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Kenai River king salmon fishery restricted

Posted: July 23, 2013 - 9:23pm  |  Updated: July 24, 2013 - 7:13am

After four days of dwindling late run king salmon counts on the Kenai River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Tuesday that anglers would be restricted to catch-and-release and trophy king salmon fishing through the rest of the season.

Beginning Thursday, any king between 20 inches and 55 inches in size may not be retained or removed from the water and must be released immediately, according to a Fish and Game emergency order.

Assistant area management biologist Jason Pawluk said the impetus for the closure was a “precipitous drop” in sonar estimates of king salmon in the river.

“During a period of time when we should be seeing large number of king salmon entering the Kenai River, we are not,” he said. “They’ve dropped faster than we really had anticipated and we’ve seen this trend since about July 15, we’ve seen our projections slowly go down.”

To track the estimated final escapement of chinook salmon in the river, biologists are using indices including run timing projections and harvest data in commercial fisheries to estimate the final inriver sonar count of the fish.

“All of those models are projecting a sonar estimate or what we call an inriver run that — with the harvest to date and any future projected harvest — would not meet the current escapement goal minimum of 15,000,” Pawluk said.

Shortly after the sport fish division released its emergency order, the commercial fishing division of Fish and Game announced a closure of the next regular fishing periods for east side set gillnet fishermen in Cook Inlet.

Citing low numbers of Kenai River king salmon, the order limits the setnetters to no more than one 12-hour fishing period per Sunday through Saturday management week.

The restriction is a new one for setnetters who were largely closed out of fishing in 2012 when the Kenai River king salmon fishery was closed; the idea came from discussions between local fishermen about how to pair restrictions between sport and commercial fisheries at times when king salmon are not available in large numbers.

In the current management plan, there are no restrictions required of the east side setnet fishery when the Kenai River is put on catch-and-release fishing.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries and a special task force created for the Cook Inlet discussed paired restrictions between the commercial setnet fishermen and inriver sportfishinge extensively over the winter and while they group could not arrive at a consensus on what those restrictions should be, one of the options that was discussed was limiting setnetters to fewer hours during the week.

Fish and Game managers took their cue from that discussion when considering how to limit harvest of Kenai-bound king salmon in commercial setnet fisheries, said Pat Shields, area management biologist in the commercial fishing division of Fish and Game.

“The department is choosing to use this as it is the best thing we could come up with that would be fair and equitable,” he said. Setnetters have harvested about 300 king salmon per fishing period, Shields said.

Mike Fenton, who co-owns Fenton Brother’s Guided Sportfishing in Sterling, said he was not surprised by the restriction and thought it should have happened earlier in the season.

“The fishing has been fair at best this season and our numbers have been so low that I think the majority of sportsmen, guides and private anglers would like to err on the side of conservation,” Fenton said. “I’d like to think that our brothers in the commercial fishing industry would step up and help conserve these kings as well.”

Fenton said he and his brother educated many of clients about the volatility of the king salmon fishery, especially during the last two weeks of the season.

“We kind of prepare them for possible regulation changes and most of the clients were aware of that. It’s not a big surprise,” Fenton said. “I think the majority of our clients are going to stick with the king fishing, some may jump over and do some sockeye fishing.”

While anglers can still retain jack-kings, or those under 20-inches long, any fishermen lucky enough to land a king salmon in the 55-inches or larger category is required by law to get it sealed at the Fish and Game office within three days of the catch.

None have been registered in at least three years, Pawluk said.

Fenton said he hoped the restriction would help the famed Kenai king salmon rebound.

“I think these are such a prized fish that I hate to see any of us killing them, either inriver or in the commercial nets. Our escapement numbers have been marginal at best for several years and with the declining fish size, which has been a trend for several years, I am afraid that we are losing the unique genetic gene pool that the Kenai is world famous for,” he said.

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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WRO
116
Points
WRO 08/01/13 - 06:54 am
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Thanks

I spend a lot of time researching fishery issues, politics, and try to take a realistic view of all the issues.

Any thoughts on the counting of sub 30" fish in the overall escapement as they provide relatively little added fecundity to the overall run? This year, nearly 40% of the fish counted so far are under 30".. Not good for this years overall spawning success.

19581958
77
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19581958 08/01/13 - 03:58 pm
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Kenai River Garbage

I was down on the beach walking my two dogs (Mouth of the Kenai River) after all the Anchorage/Non Resident tourist left with their bounty. What a stink that was left behind. This includes the garbage, fish guts, human waste, crack pipes, needles, and litter. Really? What has this Kenai town come to???

GITERDONE
53
Points
GITERDONE 08/02/13 - 04:51 am
0
0
Maybe I was wrong!

Hey, I guess from the posts here that since the fish belong to us it should be our right to just have a free for all and take whatever we can get our greedy little paws on. Maybe the commercial and sport fishermen and guides should have the same right and attitude? The 1000 lb per boat I commented on came from two dip netters at a gas station in Kenai. When I asked them how well they did. They both stated that each of their boats netted over 1000 lb of fish! I don't know if it was legal or not, but I am not throwing out a bunch of BS as some have stated. We have been blessed with great runs of fish and everyone is not hurting now, I am trying to think forward here and see what is coming for the future, I guess that the fishermen 20 years in the future will just get what they get, as long as we can pillage recourses now it is not our problem. The impact is not just Alaskans doing what they do. It is more of a global problem with other countries lack of conservation. I can remember 28 years ago fishing from the beach in Kenai at the peak of the run and I was the only one there! The crowds will continue to increase and so will the impact. I say that we all need to take a realistic look at not today, but what our grandchildren are going to have left after we are done. 28 years ago there were also excess of 50 Beluga whales in the mouth of the river keeping me company when I fished there. They are gone, at least most of them. The King runs are weak, I used to catch Halibut 5 miles out of Homer and the average fish weight was likely more than 3 times what fishermen are catching and keeping now 20 miles out, are we going to do our part to make the Reds next?
I can imagine myself fishing humpy's with a no bait and non barbed hook rule and a 1 fish limit in another ten years. That is a sad thought. And Yes, the Red escapements are great now as the Halibut were great in the 80's and the Kings were great in the 90's. I wish someone would have had some foresight on those issues to put us in a better place now.

WRO said it right, it is everyone's problem. Do we want really to wait until an alligator is biting our a&% before we decide to drain the swamp?

And yes, all takers of game, fish, moose, deer, fish or otherwise need to be accountable totally for their waste or miss use.

Also: I did not say dip netters are taking too many fish though it is increasing at a rapid rate, if the people that had over 1000 lb of fish in their boat are going to utilize them for their families, I have no problem with that. What I said was I do not want to see that fish getting sold, traded, given to others out of state, wasted, fed to dogs & chickens or otherwise used in an inappropriate manor.

I guess you really have to be specific here or very simple language gets severely twisted in it's meaning. What I said was basically was, don't take more than you need. It is up to you to soud decision on what it is that you need before your boat is full.

If you are a commercial fisherman "what you need" is governed by the state, not by common sense or moral values which is another issue all in itself.
The State seems to run more on $ and politics than on common sense.
"But" we do always have the right to vote.

How can the owner of a resource get out of hand accessing his own property? Try eating your seed potatoes today then see what next years crop looks like.

Or ask the American Indians. It can all easily be redistributed to others like everything else has been lately. ( keep on top of your politicians or another right will surely be treaded on.)

GITERDONE
53
Points
GITERDONE 08/02/13 - 04:18 am
0
0
?

You don't have to be a family if 15 to legally take 1000 lb of fish from one boat, Just 4 friends in a boat with a family of four each, it's just math.

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