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Kings may be slow, but other fishing options abound

Posted: May 29, 2013 - 7:30pm  |  Updated: May 30, 2013 - 9:06am
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A man carries a fresh-caught king salmon at 2011 Ninilchik River king salmon opener.  Clarion file photo
Clarion file photo
A man carries a fresh-caught king salmon at 2011 Ninilchik River king salmon opener.

Early run king catches have been slow on the southern Kenai Peninsula’s streams. The late spring and high, murky waters are to blame, said Carol Kerkvliet, assistant Homer area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

But fishing is good elsewhere. Fishermen are catching fish in Cook Inlet and lakes. Also, several kings have been caught in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, according to Fish and Game’s fishing report.

“Out in the salt, people are having good luck fishing for kings out in Anchor Point and Deep Creek,” Kerkvliet said. They are also catching halibut, she said.

Fishermen say caught halibut are not mushy like they were last year, she said. “So that’s great,” she said. Mushiness is a sign of nutritional deficiency, she said.

Lake fishing in the Soldotna and Kenai areas has been successful, according to Fish and Game’s report. Fishermen are catching rainbow trout, lake trout and Dolly Varden with bait rigged under a bobber.

Dawn Nushart, fishing counter supervisor for Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing, said fishermen have had success with spinners, single eggs and shrimp on lakes and ponds.

Smaller ponds are ice free, she said, and likely most lakes.

“Gosh, we’ve had such warm weather,” she said. “Probably all of them are open up, really.”

Kerkvliet said there has been some luck fishing for kings in Homer’s Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon.

“There have been a few kings taken out of the fishing hole out on the Spit,” she said. The fishing hole is stocked with kings and coho salmon.

The first Youth Fishing Day at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon is Saturday. A portion of the Fishing Lagoon will be open to youth 15 years of age or younger from 12:01 a.m. until midnight. Department staff will be present from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to help young anglers fish and tie egg loops and fishing knots.

Kerkvliet expects the Anchor River and Deep Creek will continue to yield poor king catches into this weekend’s opening. But the Ninilchik River, which typically lowers and clears quicker, may be better for king fishing this weekend, she said.

As always, anglers should be sure to check the regulations for the area they’ll be fishing before heading out.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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kenai123 06/02/13 - 05:06 pm
Other Options?

"Kings may be slow, but other fishing options abound" FOR NOW. It is just a matter of time before the same marine factors which finally caught up with our Kenai kings, also catches up with the "other fishing options". The Kenai River was once one of those "other options". From 1955 - 1975 the Kenai like everywhere else, was closed down because of excess commercial fish trap fishing. This period of the Kenai's history is usually just skipped over by most. Most would rather talk about the mid 1970's when Spence DeVito first began sport fish guiding on the Kenai. The river had just received twenty years worth of fisheries closures as a direct result of an extensive saltwater commercial fish trap fishery. The traps were banned in 1959 but it took two decades for the Kenai's devastated fisheries to recover.

While Devote was beginning to catch monster kings again on the Kenai River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game began eying our massive stocks of herring, so they opened our first herring roe fishery in 1976. The ADF&G opened this fishery because Alaska had seven very major herring spawning areas in Southeast Alaska back then, with many other smaller ones. Currently we only have two major herring spawns areas left and the smaller ones are completely gone. But each year our ADF&G still conducts excessive herring and (herring egg on kelp) harvest from the Sitka Sound. We are currently looking at total disaster within our salmon resources, not to mention all the other species which depend on this herring resource but we are still commercially over-harvesting our herring resource. Many Alaskan communities and their economies depend on the salmon and halibut which feed on herring but this natural resource has been greatly reduce with commercial over-harvest. With herring and salmon disasters now hanging over our fisheries, our ADF&G continues to commercially over-harvest our herring resource every year.

Alaska did have thousands of square miles of Southeast waters filled with major herring spawning areas. Now with only Sitka Sound remaining as a major herring spawning area, we in Alaska have come face to face with a tremendous lack of both herring and salmon. Most areas which had swelling populations of herring now host severely depleted or even nonexistent populations. Alaska used to have many herring reduction plants going 24 hours per day, year around as our commercial fisheries could not catch all of the herring. Alaska had thousands of people employed as they had worked continuous shifts trying to process and ship out our fisheries bounty. Our bays were so over-flowing with herring that docks and harbors were inundated with them as anyone could catch them just about anywhere.

The beginning of the end of our herring happened in 1976 as Alaska's commercial sac roe herring fishery began hammering away at our seeming endless supply of herring. Commercial fishermen watched on as our herring bio-mass began to wither, while our ADF&G biologists blank faced denied that our herring were decreasing. The ADF&G continued claiming that the reason fishermen could not find the herring was because they had moved. Herring do not usually move, they like to spawn in the same place year after year. If in fact they had moved, why have we failed to locate their mysterious hiding place?

A National Research Council (NRC) thesis concluded that the commercial fisheries over-harvest of herring in the North Pacific forced Stellar sea lions, which had previously fed on herring, to instead feed on the less nutritional pollock. This then began (the Stellar sea lion decline). This thesis then concludes that when sea lions are forced to consume pollock, they eventually die. In 1998 a Journal Science paper came out concluding that (the lack of Stellar sea lions) was forcing Orca whales to begin feeding on sea otters and that redirected otter feeding then resulted in (the decline of the sea otter's) in that region. The sea otter decline then allowed sea urchins to greatly increase because sea otters enjoy feeding on sea urchins. The increased urchins then resulted in (the decline of the region's kelp beds) because kelp is what sea urchins like to feed on. Herring also like kelp. Herring lay their eggs on kelp. Herring feed on algae, plankton, kelp phytoplankton and zoo-plankton. So the commercial over-harvest of herring looped its way back through the marine food chain until it destroyed the very habituate which generated the commercial herring fishery in the first place. The commercial herring over-harvest resulted in the direct destruction of adult herring and the indirect destruction of the environment which fueled the herring resource.

As our great herring stocks began to vanish many commercial herring fishermen then quickly made the jump to commercial crab fishing from 1976 -1985. The millions of dollars made within the commercial herring fishery then served to finance mufti-million dollar crabber boats as Alaska's commercial crab fishery then accelerated from 1980 - 1990. The commercial crab harvest then peaked and went into over-harvest like the previous herring over-harvest. Thus many more millionaire commercial fisherman were created until the crab fishery crashed from 1990 - 1995. In 1980 Bering Sea, (red king crab) commercial over-harvests peaked at around 130 million pounds and then (crashed) to what we get today at around 15 million pound annually. The Alaska (tanner crab) commercial over-harvest peaked at around 67 million pounds in 1978 and went to 1.2 million pounds by 1985. The same was done to the (snow crab) and both were officially declared (crashed) and commercially over-harvested by 1999. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the ADG&G together tried to rebuild crab populations in 2000 but our ocean lacked the marine bio-mass energy, which is necessary to sustain a crab population rebound. As our great crab stocks disappeared many commercial crab fishermen then quickly made the jump to converting their crabber boats into commercial pollock trawlers. Those trawlers now stalk the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea as they by-catch kill and dump the same king salmon which we are patiently looking forward to catching each summer. Commercial fisheries wiped out our herring so they then went after our crab. When our crab were gone commercial fisheries then targeted our pollock and therefore also our king salmon.

Now with our herring, crab and king salmon a mere shadow of what they used to be, we suddenly discover that our juvenal king salmon feed exclusively on crab larvae which are about 1/4 inch in length. Then our marine science starts telling us that our ocean has lost 99% of its crab larvae which are 1/4 inch or larger. Crab larvae less than 1/4 inch in length are reduced also but are still abundant enough to feed our sockeye because sockeye's feed on crab larvae which are about an 1/8 inch in length. So with our herring gone, crab gone and now our kings gone; we get 30 million dollars from the state to find out where all of the king salmon have gone?

The Kenai River used to be "the other option". People have heard all the stories about her monster salmon but when they now try to catch one, most go home disappointed like people did before 1975. Because we are not currently able to correctly manage our king salmon, it appears that we must be put through the same remedy used back before 1975. That remedy was a twenty year total commercial fisheries shut-down. It would have been much better to manage our herring, crab and king salmon within sustainable plans but that appears to not be anymore possible than managing the fish-traps.

So go ahead and try to fish "the other options", tomorrow those other options will also be history like our Kenai River kings. People had better wake up and see the marine destruction which has been committed by our commercial fisheries, just to make a profit.

beaverlooper 06/02/13 - 10:57 pm

You should write a book.

AK49er 06/02/13 - 08:39 pm

This is a well written synopsis of what's happened to fish resources in Alaska in the past thirtyseven years. I've always questioned the wisdom of harvesting herring in the massive quantities that they do ( or did ), just to strip them of their roe, and discard the rest (including all of the male component of the harvest).
Nature has a way of healing our grievances upon her, but only to a certain extent. In the meantime we'll probably have to contend ourselves with eating farmed "Frankenfish".
You reap what you sow.

Seafarer 06/03/13 - 02:24 pm
Hooligan=Chopped Liver?

No one here dipnets for Hooligan, the tastiest fish of them all? Holy cow, it's like the best Spring Tonic to fry up a bunch of Hooligan and steam up a pot of Fiddleheads. You Riverheads are missing out on a fun run cuz you're too busy usual. You people sound like broken records, year after year after year.

Hooligan Oil will cure your blues! Oh, and it's good for you fat guy's hearts.

cheapersmokes 06/03/13 - 03:38 pm
Pity the Fish and Game boys!

No matter the area or even state it seems that those in the fish and game departments can never do anything right. No matter the success of those in the field they will always complain about "the good ole' days!" I would certainly agree to closing down all commercial fishing off of Alaska for three years time and then gauge if the fisheries recover but that would really rile up a bunch of people who are only considering their immediate earnings. They could sell donuts at a 7/Eleven if worst came to worst! :-)

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