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Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Four men and a dog spent a leisurely morning fishing Tuesday during the opening day of king salmon fishing on the Kenai River Tuesday July 1, 2014 near Poacher's Cove in Soldotna, Alaska. Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers said guided and unguided anglers reported slow fishing. The king salmon fishery has been restricted to catch-and-release fishing with a barbless hook, due to low numbers of returning salmon.

Kenai River king salmon restricted to catch-and-release

Managers say they may still close the river if numbers don't improve

Posted: July 17, 2014 - 1:25pm  |  Updated: July 17, 2014 - 3:00pm

After a slow start and declining return projections, the Kenai River king salmon fishery will move to catch-and-release fishing beginning Saturday through the season’s July 31 ending.

For the first time in Alaska’s history, the catch-and-release fishery will be accompanied by a restriction to barbless hooks.

Starting Saturday, king salmon caught in the Kenai River cannot be retained or in possession and cannot be removed from the water — they must be released immediately, according to a Thursday emergency order.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game defines a barbless hook as one that is either manufactured without a barb or has a barb that has been completely removed or compressed so the barb is in complete contact with the shaft of the hook.

While there have been studies showing that barbless hooks reduce the efficiency of anglers, there have yet to be conclusive results showing that a barbless hook reduces the chance that a fish will die after it has been caught, said Fish and Game area management biologist Robert Begich.

“We will still be using an 8.25 percent mortality rate in our calculations,” he said.

During the 2013 fishing season when Fish and Game moved to catch-and-release fishing on the early run of king salmon, fewer than 80 fish were caught and Fish and Game managers estimated that of those, five fish died, according to data Begich presented to Alaska’s Board of Fisheries in February.

Though catch-and-release fishing sharply reduces the number of king salmon killed in the sport fishery, Begich said the restriction alone would not be enough to help managers make the fish’s escapement goal.

"This is a step down measure that’s going to give us some time … to see if the fish are going to come in,” Begich said.

If the king salmon passage rate, or number of fish that make it upriver past the sonar, does not improve managers will further restrict the fishery.

“Then the next step is to close,” he said.

Begich said managers were hopeful that the passage rate would “come up quite a bit.”

Fishing with barbed hooks is still permissible with other species on the Kenai River including red salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.

The barbless hook regulation, a new one for the Kenai River and for the state, was passed during the final day of the Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting on the Upper Cook Inlet.

The seven-member board considered, modified and ultimately approved a proposal originally submitted by the president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, Dave Martin.

“I believe it’s the only time we’ve ever adopted a regulation that talks about barbless hooks in the state,” said Board of Fisheries chairman Karl Johnstone during the meeting.

Johnstone said that he considers the barbless hook regulation, which applies only to catch-and-release king fishing on the Kenai River, a conservation measure that reduces the handling time of the fish.

Moving to barbless hooks was discussed extensively during the meeting.

Fish and Game regional fisheries management coordinator Matt Miller told board members that using barbless hooks didn’t reduce the number of hooked fish that were killed — rather that the gear was inefficient and caused fewer fish to be caught.

Fish and Game staff comments on Martin’s proposal estimated that angler efficiency with barbless hooks was reduced between 11-24 percent while young and inexperienced anglers were disproportionately affected.

It may be difficult to find hooks that are manufactured barbless in the area.

Scott Miller, co-owner of Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna, said the store would not be stocking barbless hooks and would instead provide the tools to crimp a hook into being legal.

“We tried that about 15 years ago and no one bought them,” Miller said. “We sell a lot more files.”

Miller said he didn't think moving to catch-and-release fishing would be too significant as the king salmon fishery was already struggling this season.

“I was out there last night and I was the only boat,” he said. “I saw two fish caught and they were small.”

Stuart Cridge, of New Zealand, stopped into the hardware store and said he would still fish for king salmon even with the catch-and-release regulation.

Cridge, who said he had been fishing the Kenai River for 11 years has already practiced the method at least once this year when he caught a 66-pound king salmon Tuesday evening and let it go.

“My biggest one before that was 72-pounds,” he said with a grin. “But that was in ’06.”

Also new to 2014 management — commercial setnetting on the east side of the Cook Inlet will be restricted to 12 hours of fishing time per week when the Kenai River is restricted to catch-and-release. 

 

 

 

 

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mikehu
174
Points
mikehu 07/18/14 - 06:16 am
1
0
Catch and Wound

I never understood this part of fishing; you catch it, you keep it!

hunteralaska
115
Points
hunteralaska 07/18/14 - 06:55 am
5
0
Fish Management

What is it about the King Salmon decline that fish biologists don't understand? By allowing catch & release with barbless hooks they are still forcing an 8.25% mortality rate (by their own admission) and that translates directly to further decline in the population. What they do understand is economics, not fishery management. This process is exactly what happened in the northwest until the remaining run was so small they finally halted harvest. It has still not recovered. Managing a resource from an economic position is just plain short sided and greedy. For years the sport fishing industry has built a strong economic base here, but the fishery management has not adequately stood up for the resource. They have let the priority become money (we all know tourists spend money throughout our area, not just with expensive fishing trips).

You guys amaze me. Injecting common sense into the long term management of a resource is impossible. I've lived her since 1965 and caught lots of Kings on the Kenai. But I haven't fished it since 2006 because it's easy to see what's happening. Natives learn early on not to take more than they need because to sustain their culture and people, they must leave some for the future. That's a simple concept that ADF&G fisheries management has failed to embrace. By continuing to allow an 8.25% mortality rate, they are only prolonging the end. All the while looking at scientific data to spin towards their position. Really? How many times did they slap your mama when you were born?

cormit
247
Points
cormit 07/18/14 - 07:08 am
5
0
Kenai Kings

Kenai kings spawn in the main stem of the Kenai River. When kings enter the river they are in spawning mode, and all fishing targeting them, including catch and release, should be prohibited. There is reasonable opportunity to catch Kenai kings in the salt water before they enter the river to spawn. The in-river disruption to spawning kings .... with the effort focussed on the largest ones ..... is likely responsible for the genetic absence of the historic large kings.

kenai-king
255
Points
kenai-king 07/18/14 - 09:15 am
3
0
GREEDY FOOLS

They can't help themselves just incredible how stupid this is.

spybot
98
Points
spybot 07/18/14 - 10:40 am
3
0
Step down measure to closure

When the sport fishery for Kenai kings goes to catch and release, it is only a matter of time until the king fishery is closed to both anglers and set netters.

Minimum escapement is 15,000, and currently the end of season projection is less than 12,000. Only thing stopping the closure next week is a very large pulse of kings coming in over the weekend.

Going to catch and release in river allows the commercial set net fishery one more 12 hour opener. Most likely on the weekend or Monday.

Then turn out the lights. Season over for king anglers and set netters.

WRO
116
Points
WRO 07/18/14 - 11:31 am
0
1
Just food for thought

Hunter, I don't know where you got your 8.25% number for barbless single hooks. The total with multiple points and bait was near that with hooking location being the single largest factor in mortality. Take out bait and barbs, and the number is significantly lower.

That being said, the last few years, there has been no room for any take period! The only reason ADFG leaves it open is to allow for commercial take of sockeye salmon. I spent every summer in AK and lived on the peninsula for several years and haven't been back to fish for kings in 5 years because of how horrible the runs have been and the rampant mismanagement by the Alaska Department of Failure and Greed.

Cormit, the fishery off anchor point and in the lower inlet needs to be closed as well.

hunteralaska
115
Points
hunteralaska 07/19/14 - 09:04 am
1
0
Your food for thought?

If you read the article, you would know the 8.25% mortality rate for Kings came from the Fish and Game area management biologist Robert Begich. I mentioned where it came from in my comments. It's clear you didn't comprehend either.

mikehu
174
Points
mikehu 07/19/14 - 03:08 pm
1
0
That's all?

Seems it would be much higher than 8.25 percent. I like Cormit's take on this.

WRO
116
Points
WRO 07/20/14 - 08:05 am
0
1
Reading Comprehension

Hunter, the study was done using multiple point hooks, barbs, and bait. None of which are currently allowed during catch and release fishing. Hook placement is the number one factor in mortality. Its not hard to figure out that, with no bait the chances of a deep mortally hooked fish is very low. If you google the Toman Spring Chinook study, you can find additonal long term information on chinook mortality studies.

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