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Kenai River king salmon conservation must come first

Posted: June 28, 2012 - 9:03am

For years everyone who spent very much time on the Kenai River fishing for kings knows our king salmon runs have been on the decline. Every year the optimist in us hopes we have seen the bottom and each year will get better. After what we have seen this year we have to be more proactive in getting more Kenai River king salmon back to the spawning beds. We can't control what happens while these kings are out in the marine life, but we can be instrumental in building these runs back to what they once were. This will take all user groups being proactive and forward thinking to build these runs back to previous high levels so we will have a viable "World Class" fishery. Save the special Kenai River king salmon, and provide the economic boost for tourism that our communities have enjoyed in the past, not to mention the excitement of catching these giants.

Through the Board of Fish process some have worked hard to put in place measures that have helped such as spawning closures, higher escapement goals, and then through this same process restrictions have been imposed on the sport fishermen to slow down harvest of these kings. Restrictions include cutting guide hours, cutting guide days, single hook usage, no bait or scents, catch-and-release, and total closure. Some regulations in the salt water have helped and will continue to help if followed, for example, commercial fishing closures "windows" that help pass fish into the river, redefining the fishing corridor for drift gillnets, and decoupling the Drift Fleet and the Set Net Fishermen. The inner setnets along the beach have the largest impact on kings returning to the rivers of their origin. 

If all user groups would put their heads together, be proactive and forward thinking, we could solve some of these complex issues regarding the declining Kenai River king salmon. 

It is better for the industry leaders to take corrective action that makes sense and will have less impact on their business. Having one user group closed while another user group targets the same fish is not responsible management of our Kenai River king salmon. For example, one early season opening for the Eastside commercial setnets fishery will catch more Kenai River king salmon than what we will save by the current Kenai River king salmon closure. 

We simply need more kings in the River! The fish have to come first!    

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CFFL 06/28/12 - 08:05 pm
KIng Conservation

I agree, all user groups will have to be proactive in the conservation of the Kenai River kings. However a couple of your statements are false. For one, anyone who has ever set net fished knows there are virtually no kings caught on the beach nets which you are referred to. The limited kings which are caught are primarily caught in the nets further off shore. Reds run right on the beach, kings further out. The issue which the guides keep forgetting is that they ARE the only user group which specifically targets Kenai River Kings. All commercial gillnet fisherman in cook inlet are targeting reds, the commercial entity is there to harvest the excess sockeye salmon once the escapement goals have been achieved.

So what would happen if all the set net fisherman get together and agree to release every live king salmon in there nets for the next 5 years in an effort to support the health of the king run. Would the guide association be willing to cut back and sacrifice some money out of there pocket for the health of the river?? Or would they go right back after the Kings and basically fish out the late run of kings just as they already have the early run.

Remember no one in cook inlet is specifically targeting Kenai River Kings except the guides.

Beach Boss
Beach Boss 06/29/12 - 12:40 am
King salmon

Mr. Goggia I 100% agree with your statement that it will take ALL user groups to help solve this complex issue regarding the declining Kenai River king salmon. Up until last year the commercial fishing user group has had 95% of the restrictions placed upon them.
The Set Net fisherman does not target king salmon. Their gear is set up to harvest the red salmon. Last year was one of the largest returns on red salmon, and there was less than 1% by catch of the king salmon.
Is it not time to look at putting number restrictions on the user group who actually target the kings? The number of "certified guides" is over 800. Where does this number end? Is the Kenai river just supposed to support the growing number of guides targeting the king salmon? Lets not forget what happened in Homer.
Your statement "having one user group closed while another user group targets the same fish is not responsible management of our Kenai River king salmon" is incorrect. Guides target the king salmon and Set Net fishermen target the red salmon. BIG DIFFERENCE. As of right now the set net fishermen have not fished an opener and there is a lot of support from the commercial fishermen because their target fish have not hit the rivers and they would like to see as many kings get to the river. But when the red salmon do hit the rivers they should be allowed to fish knowing that their by catch of king salmon is less than 1%.
Managing a strong sockeye run while dealing with a low king run is a very difficult job and will take all user groups to understand their roles.

kenai123 07/09/12 - 03:51 am
Well Mr. King salmon, when

Well Mr. King salmon, when you claim that set netters should be able to kill everything when the reds hit the rivers, what if a river only has one male and one female king salmon? Those nets start fishing and wild kings go extinct in that river forever. Do you still say the nets should be allowed to fish because of a 1% intercept factor? That 1% by-catch would mean extinction for those kings but you make zero allowance for stocks which have been pushed to the edge of extinction. Why would you do that? The answer is money and that kings just don't make you enough money. Also restrictions should go with the amount of the resource you are absorbing. Commercial fishing absorbs about 95% of our salmon so it should get 95% of the restrictions on any stock they are impacting. So much for your wining. You are correct that set netters don't openly target kings, they just kill them all and laugh about the day they will all be gone and won't have to account for them. I have commercial friend also and that is what they say when the cameras and recorders are turned off. Does it matter if a suicide bomber did not target you but somehow you became collateral damage? You are just as dead targeted or not. Set netters are collaterally wiping out king stocks which are not allocated to them. These kings have been officially allocated to sportfishing anglers and guides, the same guide you so hate. Set netters are stealing these kings which are not allocated to them, you cannot compare angler targeting and set net targeting of kings, they are not the same. Guides target kings because they have been allocated to them and the public by regulation, gill netters have not been allocated these kings so it is not possible to compare anglers king targeting with gill net king targeting. This is nothing but pure gill net lying spin. Also you are not telling the truth about the number of guides on the Kenai River because those guide numbers have been declining for years now. If you wish to speak of being responsible for your words why are you lying so much?
Why don't you tell the world that you are stealing kings which have not been allocated to you? Why pretend that you wish to not kill king salmon when we both know that it's not true? If you were stopped from fishing because you killed kings, I guarantee that you would quickly begin using nets which would not kill kings. The gear is out there and you know it you just refuse to use it because it may cost you a couple reds. Yes you are correct that managing a strong sockeye run while dealing with a low king run is a very difficult job but you specifically refuse to test new gear to avoid kings for a reason. Why would you do that?
Maybe it means that you do not REALLY care about the future of our king salmon? Yes I think that is no doubt correct.

kenai123 07/09/12 - 03:54 am
Salmon conservation? just stop killing and dumping kings!

Managing king salmon stocks on the Kenai River is not a job for the faint hearted. From 1980 to 1990 our Kenai River king runs were much more predictable than today. The main reason these runs were more predicable then is because there were less humans attempting to intercept them back then. King salmon commercial by-catch issues back then were at a minimum as Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak and Cook Inlet commercial fisheries intercept factors were very low. By 1990 those commercial intercept factors began taking huge bites out of Alaska's extremely strong king runs. Commercial fisheries which had only been by-catching a few thousand kings annually suddenly exploded and began intercepting hundreds of thousands of these kings between 1980 and 2000. Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet commercial fisheries basically sell their king by-catch and Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska commercial fisheries kill their kings and throw them away dead back into the ocean. These Bering Sea and Gulf kings must be dumped dead because it is illegal to sell them. All of this basically comes down to hundreds of thousands of kings being annually removed from Alaska's saltwater before they have a chance to return and spawn within their home rivers and streams. Year after year of this ocean shredding of our king resource has had a tremendous cumulative effect thus resulting in the general suppression of all Cook Inlet king stocks.
It was in 2002 that these commercial by-catch factors first began having an effect on the Kenai River sportfish environment That effect showed up as both first and second
king runs began showing up late along with a size reduction. At first we notice these runs only showing up a few days later than normal. Eventually the few days turned into
weeks as our "second run king arrival" moved from the first week of July to the second and then even sometimes on into the third week. Occasionally our second run of kings would show up in the first or second week of July but in general the run had been destabilized and was very unpredictable by 2002.

Currently we are forced to expect our late run of kings to show up at just about anytime between July 1st - 25th. This run instability did not need to happen; it is the direct result of run-away commercial saltwater by-catch factors These by-catch factors were also first notice by fisheries managers in 2002 but few of them could convince themselves that our saltwater commercial fisheries were capable of such dramatic and far reaching run changes. Today we have modern fisheries managers who are "still unaware" of the history behind this delayed July king entry pattern on the Kenai River. These managers basically take a short-term view of this situation and interpret this wildly fluctuating entry pattern as some kind of recent event. Because these managers assume a freshwater king problem, they attempt to resolve the problem with only freshwater solutions. These chosen freshwater solutions are usually only freshwater sportfish restrictions. These fisheries managers are incorrectly applying freshwater fisheries solutions to a saltwater problem. This improper assessment / solution format then basically results in a delayed reaction to
actually resolving the source saltwater problem. This incorrect problem solving can be compared to placing a bandage on cancer and somehow expecting the problem to go away. Using freshwater solutions to remedy saltwater problems creates even more problems as fisheries managers are lulled into a false sense of security, while they stop looking for real solutions.The end result of following this kind of a false logic and problem solving, is that everyone stands around for years waiting for saltwater slaughtered kings to return to the freshwater. If a person desires evidence of what is happening here they need only view the results of decades worth's of king salmon freshwater restrictions on anglers
in the Cook Inlet area. All of these extensive freshwater restrictions have resulted in fewer and fewer kings returning to Cook Inlet.

At this time Kenai River king salmon stocks require a fisheries manager with an extremely cool hand. The realization that our Cook Inlet king troubles ARE NOT
freshwater based must dominate the solution debate and resulting regulatory changes. Most of our proposed king salmon, freshwater regulatory changes should be viewed for what they actually are, superficial camouflage for a much deeper rooted problem within the saltwater. It is not rational to continue assuming that short-term freshwater regulatory solutions will in anyway address this long-term saltwater king salmon problem.

Would you like ocean by-catch of king salmon to END? Sign the Petition.

smithtb 07/15/12 - 05:53 pm
King gear

Most UCI gillnets' mesh size is between 4-7/8 & 5-1/4". This is considered sockeye gear. It is not what we would use to target kings. In fact, we are limited by regulation with respect to our gear size, and cannot fish the large mesh that would specifically target kings. Limits and regulations. What a concept. Perhaps if there were a few more limits on our in river fishery, things might be different. Nobody can lie about the number of guide boats on the river, because NO ONE KNOWS HOW MANY THERE ARE!!!

123, do you honestly think we laugh about the fact that the King runs are in the dumps? Do you really think that we wish for the devastation of the largest, most valuable, and best tasting fish in our Inlet? 78% of UCI gillnetters are residents, and many have harvested these runs, responsibly I might add, all of their lives.

Do your peers actually agree with you? They should be embarrassed that you are speaking for the guiding community in general. Shame on you. Your lack of respect for our wildlife, our community, and the hard working people in it is shameful.

Michael Meade MBA
Michael Meade MBA 10/01/12 - 01:15 pm
The great famine

As a regular visitor to alaska every summer i have had the pleasure of fishing some of the finest rivers the state has to offer. I have fished exstensively through-out the world for many many years. However ,during the month of july 2008 whilst on my way to the goodnews river i was forced to spend a couple of days at a small village prior to my final journey. Having extra time to spend on my hands i had time to take in the local sites. During this time i was alerted to the fact that the village had a small fish processing factory. Further investigation showed that they were just about to recieve a consignment of freshly caught fish. The owner of the factory was very wellcoming to me and gave me a tour of his factory.I can remember it so well. At the rear of the factory the owner showed me the hundred's of box's of fish that were due to be processed. There were hundred's and hundred's in row after row, stacked high to the ceiling. They looked entirely like the type of box's used in Ireland to gather patatoes. They,by my estimation , could carry up-to one ton of fish in each box.When the owner showed me the contents of the box's i nearly had a heart attack. These were not sockeye's ,coho's or chums....No ,these were the most prized fish of all .They were king salmon. Not hundred's or thousands ,but ten's of thousands of fish destined for the processor.There is simply no words to describe this type of carnage. It is suicide on a biblical scale. This was one small village. Coming form Ireland we are acutely aware of the social, economic and demographic scares that a famine will leave....There is one coming in Alaska, you cannot see it yet-------The king fishery needs to be put in intensive care.It needs to be put on life support. Total catch and release now,across the boards.....No questions

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