The state Department of Fish and Game is closing sport fishing for king salmon in several areas of the southern Kenai Peninsula.

Beginning June 2 to July 15, king fishing is not allowed on the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers and Deep Creek drainages.

As of May 29, only 90 king salmon have been counted on the Anchor River. The sustainable escapement goal for the Anchor River is 3,800-7,600 king salmon. Biologists track and count the salmon by using both sonar and video weirs.  Based on 2009-2014 run timing they are projecting this year’s escapement goal will not be achieved.

“During the weak run years, inriver and nearby marine fisheries were managed conservatively using a combination of restrictions and closures,” area management biologist Carol Kerkvliet said in a Fish and Game statement. “To minimize the shifting of effort due to conservation actions for the Anchor River, it is warranted to restrict sport fishing on the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek as well.”

By this same date, when runs were weak during the years of 2009-2014, escapement on the Anchor River averaged 301 king salmon. The final escapement for these years ranged between 4,509 in 2012 to 2,497 in 2014.

A sport fishing regulation restriction is also in place for king salmon fishing, including catch-and-release, in marine waters within 1-mile of shore from Bluff Point to the Ninilchik River.

“In waters north of Bluff Point, maturing king salmon (spawners) tend to be harvested near shore at a greater rate than immature (non-local) king salmon,” Kerkvliet said. “Therefore, it is justified to prohibit retention of king salmon in salt waters within one mile of shore while these locally spawning king salmon migrate through the area and into fresh water.”

The southern Kenai is not the only area of the state experiencing early low returns of salmon. In May, the Department of Fish and Game closed a planned window for Copper River commercial fishing due to poor runs of sockeye salmon. Biologists cited sonar data from Miles Lake as a key factor in that closure.

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