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Kenai king salmon could benefit from enhancement

Posted: February 21, 2014 - 9:53am

The last two weeks have been busy for the Board of Fisheries. As a guide, lodge manager and avid fisherman, I was listening intently to as much as I could, especially regarding the Kenai and Kasilof king salmon returns.

Unfortunately, but obviously, there was much disagreement among the attendees and the various fishing interests involved. I am convinced that there will probably never be a consensus.

However, one significant proposal received little attention. That was stocking or enhancing the Kenai salmon runs. From what I was able to hear, ADF&G has the ability to enhance a run without prior approval. The question then becomes, why hasn’t this happened?

If the numbers are correct (according to testimony), 10 female salmon taken from their native environment and fertilized with the help of sperm from a few male salmon, could produce 1,250 mature returning fish. Arguments occur regarding 2,000-plus salmon that setnetters supposedly catch while sockeye fishing, yet 20 adult females could easily replace those fish.

It certainly would be a proud statement to make that “Kenai salmon are not enhanced and are one of the last native stocks in the world.” But without enhancement and with continued depletion of stocks for numerous reasons we can all only point fingers at results (while pointing at each other). Hence, the statement will be “Kenai salmon WERE one of the last native stocks in the world and now they are sadly gone.”

I am not a biologist, I am simply a sportsman. I also believe commercial fisherman have a right to make a living just like I do as a guide. I also think commercial fisherman would support such an initiative of enhancement, because it would reduce some of the pressure on them.

Rumor has it that funding is an issue. That would seem like a legitimate reason, but I would think that with some effort between Peninsula fisherman, guides, commercial fisherman, lodges and local businesses downstream of the revenue, that the financial concerns could easily be minimized.

Another reason is that sportsman do not want an enhanced fishery. Some may and some may not, but the state has the tools to easily extrapolate a “poll” to see where the average sportsman stands.

I have spoke to many guides and we all seem to think that done properly, an enhancement program would benefit the fishery long term. Again, easy enough to find out.

I have been fishing the Kenai since the late 80s and the arguments are still between the same groups and the results are the same — an annual decline in numbers and sizes of the prized Kenai king salmon. By the time this issue is fixed, even if enhancement were to take place, I will be retired or in “the Kenai in the Sky.” For the benefit of the fish and its legacy, please do something about this!

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pengy 02/22/14 - 08:23 am
Bad idea. All you have to

Bad idea.

All you have to do is look at the other enhanced fisheries in UCI like Ship Creek, Kasilof, Ninilchik, etc., and the kings aren't finding their way back. It would be wasted money and effort to do this on the Kenai.

AK4LIFE 02/22/14 - 09:51 am
Good idea

Don't see anything wrong with this idea, beings Kenai kings where actually planted from Columbia river eggs decades ago! They seemed to have thrived & come back just fine until there spawning grounds where over fished & there habitat severely disturbed.

I suppose, yes it would be a waste of money & effort if we don't do anything in-river to protect them!

pengy 02/22/14 - 10:15 am
Do you have any proof of

Do you have any proof of Columbia River eggs being planted in the Kenai? It's an urban myth that keeps on being repeated.

As far as your last comment is concerned, explain to me how Ship Creek stocked (enhanced) salmon aren't making it back? Too much retention of smolt by the sport fisherman? The smolt are released in the creek, migrate to the ocean, and have been coming back in such low numbers that the fishery has been restricted. Pretty simple to see where the problem is.

Both UCI inlet sport and commercial fisherman are fighting over the scraps that make it back.

AK4LIFE 02/22/14 - 10:32 am
Hunting & fishing in the territory of alaska

We'll beings I wasn't born yet & didn't see it with my own eyes I can't say 100%. But if you want to ck out the book above from the library it's a good read. An autobiography by ward gay, whom was involved with the fire lake hatchery that stocked these fish in the Kenai. An actual guide whom fished the river before there were kings.

And I'm also not sure that I know any commercial fisherman that are fighting over the scraps of what's left of the kings. As far as I know they only seek out & fish sockeye. They do get bycatch, but if they had a choice or way around them they certainly would. I only know of commercial guides that seek out, target & fight over the scraps. Which is sad in itself that you refer to them as scraps!

Are we done bickering yet ;) probably not! So sad!

pengy 02/22/14 - 01:00 pm
No bickering. Guess what, I

No bickering.

Guess what, I have Ward Gays' autobiography. Let me quote you how this idea was started.

According to Gay, when he asked an unidentified person about king fingerlings at the Fire Lake Hatchery he said, "Don't say anything about it but the eggs came from the mouth of the Columbia River."

No one else has confirmed this. Only a journal entry from one man and his knowledge came second hand. This is how urban legends are born.

AK4LIFE 02/22/14 - 01:29 pm

Well, I guess that's your perception of it. I disagree! There's more to that statement you quoted & the story that leads up to it & what's said after it. And don't you think that if ship creek didn't get stocked there would be nothing at all? Regardless, you are right that it would be a waste if we can't provide the fish a stable environment to spawn. I just hope that we all can at least agree that the fish can not continue to thrive the way things are being ran & there won't be future returns without help. Over & out on this subject.

JoeRay Skrha_Attorney at Law
JoeRay Skrha_Attorney at Law 02/23/14 - 02:14 am
Stocking Kings... BAD IDEA !!!

Show me a river system that still has a run of native stock of 7 year king salmon. The Columbia use to have a run of 8 year king salmon but they were destroyed when the damns went in. Now the Columbia has almost entirely a hatchery return. Do you want that in the Kenai River? If so, the Kenai will be no different than the Kasilof. Sure it has some kings in it but do you think people will come from all over the world to fish "hatchery fish"? I don't think so. So unless your a commercial fisherman who would love to see the unique King Salmon disappear so they can catch their sockeye in peace, I suggest you do some more research on the value of native wild 7 year King Salmon and why it's best to bring these kings back naturally.

leewaytooo 02/23/14 - 05:09 am
so, IF the adfg sonar results

so, IF the adfg sonar results are correct.....

2013 late run kings escapement 17,028,

supposedly 87% of all kings make it into the river


12.998% being caught in the inlet,
8.27% being caught in river

inlet caught equals 2,544
river caught equals 1,619
difference equals 925

the total amount of late run kings would be 19,572

the total red escapement is given as 1,358,781
plus inlet harvest of 2,746,000
total 4,101,781

add the king total of 19,572
equals 4,121,353

the percentage of late king run to red run is .00474%


what percentage of the late king run would the COMMERCIAL
in river guides consider to be their share?

it would seem that they would prefer they be given
more consideration in order to play with EVERYONE'S food...

in considering the numbers it would make sense to

support the setnetters and drift fisherpeople... as the

value of their efforts to everyone's economic well being, far

exceed what is produced by the COMMERCIAL guides and

their playing with everyone's food.

doesn't make sense to punish the group that is producing
more for the sake of the group that wants more from
less at the expense of the everyone.

how many of those COMMERCIAL guides think
communism is the answer??? not one is my guess.

and yet that is what they want. take from the one's that
produce more, to benefit the few that produce less.

AK4LIFE 02/23/14 - 10:06 am

Wow, we're do you get the nerve to say something like commercial fisherman just want the kings to go away so they can fish for sockeye in peace. I know it's a sensitive subject when you have a market for wild kenai kings & it's the bases for your income, but that statement, seriously! It amazes me the mentality of some Alaskans, well I assume u are. Commercial fisherman are no different then you & I. There are our neighbors, they take there kids/family sport fishing to. There's no way they would ever want such a thing. There not corporations that just come in fish the resource & leave. A majority of them are locals whom grew up on this river & live on the river. And there the only ones I see doing anything to try & conserve this resource, other than other locals that live on the river. In fact commercial fisherman pay 2% of there income to fund conservation & habitat, all of them!! And people don't come from all over the world to just fish kings, its the whole experience. That's not all alaska has to offer. You act like if there wasn't a wild king there would be no tourists. My business does just fine accommodating many tourists that don't come here to fish the kenai.

Alaskaborn 02/23/14 - 04:38 pm
Ward Gay's story is just

Ward Gay's story is just that, a story. The Columbia River fish were stocked into a trib that flows into Seward, not the Kenai. Even if some fish got stocked into the Kenai, that doesn't make Kenai fish a hybridized stock. It would take multiple years of stocking to do that. In fact, Kenai kings genetically are no where close to Columbia River or any West Coast stock. That's already been looked at and confirmed by F&G genetics staff.

Stocking fish on top of wild stocks does nothing to help the wild fish. It only helps the people who want to keep fishing. F&G just needs to stay the coarse and reduce harvest to meet escapement goals until ocean conditions become more favorable for juvenile kings and coho.

cheapersmokes 03/06/14 - 09:15 am
Catch and Release Only with Barb less hooks!

Why don't you just close the fishery for a couple of years or open it only for catch and release with barb less hooks.

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