.... below the Slikok Sanctuary, single hook, no bait.
On the eve of the re-opener, any prospective anglers should pause to reflect on what has already transpired to help protect the weakest early run (ER) of kings in the history of modern accounting.
Through June 28 the cumulative values for all four indices of king salmon abundance are continuing to track well below average. At this time, with approximately 95 percent of the run completed, all indices are projected to be well below their respective minimum inseason management objectives at the end of the run on June 30. Currently, the projections for all indices would be the lowest on record. The daily DIDSON sonar passage estimate of king salmon for June 27 was 99 fish. The cumulative DIDSON sonar passage estimate through June 24 is 2,973 king salmon. (ADFG, June 29 Kenai update)
Protections continue upriver from the Slikok Sanctuary for another two weeks to help maximize passage of tributary spawners. But it's clear that there will still be ER kings lingering in the mainstem from Sunken Island on down.
ADFG is re-opening a conservative fishery meant to target late run (LR) stock. The bait ban is in place as a precautionary measure to reduce exploitation on what they feel will probably be a poorly performing LR. "No bait" will also help to reduce the exploitation of any ER kings remaining in the lower river.
If you choose to participate, and ultimately find success, the option to legally bonk ANY king is yours. But BEFORE you hit the water tomorrow morning, make a conscious conservation-minded decision as to which fish are worth bonking and which are not.
Big red bricks and black-bellied fire-engines caught in the legal fishing zone on July 1 are not LR kings. They are the protected ER fish that have been staging in the lower river for the past few weeks. These are the fish that should emphatically NOT be targeted. If you should encounter one, PLEASE release it to spawn.
Make the conscious pledge for a bit of restraint now... BEFORE you set foot in the boat... so you won't be tempted later. In the heat of the moment, it's all too easy to hoist that big dark fish over the gunnel.... it happens so fast in all the excitement.... esp. when you've worked all day for that singular bite.
Now I know the naysayers will be on this post like flies on stink in about a nanosecond. They'll rebut the plea to release these fish with, "If you really care, then don't fish." That's certainly one option. But the reality is many WILL partake in this legal fishery, some with great anticipation to finally re-wet a line after weeks off the water. In this sobering season, participation almost implicitly carries with it a willful responsibility to minimize your impact on a failing ER stock. A lot has already been sacrificed to protect these fish, but as the fishery re-opens, sports can do a little more to help see these protections through to the end. Make the pledge to do your part.
May the force be with you.... and LET THERE BE KINGS!