Counting kings: Fish and game to unveil more info on Kenai river kings

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will be unveiling more and different information on Kenai River king salmon counts on their souped up new website next week.

Counts begin Monday, but because of the new methods Fish and Game will be sharing with the public, the first numbers should be available May 23.

"When we report the numbers we're going to give the public all the information we get for in-season management," said Robert Begich, Fish and Game's area management biologist for sport fisheries.

He said the assessment on the run is not solely based on the sonar numbers, even though in years past the public only saw the daily sonar counts on the Internet, which were biased high because of red salmon presence.

"There's misconception out there that we just use the one tool," Begich said.

The department will be charting four different data collection methods on its website in terms of Kenai king salmon. They include a sport catch per unit effort, which is based on the success rate of anglers fishing downstream of the Sterling Highway bridge, a net catch per unit number, which is based on the number of kings captured by a netting project at the sonar station at River Mile 8.6, a net apportioned sonar estimate, which is a combination of the kings detected by the sonar and caught in the netting project there, and the Echo Length Standard Deviation (ELSD) sonar, which uses data combined with the size of salmon captured by the sonar with the number of salmon passing the sonar station.

This data "allows them to understand why we're doing the things we're doing in terms of management action," said Jason Pawluk, Fish and Game's assistant area management biologist for sport fish.

There have been inconsistencies in the tools in recent years, with the sonar counting more kings than are actually being observed by anglers, or seen in the Fish and Game's test nets, Pawluk said.

"We've been having poor runs these last few years," he said.

The graphs will be used during the department's transition period from split beam target strength sonar to DIDSON sonars. The DIDSON sonar, which provides a more advanced image of the salmon, is the end-game for the department, Pawluk said. The split beam target strength sonar has a problem differentiating kings from reds, leading too a higher count than is actually present.

Because of the collection and processing time of this information for Kenai kings, counts will not be available daily, Begich said. The department plans on posting count information on kings in the Kenai twice a week.

"It will take time for people to get used to," Begich said.

Along with the count data, the department will also be publishing its weekly summary sheet, with information on possible management actions.

"More info is available for the public to view on our website," Pawluk said.

And because of the website redesign, that might take some getting used to, too.

"The stuff you've visited in the past might be in a different location," Begich said.

Once available, the data on Kenai River kings will be available online at

For more information or any questions, contact the Department of Fish and Game at 262-9368.

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