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Date Posted: 11:19:41 04/29/04 Thu
Author: Don Johnson
Subject: The Kenai River Is

The Kenai River Is

The Kenai River is a large 80 mile long glacial fed river that starts in the Kenai Mountains in southcentral Alaska.
The upper river flows from Kenai Lake through a mountain pass and the Kenai Canyon to Skilak Lake. This section of river is in the Kenai National wildlife refuge and is home to large numbers of trophy rainbow and dolly varden trout. Two runs of Sockeye ( red salmon) along with Coho ( silver )salmon also return & spawn in the upper Kenai River. At the confluence of the Russian River & Kenai River is the most popular & productive Sockeye Salmon sport fishery in the world.

From the outlet at Skilak Lake to the bridge at Soldotna is known as the middle river. This stretch is designated a State Park & flows through the communities of Sterling. From the bridge in Soldotna down to the mouth at Cook Inlet there are many recreational homes, lodges, & guide services located on this section of river. There are 4 species of salmon that return to the Kenai with the most famous being the world's largest strain of King Salmon. There are two runs of Kings, with many in the 60-80 lb range.

The world record King at 97lbs 4oz. was caught here in May of 1985. The 1st run of Kings begin in mid May & continue until the end of June. The late run starts the first of July and then ends when the King season closes on July 31st.

Strong runs of Sockeye salmon come in July, and the mighty Coho (Silver) salmon run in August & September. In even numbered years Large schools of Pink salmon return in August.

More world records have come from the Kenai River than any other river in the world!

The Kenai river is the greatest sportfishing river in the world. An unbelievable number of wild salmonoid spawn in her tremendously fertile waters every year. Some of the most noted species which naturally occur within her waters are king salmon, silver salmon, red salmon, pink salmon, arctic char, dolly varden char and rainbow trout.

Each spawning female salmon lays between 4000 - 7000 eggs before dying and allowing her carcass to decompose to provide essential nitrogen nutrients for future generations. Each year approximently 1 - 3 million salmon spawn in her waters . Each season these spawners invest or bury within her gravels approximently 5 - 15 billion eggs.

These eggs lay dormant all winter as they wait for the coming spring thaw. Depending on environmental factors the survivors will wiggle their way out from beneath their gravel shelter and enter the rivers cycle of life. Millions of new salmon will then begin to compete for survival and the right to do the same as their parents before them.

These returning generations of salmon will then enter the finest sportfishery in the world as returning surplus stocks are then harvested each season. The waters of the Kenai river are among the most fertile know to man. Each year millions of salmon end their cycle of life within her fridge glacial waters. Each of these deaths contribute a small part to the essential nitrogen required to allow her cycle of life to continue.

The Kenai rivers total nursery capabilities presently are unknown. Official run records go back to around 1900, only legends go before that. Those legends tell of salmon runs all year long, with light runs in the winters and heavy runs in the summers. It is very possible that we have not even begun to see what the Kenai river is able to sustain. Her turquoise green waters conceal countless generations which have lived and died within her. Present runs are only the end results of thousands of years of only the strongest surviving. It is very possible that she is the best producer of salmon on earth. The question is "are we the best fish managers on earth?"

The Kenai river is the greatest sportfishing river in the world and it is our duty as good resource managers to allow her natural cycle of life to not only continue, but to continue to expand to her natural limits.

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