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Sport fishery reaping what it sowed

Posted: August 8, 2011 - 9:26am

In answer to Greg Brush’s question, “Are our Kenai kings done?” published in the Peninsula Clarion on Aug. 4, no, Kenai kings are not done, but the big Kenai kings might be, and, as I see it, it is the guides and sport fishery in general who are to blame.

What rancher in his right mind continually, year after year, kills off and harasses the biggest and best of his herd and expects anything but ruination?

Moreover, I believe that the great, unacknowledged villain decimating the big kings is catch and release, which, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game mortality studies, kills outright one of every 12 kings subjected to catch and release. Additionally, either God or nature has programmed those fish entering the river to spawn with enough vigor to accomplish that goal. How many times must a big king be caught, played with, and released before its spawning vigor is compromised, before it no longer retains enough vitality to dig a redd and spawn?

The sport fishery is reaping what it has sowed, and the proof of that fact is the first run of Kenai kings, which is not subjected to gill-nets at all yet. It too is being decimated by sport anglers.

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akmark50
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akmark50 08/08/11 - 12:24 pm
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Sport Fishing vs King Vitality

I liked John Nelson's article because John seems to really care about the King Chinook Salmon in the Kenai River. Sport Fishing is what it is. If you like to eat King Salmon and you aren't a Commercial fisherman, you do have a purpose out there sport fishing for King Salmon meat. I have to agree with John, keep what you catch and forget the catch and release. Catch and Release is, if you think about it, is pretty inhumane. Do you catch and release any other game? Try to catch and release a Duck, Moose or Caribou? It's painful to the fish and the stress it experiences can lead to it's mortality anyway. The most humane thing is to kill the fish and keep it for food regardless of it's size. To me, the answer is to limit the fishing season for Kings on all rivers, including the Kasilof to something like weekends only, just like the Anchor, Deep Creek and Ninilchik Rivers. I know that will kill a lot of the guide income, but, it shouldn't be about guides making money at the expense of killing all the Kings. It's about management of a fishery so everyone including the guides and King Chinook have a healthy survival.

jimbob
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jimbob 08/08/11 - 01:01 pm
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What is the Answer?

I must respectfully disagree with some of Mr. Nelson's opinion. In one paragraph he laments the killing off and harrassing of the best in the herd while in the next he opposes catch and release stating that one out of 12 kings is killed by catch and release. Seems to me that 11 surviving Kings is better than 12 dead ones, if that was the only option. There are many steps that could be taken including commercial fisheries, further limiting guides time on the river,harvesting the biggest fish for hatchery use and supplementing the natural run in the Kenai before the best genetics are gone. I for one, hope that the F&G errs on the side of the Kings and takes aggressive action sooner than later. If that takes the form of shutting the season for a few years, so be it. I suspect the real culprit is that the Kings are being stolen on the high seas by foreign interests. It is not fair to lay the blame on guides and sport fisheries alone.

drudge
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drudge 08/08/11 - 03:32 pm
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@jimbob

"[...] kills outright one of every 12 kings [...]" means that the fish dies directly after the C&R.

This doesn't take into account several other ways that the fish can die later on:

- Physical exertion from fighting the hook causes lactic acid buildup, dropping their fragile pH balance. Even slight changes in pH have been known to cause major disruptions of the metabolic process. It may take up to 3 days for the fish to die from this imbalance.

- Hook wounds in the gill or stomach areas are almost always fatal. Baited hooks are far more likely to end up in the gill or stomach area.

- Bacterial/fungal infection from the loss of their protective mucous layers, caused by nets and handling.

calcan2
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calcan2 08/08/11 - 03:47 pm
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King fishing on the Kenai

I have to agree with Mr Nelson's viewpoint. I remember back in the late 1980's when the average weight of Kenai Kings was somewhere around 70lbs. It's like any other animal husbandry program, you cull out all the big one's and after a time all you have is smaller animals. As for hook and release, that is the biggest piece of BS I have ever heard of. Why is it acceptable to do that with any animal. If you don't intend to keep it, you should not be fishing. There is absolutely no excuse for taking the chance of killing an animal for our enjoyment. I am not against hunting or fishing, I just think it is disrespectful of the resources. I also lay the blame directly on the guides, (or anyone else) who target only the largest of the Kenai kings.

kenaibear2001
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kenaibear2001 08/08/11 - 08:01 pm
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Let's say it like most are thinking...........

The Dept of Fish and Game, needs to come up with a "Fish Stimulus" program like the Federal Government did with money. However, instead of printing phony money to spread around, fill the Kenai with 'rubber blow-up' Kings. That way everyone would be able to catch a Stimulus King, and think all is well.

akal
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akal 08/09/11 - 10:04 am
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agree

the guides are really Commercial fishers as they are out for money. they clog the best holes and ruin the river , I see many here already denying the real cause of the Kings demise , look in the mirror guides you have caused the King fishery to die, out of greed.the Kenai was great until the guides arrived, now look small fish and soon many less . now they destroy the Kasilof you can see the lines of trucks towing boats every day on Cohoe loop as they rake in their ill gotten gain.they should be regulated more but have powerful lobbys that ruin fishing for all of us.

akmark50
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akmark50 08/09/11 - 02:10 pm
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Guide Greed and Guilt

AK Al hit the nail on the head! Ouch, the Truth hurts. Having been a guide myself, I have felt the guilt of taking people out when I knew the fishing was poor and knew the clients had high hopes of catching fish that day.

Booking people during the off season or a year in advance in a "Prime fishing time" slot is a crap shoot, we all know that. Prime fishing time can vary from year to year by days, even by a week if weather conditions are abnormal. My thinking had been and I think many of the guides would agree,"if people are willing to pay to play, what the hey." I tried to keep my bookings in the Prime fishing slot, but I know that many of the popular guides book as many people as they could way early as they do way late, telling their clients in January to March, "Sure, you have a chance to hook a powerful King in May, that's when the biggest King in the world was caught." Truth is, most every guide knows that catching a King in May is rare on the Kasilof and Kenai over the past ten years or more.

I hate to admit, Greed of big money for very little work is a huge problem among some of the guides on the Kenai Peninsula. Along with the greed is everything else, not caring about anyone else but themselves...been there. Hoging the popular holes, getting to the launch as early as you can in the AM and getting to a spot to wait until time to fish to get ahead of the other guides and locals, pinching off or corking off people who have waited ahead of you to drift through a popular hole.

I saw a guide on the Kasilof from Alaska Drifters dragging his anchor through one of the most popular holes a couple of weeks ago because he was too lazy to back row for his clients. I was on the bank just scouting out the river for Kings and Reds. All the guides know that practice is illegal. (It's a spawning area in July for one.) He made only one pass dragging his anchor all the way through the stretch from People Hole down and went on through while other guides before him walked their boats up after their first pass and made numerous passes to try and get their clients kings, which several did successfully. I can't imagine that that was the first time this guide service has dragged his anchor when he thought no one around knew what he was doing wrong.

It's time for some big changes in the fishing practices of a lot of guides, full time sports fishermen in June and July and other commercial fishermen if the King salmon runs are going to improve. The Anchor point and Ninilchik salt water charters are also now targeting the Kasilof and Kenai Kings since they couldn't fish for halibut this year. That's a big change. Some are doing quite well I hear at mooching for Kings and using downrigging to sucker the big kings to a herring bait. Maybe they know something no one else knows?

OK, I've said my piece, but, I do hope we find a positive solution before we loose a beautiful resource that is still salvagable.

akmscott
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akmscott 08/09/11 - 07:43 pm
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Yeah-the commercial boys have

Yeah-the commercial boys have nothing to do with it-right?You remind me of a monk flogging himself!Sport fishing would have no impact if so many fish were not taken long before they even got close to the rivers!Put most of the blame where its deserved!

witchwitch
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witchwitch 08/10/11 - 10:16 am
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Which commercial boys???

Anyone who tries to fish the Kenai River can see that it absolutely covered up with guide boats full of clients. Trying to blaim " commercial red fishermen" for the damage done by the "commercial sport fishing guides" is very short sighted.

Commercial fisherman do not even touch the first run of kings... Where did they go???

Commercial sport fishing interests are destroying the Kenai River. The dipnet fishery intercepts Kings also. Have you seen the thousands of boats full of dippers, who catch hundreds of thousands of salmon. How many kings do you suppose they intercept? At a 1% rate, 500 to 1000+ would be intercepted.

Sports fishing interests dominate the politics of the fish in Alaska and are going to ultimately destroy what they love, all because of greed. Blame away and keep, taking, taking, taking...

akmark50
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akmark50 08/11/11 - 08:54 am
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Everyone Looses, including the Fish

I do have a small argument in favor of Sportfishers. They put one heck of a lot of money into the local and state economy that helps everyone out...local schools, local tax pressure, local businesses. When a Sports Fisher comes to the Kenai Peninsula, they sometimes fly to Kenai, or rent a car or motor home in Anchorage. They put into the economy. They also help the economy when they rent a room for the night or stay at a lodge, buy gasoline for their car or motor home, shop for groceries or fishing tackle locally, have their fish processed, go out to a restaurant to eat, hire a guide or charter, need local services for car, health, taxi... whatever, it all helps the local and state economy. So, Sportfishing is important as well as Commercial fishing. The help for the economy stacks up more on the tourism side of Sportfishing for sure, so there needs to be a balance to help both sides equally. How that is done may require some outside help, a mediary, to help make a non bias decission for the best outcome for the most at stake for advantage to the local economy. Be it as it may, we need to save the big Kings wearing the big genes.

s2wheel
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s2wheel 08/12/11 - 08:03 am
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all

they need to close the taking of kings regardless of who is catching them the commercial fishing are just as much to blame as sport,you are right akmark50 sport fishing bring a lot of money into the state,and by the way most setnetters are not local so after the season they take their money home, it does not stay in the state. of the percentage of fish caught each year setnetters take the most,drifters are second and sport and dipnetters equaly take third (dipnetters are not allowed to take kings), I do not mean to bash the commercial guys my dad was a commercial guy and I do know it is hard work, but to blame just the sport fishing is wrong because they are not the only ones taking the kings, do some research and compare how many kings go through sport and how many go through commercial.

5akman
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5akman 08/19/11 - 01:02 pm
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What's changed, the commercial river involvement!

Commercial fishing has been limited entry since 1974, meaning that there no more permits being issued, its a fixed number. Compare that to the guides which at last look, was somewhere around 600 licensed to fish the Kenai Peninsula. If since the beginning of time or at least since 1974, the king catch has remained more or less the same by commercial fisherman, what has changed in terms of the king returns to the Kenai? The only "new" manipulation of the stocks is the number of folks accessing the fish "in river". Limit this access somehow and I'd bet we'd see the run revive itself.

On another note, I can guarantee you that I, as a commercial fisherman, dump more into the economy than anyone realizes. Everything from fuel, meals, permits/fees/insurance, raw product to keep the processors going who then dump millions into the borough tax coffers.

s2wheel
55
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s2wheel 08/19/11 - 06:28 pm
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I dont know wheather you were

I dont know wheather you were there or not about 6 years ago they let the commercial guys drift in the mouth of kasilof river,now some of the commercial guys refused to fish there,they thought it wrong, my hat off to them. the ones that did fish there shame on you ,and you are not going to tell me they did not catch any kenai kings since these fish run up the shoreline come up the mouth of the kasilof and then back out to the kenai, there was no fish escapment the days they did this, and by the way they did this not one year but 2 or 3 years in a row. If they close down one fisherier then close them all down,and lets face it tourism is a growing bussiness.

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