Many factors affect king returns

Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010

Speaking as someone who fishes the southern portion of the Peninsula in the Inlet, the words "knocking them dead" do not describe the king fishing in the area this year and especially not last year. In fact, the best quote might be "The worst fishing I have seen in 25 years," words from a sport fishing guide that has spent an awful lot of time on the inlet for kings.

The smoking gun in the declining salmon runs is not the lack of or too much regulation on the sport fisheries or even the commercial or subsistence fisheries for kings on the Kenai or Kasilof or any other king runs. The quote below from an article in the Clarion on June 6, 2006 illustrates why we might be seeing a decided decrease in our king and other salmon runs -- particularly last and this year. Although there are many other factors, the lack of regulation and/or enforcement in the shrimp and pollock fisheries in the Bering Sea is really our most real and urgent issue in our declining runs.

"While the overall bycatch of the groundfish fisheries dropped, however, the bycatch has and continues to vary among different species from one year to the next. In 1996, for example, 161,000 salmon were discarded by the fishery. But in 2004 the salmon bycatch leaped to an all time high of 500,000 fish."

-- The Clarion June 6, 2006, story by Patrice Kohl

Previous letters to the editor pegging one fishery over the other, do nothing but divide all the groups who rely on a good king run whether it be guided, non-guided sport fishing, commercial or subsistence interests. All of these groups have been selectively fishing king runs bound by the regulations put forth by the ADFG. Collectively, we should be involved in monitoring the regulatory and enforcement bodies responsible for commercial fishing in the Bering Sea and hold them responsible for the decreases in our local salmon runs. Let's be sure of what these fish face before they get back to the home waters before we blame the "other" guy for catching too many.

Lastly, I need to add that from California to Nome last year (2009) there were many fisheries for kings that were open and had average to above average runs throughout the Northwest and Canada and yes, Alaska. In fact, there was the first opening for kings in California waters in a number of years out of Monterey just this spring. And, the Columbia River has had over 250,000 spring salmon over Bonneville Dam and although it has thus far been a bit less than predicted, the run is a clear sign that there are some things right for these fish -- not all wrong.

Dave Kaffke


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