The Russian River Sockeye Sockeye Salmon fish counts provide valuable information when it comes to understanding how to fish the famed Russian River for sockeye salmon. The Russian River is probably the second most sport-fished resource on the Kenai Peninsula behind only the Kenai River. Read below to understand more about this fantastic fishery and understand the associated fish counts. One of the best parts about Russian River sockeye fishing is that the water is so clear you can actually see the fish in the water. It’s an amazing sight.
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts
Want to know more about fish counts on the Russian River and throughout Alaska? Download the Alaska FishTopia Mobile App. All graphs and information presented on these pages are courtesy of Alaska FishTopia!
Click To Download!
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fish Count Introduction
The Russian River sockeye salmon fish counts are one of the most fascinating fish counts to study on the Kenai Peninsula. The Russian River sockeye salmon run, like the Kenai River king salmon run, is actually composed of two independent runs. There is an early Russian River sockeye salmon run and a late Russian River sockeye salmon Run. Alaska Department of Fish & Game, again like the Kenai River king salmon run, manages these two runs completely independently. Each run is managed separately, and each run gets its own escapement targets.
The Russian River sockeye salmon fish counts, shown here, are courtesy of the Alaska FishTopia Mobile App, which concatenates the two runs together for better visibility and insights into how the two runs are structured.
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts - Early Run Daily Fish Counts
The Russian River sockeye salmon run is actually composed of two distinct runs. The early run is from June 1 to July 14 and the late run is from July 15 to September 7. Fishing on the Russian River is closed by regulation until June 11!
The early run Russian River sockeye salmon travel almost the full distance of the Kenai River before reaching the confluence of the Russia River and the Kenai River located at River Mile 74. Then they travel yet another 13 miles up the Russian River to get to the Russian River Lake to spawn. What a journey!
Some of these early run sockeye salmon target a few of the other tributaries of the Kenai River as well but 95% of them are headed for the Russian River.
While this early goes from June 1 to July 14, the peak days of this run are from June 14 to July 8. It’s really important to know that the sonar for these fish is located at the Russian River Lake which is quite far upstream from where it is legal to sport fish for them and this needs to be taken into consideration. This is discussed in detail later.
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts - Late Run Daily Fish Counts
The Russian River sockeye salmon late run begins on July 15 and continues until Sept 7th. This is a really interesting run because it is intermingled with the Kenai River Late Sockeye Salmon Run.
During the Russian River sockeye salmon early run, the vast majority of these fish head up to the Russian River. For the late run this is not the case. The Kenai River sockeye salmon late run is comprised of daily fish counts that can exceed 100,000 fish per day. Approximately 3% of these fish are headed for the Russian River. While 3% is not a large number, it results in an incredible run of fish to the Russian river when we are talking about 3% of 100,000 fish all working their way up a pretty small river.
What’s great about these two runs is that they are almost identical in size at their peaks and this is always great fishing during those times. Anytime the fish counts on the Russian River are above 1000 fishing is excellent. The peak fishing during the late run is nearly 4 weeks long from July 28th to August 24th.
Like the early run, it’s really important to know that the sonar for these fish is located at the Russian River Lake which is quite far upstream from where it is legal to sport fish for them and this needs to be taken into consideration. This is discussed in detail later.
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts - Early & Late Run Escapement
We’ve already discussed that there are two independent Russian River sockeye salmon runs. Each run has different escapement goals.
The early Russian River sockeye salmon run has a minimum escapement goal of 22,000 sockeye salmon and an optimum goal of 44,000 sockeye salmon. The minimum goal for this run is usually achieved by June 19th each year. The optimum number is usually exceeded by June 27th, several weeks before the early run of the Russian River Sockeye Salmon ends. If the run is strong enough, and usually this means that fish and game firmly believe the optimum goal will be exceeded, they will often double the number of fish allowed for each person daily. The Russian River sockeye salmon limit is usually 3 per person and can be moved to 6 per person per day if the run is particularly strong. There have even been years when the limit has been raised to 9 per person per day.
The late Russian River sockeye run has a minimum escapement goal of 44,000 sockeye salmon and an optimum escapement goal of 85,000 sockeye salmon. The minimum goal for this run is usually achieved around August 8. Approximately 20 days later the optimum goal is exceeded. Like the early Russian River sockeye salmon run, if the number of sockeye entering the river is strongly expected to exceed the optimum escapement goal, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can increase the daily harvest limit. Conversely, and this happens as well, if not enough fish are entering the river to spawn, fish and game can lower daily harvest limits. Luckily this has not been the case on the Russian River in the last few years and the trend has been to increase bag limits.
Russian River Sockeye Salmon Fish Counts - Weir Location
The Russian River sockeye salmon weir is located just below the outlet of the Lower Russian River Lake – 78 miles from the mouth of the Kenai River. What a Journey!
Pro Tip: The Russian River sockeye salmon weir is counting fish right at the outlet of the Lower Russian River lake. However, the start of the sportfishing area is at least 2-3 miles downstream of this counter. The Russian River viewing platforms are located at the “Russian River Falls.” These falls are an incredibly steep series of vertical falls several feet in height with fast pools of deep water between the series of vertical falls. There is also a fish ladder nearby to help in the journey that some of the sockeye will take. It’s incredible to see what these fish are going through
The time it takes for the Russian River sockeye salmon to navigate these falls can take several days. There are periods of leaping followed by periods of resting. Likely many never make it unless they take the fish ladder. What this means is that by the time the fish have been counted they’ve passed through the sportfishing area anywhere from 3 – 7 days earlier. Therefore, and that’s why this is the pro tip, if you’re trying to time fishing the Russian River Sockeye Run you need to be there between 3 and 7 days earlier than the peak fish counts. This is not an exact science as these fish will move through on their own schedule but you can bet the peak fishing in the sport fishing area is several days earlier than the peak fish counts
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