King salmon fishing during this year’s early season on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers will take place under catch-and-release restrictions, added by state biologists in anticipation of low runs.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the new restrictions Thursday, which mirror measures taken last year and will take effect for both rivers’ early-run king seasons on May 1. They will continue until June 30 on the Kasilof, with some restrictions on the Kenai continuing through July 31.

Areas declared catch-and-release for naturally produced kings include the entire Kasilof River drainage and much of the Kenai. In those areas, only an unbaited single-hook lure may be used to fish.

Anglers on the Kasilof may bag and possess a single hatchery-produced king 20 inches or longer, which will have a healed clip mark on its adipose fin.

“From May 1 through June 30, king salmon of any size may not be retained in the Kenai River from the mouth upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake,” Fish and Game officials wrote. “That restriction will continue July 1 through July 31, in the waters from an ADF&G regulatory marker located approximately 300 yards downstream from the mouth of Slikok Creek upstream to the outlet of Skilak Lake.”

In July, however, Kenai River anglers can retain kings from the river’s mouth upstream to the Slikok Creek regulatory marker.

“In this section, bait is allowed; however, only a single hook lure or fly may be used during this time,” Fish and Game officials wrote.

Fish and Game’s management biologist for the area, Colton Lipka, said in statements attached to the new restrictions that they are necessary to ensure the rivers’ escapement goals are met and sustain their fisheries. The department is already anticipating “an increase in angler effort” on the Kasilof in response to the restrictions.

“Anglers have noticed that the Kenai River king salmon and other king salmon stocks throughout Cook Inlet are experiencing an extended period of low productivity and restricting the fishery preseason is warranted,” Lipka said.

Anyone with questions on the restrictions can call Lipka at 907-262-9368.

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.