My summer would not be complete without my annual plea for folks to at least consider making the personal sacrifice to help further protect the river's depleted population of big ER kings.
These slot fish were protected thru all of May and June, but when the calendar kicks over a day into July, suddenly the very same fish are magically transformed into LR kings, and by the letter of the law, they are fair game... WHACK!
When you bring that mega-hawg to the boat, pause for a moment to reflect on the genetically unique creature in your landing net. Heaving it over the gunnel will deprive that trophy fish of its one and only chance to pass on its obvious genetic fitness. Four decades of selectively harvesting the biggest and most fecund broodstock in the run has clearly taken its toll.
Do your part to help reverse this trend!
Now I'm sure some of you skeptics would argue, "What's the harm? It's just one fish. Escapement has been met, right? Besides, who's to say that MY fish isn't a LR king?"
Fair enough. But have an appreciation for the collective effect of your actions when multiplied by thousands of Kenai anglers each and every year.
At the very least, consider the maturity of the fish in question before wielding the wood shampoo. If the fish is blushed or red or missing sea lice, it didn't come in today.... it's been in the river a few days at the very least, perhaps a week or two. That's a big ER king... the very fish the slot limit was intended to protect! Had it been caught yesterday or a few days earlier, you would have been legally required to release it.
Anyone fishing the river that has taken the time to educate him/herself on this issue knows deep down what the right thing to do really is. Let your conscience be your guide... and just let 'em go!
If you have a guided trip in the next few days, and you believe in this cause, let your guide know at the outset that you have NO intention of keeping a slot-sized fish, especially one that is showing color. Emphasize that your selfless actions protect not only the depleted population of large fish, but your guides livelihood as well. Do NOT get bullied into tagging a fish you do not wish to retain! In the heat of the excitement that goes along with landing every big fish on the river, things happen fast and before you can blink, that hog is flopping on the deck. Remember, the second that trophy king leaves the water you must legally tag it.
If your goal is to put a giant king on the wall, just remember that the fish need not be purposely killed for you to get your wish. A quality fiberglass replica looks better than and will outlast a skin mount FOREVER! Remember that Kenai River Spoprtfishing Assn (KRSA) sponsors Release-A-Hog, a unique program that rewards conscientious anglers for releasing those Kenai giants. With the reward money, that trophy mount of yours can be had for next to nothing!
It's not rocket science, folks! Those fish belong on the gravel... not in the fish box!
JUST LET 'EM GO!