Area Sport Fishing Reports
The 2023 preseason inriver forecast of 3,659 king salmon was below the sustainable escapement goal (SEG) of 3,800-7,600 fish. Given the uncertainty with recent annual runs, preseason restrictions were issued to close the fishery. King salmon escapement was monitored on the South and North forks of Anchor River beginning in early-May and continued throughout the run. The preliminary escapement estimate was 2,348 fish, which did not achieve the SEG. The cumulative run-timing mid-point (July 6) was 23 days late compared to the historical average mid-point of June 14.
A preseason emergency order closed the Anchor River and Deep Creek to all sport fishing through July 15.
No preseason forecast was estimated for the 2023 wild Ninilchik River king salmon run. Hatchery king salmon are stocked in the Ninilchik River to support the inriver sport fishery. The fishery occurred for the three 3-day weekends with preseason restrictions that prohibited the retention of wild king salmon but liberalized the hatchery bag and possession limits from one to two fish 20” or longer. The use of multiple hooks and treble hooks were also prohibited with preseason restrictions, but bait was allowed. Effort generally increased over the weekend fisheries but declined through the continuous hatchery-only fishery that began on June 16. Fishing success was described as fair over the weekend fisheries and anglers consistently harvested hatchery king salmon. Harvest was poor to fair in the continuous fishery. The SEG of 750-1,300 wild king salmon was not achieved in 2023 for the second year in a row.
King salmon escapement was fully enumerated just above the fishery at approximately two miles upstream from the mouth. An instream video weir was operated from mid-May to early-August at this location, and the count was 550 wild king salmon and 993 hatchery king salmon. The mid-point of the wild and hatchery runs to the lower weir were June 20 and June 24, respectively.
The broodstock collection weir, located approximately five miles upstream from the mouth, was used to monitor escapement in regard to meeting the current SEG of 750 - 1,300 wild king salmon. The broodstock collection weir location also used instream video and was operated from mid-May through mid-August. After accounting for the removal of broodstock, the escapement was 328 wild king salmon, which did not meet the SEG. Based on weir counts at both locations, 66% of the wild king salmon and 68% of the hatchery king salmon counted through the lower weir also reached the broodstock collection weir.
A preseason emergency order restricted the harvest of wild fish and increased the bag and possession limits of hatchery king salmon, 20 inches or greater in length, from one to two fish. The use of multiple hooks and treble hooks was also prohibited.
No preseason forecast was estimated for the 2023 Deep Creek king salmon run. The sport fishery was closed with preseason restrictions based on management actions for the Anchor River. Deep Creek has a SEG of 350 king salmon and is assessed post-season via a single aerial survey. No survey was conducted in 2023 due to a lack of funding.
A preseason emergency order closed the Anchor River and Deep Creek to all sport fishing through July 15.
Sport fishing for king salmon in Cook Inlet was popular in the Winter (September 1-March 31) and the Summer (April 1-August 31) fisheries. The summer fishery north of Bluff Point began with preseason restrictions to protect king salmon returning to Cook Inlet drainages. The performance of these fisheries are only assessed post season with the Statewide Harvest Survey and charter logbook data, and harvest estimates will not be available until 2024. In the winter fishery, anglers found good success in January, but fishing success was lower in February and March. The summer fisheries were with poor success from April through mid-May when Upper Cook Inlet salt waters closed by preseason restrictions. From mid-May through early-August, small numbers of king salmon were caught throughout lower Cook Inlet and fishing improved in offshore locations throughout the remainder of the season.
A preseason emergency order effective May 16, 2023, closed king salmon fishing in the Cook Inlet saltwaters north of the latitude of Bluff Point (59° 40.00' N. lat.) through July 31.
A preseason emergency order effective May 16, 2023, reduced the king salmon bag and possession limits from 2 to 1 fish in the Cook Inlet saltwaters south of the latitude of Bluff Point (59° 40.00' N. lat.) through July 31.
There are no preseason forecasts and no escapement goals for any lower Kenai Peninsula roadside stream (Anchor and Ninilchik rivers, Deep and Stariski creeks) coho salmon stocks. Weirs were operated on the Anchor River to enumerate escapement. The preliminary escapement count was 1,494 fish when the weirs were pulled on August 26 for the season due to flooding. The run was near the midpoint of the run when the weir operation ended. The total escapement was projected to be 3,200 fish.
Sport fishing effort was low throughout August on all streams and was further reduced towards the end of August with flooding stream levels. The Statewide Harvest Survey estimates harvest for these fisheries and will not be available until 2024.
Sport fishing for coho salmon in Cook Inlet was popular from late-July through early-September. Most effort was concentrated in offshore locations. The Statewide Harvest Survey estimates for this fishery will not be available until 2024.
No management actions were implemented during 2023 for freshwater and marine coho salmon fisheries season.
In 2023, the stocking goals were met for Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon (NDFL) on the Homer Spit with approximately 315,000 king salmon smolt and 120,000 coho salmon smolt. This year’s king salmon stocking was the sixth consecutive year with a 30% increase over historical king salmon stockings. The Statewide Harvest Survey estimates harvest for these fisheries will not be available until 2024. Overall, the king and coho salmon fisheries were likely similar to the harvest trends in recent years. There were several hundred king salmon harvested by anglers during the period open to snagging. During the period open to snagging for coho salmon, anglers harvested a couple hundred fish but was not as successful as the king salmon period open to snagging.
Snagging was allowed in the NDFL from July 1 through July 4 to harvest the remainder of the king salmon milling in the lagoon prior to coho salmon returning.
Snagging was allowed in the NDFL from August 16 through December 31 to harvest the remainder of the coho salmon run.
The China Poot Creek personal use dip net fishery does not require a permit for participation so there is no harvest and effort data available for 2023. The Commercial Fish Division conducts weekly foot surveys to count sockeye and pink salmon. There was a large build-up of over 500 sockeye salmon in the creek before the fishery opened on July 1, 2023. Success through most of July was fair to good. The success in this fishery is most likely attributed to changes in commercial fishing and cost recovery operations associated with the stocking. A stream survey was conducted on August 3 and over 500 sockeye salmon remained in the creek so the fishery season was extended for another week through August 13. Effort was low during the extension period but success was high for those that participated.
The China Poot Personal Use Dipnet Fishery season was extended by 7 days and closed on August 13.
The harvest of rockfish has increased steadily since 2013, and sustainable levels of rockfish harvest are currently unknown. The sport fishery is monitored with harvest data from SWHS and Charter Logbook program and biological data from port sampling program in the Homer Harbor. Preliminary stock assessment work was reviewed in spring 2023 and changes in the biological data along with the increased harvest are indicators of a possible change in the population structure of rockfish in this area. The 2022, rockfish harvest in Cook Inlet salt waters was over 60,000 fish which is the largest documented annual harvest. The 2023 harvest will not be finalized until fall 2024.
Effective May 15 – December 31, 2023, the bag and possession limit for rockfish was reduced to 3 per day, 6 in possession.
All East Cook Inlet beaches remained closed to sport and personal use clamming for the start of 2023 until abundance surveys could be conducted in the spring. Surveys were conducted in April and May at both Clam Gulch and Ninilchik area beaches. Abundances of adult-sized razor clams at Clam Gulch were below the threshold outlined in the management plan to open the fishery. Abundances of adult-sized razor clams at Ninilchik were above the threshold outlined in the management plan to open the fishery for the first time since 2013. The sport and personal use fisheries were restricted to bag and possession limits of 15 and a season from July 1 through July 4. The area opened was from three miles north of the Ninilchik River to the tip of the Homer Spit. A creel census was conducted to monitor harvest and effort during low tide for all days the fishery was open at the primary access locations from the Ninilchik River south to Whiskey Gulch area. The preliminary effort estimate is 5,417 digger days for the entire survey area with 1,542 diggers days on Ninilchik South beach. Total harvest was 22,886 adult razor clams and the beach with the highest harvest was Ninilchik North (7,773 adult clams). Based on this harvest and the spring abundance estimate, the harvest rate of adult clams was 2.3% at Ninilchik South, which was well below the maximum harvest rate of 10% outlined in the management plan.
An inseason emergency order opened the Ninilchik Management area beaches within East Cook Inlet to personal use and sport clamming from 3 miles north of the Ninilchik River to the southernmost tip of the Homer Spit from July 1 through July 4.
The West Cook Inlet beaches remained open to sport, and personal use clamming in 2023. Harvest estimates for the sport fishery are not available yet, but clammers report good success at Polly Creek and Crescent River Bar areas with larger clams being found at Crescent River Bar.
No management actions were implemented during the 2023 sport and personal use fisheries season.
No trawl surveys were conducted in 2022 so the limited fishery was implemented for the 2022-2023 season. The sport and subsistence fisheries occurred from October 1, 2022, through February 28, 2023. The preliminary combined sport and subsistence Tanner crab harvest in the Cook Inlet & North Gulf Coast area was 7,739 male Tanner crabs. During the 2022-2023 season, 2,477 sport and subsistence permits were issued. Of these, 86% reported and will be eligible to receive a permit for the upcoming season. In total, 347 individuals did not report and are ineligible to receive a permit for the 2022-2023 season. Permits are only available through ADF&Gs online store.
No management actions were implemented for the 2022-2023 fishery season.