Rainbow trout numbers are down about 15 percent from eight years ago in a section of the upper Kenai River, according to estimates from a preliminary study released by the Department of Fish and Game.
The department looked at rainbow abundance from an area between Sportsman's Landing and Jim's Landing, or river miles 73.2 through 69.7 this past July.
Estimates peg the species to number 5,288 in this section, down from the 6,197 in 2001.
Robert Begich, the area sport fish management biologist with Fish and Game, said the study also revealed a decline in the number of smaller fish living in the area.
With the studies spaced so far apart however, he said it was hard to put a finger on precisely what caused the change.
"When we look at the numbers we're only looking at it every 10 years approximately," Begich said. "If we could do them closer together we could get a better idea of how the different age classes are working their way through."
He did note that a regulation allowing anglers to keep one rainbow under 16 inches a day established in 2005 could be playing a role.
"The harvest of those fish is trending upwards since that reg was put in effect," Begich said.
Despite the apparent decline, Begich said rainbow numbers are still higher in this area than they were in the 1980's.
Anglers plying the open waters of the upper river are asked to leave the tag in the fish. If they record the tag number and give it to Fish and Game they can provide them with the date and location the trout was originally tagged.
Begich said if the tag number is recorded anglers can learn when and where Fish and Game initially tagged the fish.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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