fishery. Any king caught must be immediately released.