Kenai River Fish Counts
Understanding Kenai River Fish Counts
The Kenai River has 8 unique runs of salmon, 5 of which are closely monitored throughout the salmon migration season with fish counts. The 8 unique runs of salmon are listed below and those in bold are monitored with publicly available fish counts:
- Kenai River king salmon early run (May 15 – June 30)
- Kenai River king salmon late run (July 1 – Aug 20)
- Kenai River sockeye salmon late run (July 1 – Aug 20)
- Russian River sockeye early run (June 4 – July 14)
- Russian River sockeye Late Run (July 15 – Sept. 8)
- Kenai River silver salmon early run (Aug 8 – Aug 31)
- Kenai River silver salmon late run (Sept 1 – Oct 15)
- Kenai River pink salmon run (Aug 1 – Sept 15)
Kenai River King Salmon Fish Counts
Kenai River Late Run Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fishcounts
Kenai River Fish Counts Introduction
Fish Counts is the primary in-season data (meaning after the run has started) the Alaska Department of Fish And Game uses to manage the individual fisheries on the Kenai River to keep them strong, healthy, and sustainable for generations to come. Alaska is home to all 5 species of salmon, each of which is one of the largest wild salmon runs in the entire world for its species. Due to the amount of pressure placed on these fisheries, Alaska’s salmon migration is also one of the most managed fisheries in the world. And within all of that management is a really special river called the Kenai River. This river is special for so many reasons:
- It’s 82 miles long flowing through The Chugach National Forest, The Kenai Wildlife Refuge and Preserve, and through the beautiful towns of Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna, and Kenai.
- It’s home to the largest King Salmon in the world caught back in 1985 weighing in at a whopping 97 pounds 4 oz. And many of the top 10 king salmon were caught on the Kenai River
- It’s also home to the largest sockeye salmon found anywhere. Not only are they physically big but sheer volume of these fish coming up the river every summer is staggering
- It has two runs of fall run silver salmon which have held world records for their size
- It has an incredibly large run of pink salmon starting the first of August, only on even numbered years (2020, 2022, 2024 etc.) whose numbers even dwarf the sockeye salmon numbers
- It has beautiful year round resident trophy trout and dolly varden
- It has dozens of tributary rivers feeding it making for epic fishing and hiking
The Kenai River is also located within a short drives distance of Alaska’s busiest airport and Alaska’s largest population center, and with the majority of summer tourists visiting the Kenai Peninsula area, this can put strain on the fishery to the point that needs to be carefully managed. The pressures on this fishery include commercial fishing, subsistence fishing, personal use fishing, and sport fishing.
Technically the Russian River sockeye runs are not considered part of the Kenai River but because those fish move through the Kenai River on their way to the Russian River, nearly 80 miles upstream from the mouth of the Kenai River and near the town of Cooper Landing, and because most people interested in the Kenai River are also interested in the Russian River, we’ve included it here for discussion.
The Kenai River silver salmon runs are not counted for a variety of reasons that include budget, general pressure on the fishery is much less in the fall than in the summer, and because those fish come in late in the year there are so many other fish in the river it’s challenging to count just the silver salmon. Finally, the pinks enter the river in such enormous numbers, are largely released back into the river, and they enter the river in such enormous numbers there is really no need to count them – it’s a very healthy biannual fishery.
While this fish count data exists for the management of the fishery it’s also an indispensable tool for understanding when to go fishing! Each salmon run data is available individually and we’ll invite you to follow the links below to learn more about the specific species you are interested in
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