Four species of salmon—sockeye, king, pink and coho salmon—and rainbow trout, steelhead, char, and whitefish spawn in the Kasilof River drainage. The Kasilof River’s king salmon and sockeye salmon draw the greatest interest from salmon fishermen. The Kasilof River sockeye salmon fish counts are reviewed constantly by sport fishermen, personal use fishermen, and by the commercial fishing fleet.
Approximately 8,000 to 12,000 late-run king salmon and a second, but much smaller early king salmon run migrate up the Kasilof River each year. Kasilof River sockeye salmon returns make the king salmon numbers look like a rounding error. The Kasilof River sockeye salmon fish counts average almost 1 Million fish each summer and range anywhere from 500,000 to 1.7 Million.
Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts
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Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon Fish Count Introduction
Kasilof River sockeye salmon stocks are one of the most heavily fished in Alaska. The Kasilof River is the second biggest producer of Upper Cook Inlet sockeye salmon, representing nearly 20 percent of the area’s commercial sockeye harvest and sometimes considerably more.
In past years, The Kasilof River sockeye represented an estimated 55 percent of the total commercial catch, with fishermen netting a record harvest of 1.2 million Kasilof sockeye salmon. The annual average has been about 600,000 per year. Kasilof sockeye salmon also support popular dipnet and set gillnet personal use fisheries.
In recent years, the Kasilof River has become an increasingly popular sockeye salmon fishery along with king salmon. The Kasilof River also supports personal use dipnet fishing and personal use set gillnet fishing.
Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts - Daily Fish Counts
While many of the Kenai Peninsula salmon runs experience two runs – an early run and a late run – The Kasilof River sees one primary run of sockeye salmon. The first arrivals will show up around early June and arrive in bigger numbers starting around June 21. Once they start, they will continue to arrive in strong numbers all the way until August 9th or so.
Kasilof River sockeye are lake spawners and are targeting Tustumena Lake and some of its tributaries. Once they hit the river these fish beeline up the 18-mile journey to Tustumena Lake without wasting much time. It will take them between 12 and 36 hours to reach the counting sonar near the Sterling Highway bridge at river mile 8. However, once they’ve crossed the sonar, they quickly cruise the remaining 10 miles to Tustumena Lake.
Because these fish are heading for Tustumena Lake, targeting them on the very scenic upper portion of the Kasilof River is very popular and a great day of fishing.
Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon Escapements
Kenai River Sockeye Salmon runs have been particularly strong over the last few years. It has consistently exceeded the maximum escapement goals and crossed the minimum escapement goal targets quite early in the overall run.
The minimum escapement goal has been set for the Kasilof River sockeye salmon at 160,000 fish and this number is usually achieved around July 11th each year. As this run continues to build strength, more and more fish will come in sometimes exceeding 25,000 fish per day. With these kinds of numbers, it doesn’t take long to achieve the maximum escapement goal set at 390.000 fish. The run continues for several more days until even another 100,000 fish have entered the system to spawn.
It’s really great to see one of our favorite fisheries doing so well. Once crossing the maximum escapement goal is eminent, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will often liberalize the fishery and increase the daily limit from 3 sockeye per person to 6.
Kasilof River Sockeye Salmon Sonar Location
The Kasilof River sonar site is located at River Mile 7.8, just above the Sterling Highway bridge in Kasilof and adjacent to the Kasilof River State Recreational Area. The sonar site consists of two counting stations located across from one another on the banks of the river.
Conditions for operating sonar in the Kasilof River are nearly ideal due to the river’s natural features. The Kasilof River sockeye salmon fish count sonar is one of ADF&G’s longest-running sonar sites.
Information collected at the Kasilof River sonar site is used to produce abundance estimates for sockeye salmon and draws strong interest from personal use and commercial fishermen. Situated in a publicly accessible location just upstream of a Sterling Highway bridge on the Kenai Peninsula, sonar site crew members frequently answer questions from visiting fishermen interested in the site’s counts and operations.
Kenai Peninsula Fish Counts
Want to know more about the fish counts on the Kenai Peninsula? Follow the links below to learn about the fish counts and when to fish all of the Kenai Peninsula’s major rivers and salmon species. Kenai River King Salmon (early run / late run), Kenai River Sockeye Run, Russian River Sockeye (early-late), Anchor River Chinook, Ninilchik River Chinook, Deep Creek Chinook