Current weather

  • Clear sky
  • 64°
    Clear sky
  • Comment

Sustaining on the Kenai

Posted: September 13, 2012 - 3:57pm  |  Updated: September 13, 2012 - 5:06pm

On Monday of this week, while fishing for silver salmon on the lower Kenai River, I boated a silver salmon. This fish was on the small side, about seven pounds, not one of the 10-pound-plus silvers that usually arrive this time of year. Nonetheless, it had special meaning for me. Except for a few tired pink salmon, it was the first salmon I had caught in the Kenai River this year.

I’ve fished the Kenai only three times this year, a record low for the 40 years I’ve been fishing it.

The year began with a poor return of king salmon, so I chose to not fish for them at all. The three times I fished for silvers produced only the one mentioned above, so I’m through for the year.

The main reason I chose to move to the Kenai Peninsula and live here in 1978 was for the excellent king and silver fishing. For these salmon runs to be in such poor condition now is a dark day for me, as well as for many others.

There were times this summer when I could’ve fished the Kenai, but didn’t. When a salmon’s ability to reproduce is threatened, it doesn’t need me bothering it.

Salmon runs are inherently unpredictable, even without degradations by humans of fish habitat. All it takes is a “last straw,” say, a change in ocean temperature or current, and the runs fail to return.

It should by now be obvious to even the most casual observer that being a Kenai River fishing guide or an East-side set netter isn’t a sustainable way of making a living for very many people.

What’s a fisheries manager to do?

If it had been up to me, I’d have closed the Kenai and Kasilof to king salmon fishing for the entire month of July, not just for the final 12 days. There would’ve been no catch-and-release fishing. If there’s no harvestable surplus of salmon, playing with them for “sport” ought to be unthinkable, an attitude that puts me at odds with those who think the economic value of fisheries has priority over all other considerations.

For more than a decade, Kenai River guides and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) have wielded an unhealthy amount of influence on the Alaska Board of Fisheries. In 2002, these groups supported a “catch-and-release-only” fishery, even when there was a harvestable surplus of early-run kings. The board went along with them, but after several months of protest by anglers, most of the it’s-OK-to-play-with-salmon-but-don’t-take-them-home rules were rescinded.

But fighting over natural resources never truly ends. Now the KRSA is asking the fish board to consider changes to the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan when the board meets in January 2013. The current plan is obsolete, the group claims. What’s more, “The existing plan does not assure the long term sustainability for the stock nor does the current language of the plan provide for the orderly conduct of traditional fisheries under current conditions.”

Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust the KRSA or fishing guides to represent the common angler, the “Joe Fisherman” who would rather take home one salmon than play with 50. I’m all for sustainability of the stock, but only by significantly reducing fishing pressure can Kenai River salmon runs ever achieve sustainability.

Reducing the numbers of both Kenai River guides and East-side set netters would be a step in the right direction.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

  • Comment

Comments (9) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
KenaiKardinal88
383
Points
KenaiKardinal88 09/15/12 - 04:43 am
2
1
Agree With Palmer

Thanks again Les for a dose of common sense.

This summer I went red fishing on the Kenai, only to find that the guides were dropping client on top of me. I guess the guides couldn't fish kings, so they hit the reds like never before.

I believe the commercial fishers, with their bully attitude are to blame - but commercial fishing starts in the Gulf of Alaska, runs up the Inlet, and includes guides on the Kenai. The average Joe like me is pushed out, in spite of what our state Constitutions says about natural resource management.

julie
135
Points
julie 09/15/12 - 10:21 am
3
0
end salmon bycatch petition

The pollock trawlers are still fishing in the Bering Sea & Gulf as they have not met their bycatch limit of 25,000 kings in each region! If you understand what this means it means they are intercepting every fish kind while still out there fishing! Please sign and share petition: http://signon.org/sign/end-salmon-halibut-bycatch

freedomlibertytruth
1398
Points
freedomlibertytruth 09/15/12 - 02:38 pm
2
1
Sustaining on the Kenai River

Good letter. Catch and release does seem unnecessary. Fish for food, not for entertainment value. Fighting over natural resources never ends. Etc. many good points made by the writer.

spybot
92
Points
spybot 09/17/12 - 09:27 am
1
1
Catch and Release

Catch and release fishing occurs in many sport fisheries around the world. It is an accepted and legitimate form of fishing.

I guess the next article will complain that the rainbow and steelhead trout catch and release fisheries should be banned.

potomac
191
Points
potomac 09/18/12 - 12:51 pm
1
1
Thanks les for setting the record straight

it is a known fact catch and release kills and or disfigures a percentage of trout in any fishery. The harder a fishery is fished the more the percentage goes up. What isn't known is that same catch and release percentage on salmon, a fish who is there to spawn and die which most would agree is already stressed to the max. Why on earth would anyone want to continue this type of fishery in a crashed fishery such as the Kenai and Kasilof King fishery is only those out for the buck with total disregard for the fish in these fisheries

spybot
92
Points
spybot 09/23/12 - 05:02 pm
1
0
Potomac may not know, does mean info isn't available

Potomac - just cause you don't know something doesn't mean that valid information on the issue is not available.

The catch and release mortality on Kenai River king salmon using double hooks and bait was found to be about 7%, from research studies by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, available online.

The catch and release regulations in use today is for single hook, no bait.

Data indicates that the single hook, no bait fishery hooks between 15 to 20 percent of the fish that enter the river.

Multiply .20 by .07, and you get an effective mortality rate of about .014 as a high estimate.

That means out of 100 fish that enter the river in a catch and release fishery, 1.4% would die prior to spawning. For every 1,000 fish that enter the river, 14 would die from mortality a catch and release fishery, while 986 would go on to spawn.

Statistically, there is no effective difference between 986 spawners and 1,000 spawners. That means there is no measurable impact on the sustainability of king salmon from an in-river catch and release fishery.

Roger104
137
Points
Roger104 11/22/12 - 10:09 am
0
0
Your info sucks

Spybot,

Why do you assume that if a fish is caught and released and doesn't die, it will spawn successfully? Spawing success is what we should be concerned about, and that is an unkown.

Stress affects every animals' ability to spawn. Egg retention in spawned Sockeye is a proven fact. Unfortunately, we haven't studied Kings quite as carefully, but the same could be assumed for them.

Seafarer
1147
Points
Seafarer 11/22/12 - 12:57 pm
0
0
Why Blame Any But Yourselves?

You riverheads sure do place a lot of blame on everybody and everything, except yourselves! I do not like whine with my fish.

Too many guides, period. Illegal fishing on the Kenai, rampant. Underreporting, rampant. Law enforcment, nada.

And the icing on the cake is your bully, self-important, self-aggrandizing, and corrupt, KRSA.

Seafarer
1147
Points
Seafarer 11/22/12 - 12:54 pm
0
0
Why Blame Any But Yourselves?

You riverheads sure do place a lot of blame on everybody and everything, except yourselves! I do not like whine with my fish.

Too many guides, period. Illegal fishing on the Kenai, rampant. Underreporting, rampant. Law enforcment, nada.

Back to Top

Spotted

Please Note: You may have disabled JavaScript and/or CSS. Although this news content will be accessible, certain functionality is unavailable.

Skip to News

« back

next »

  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321268/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321253/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321248/
  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321243/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321208/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/320593/
  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321173/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321163/
My Gallery

CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS