So, another king season on the mighty Kenai River has come and gone. If you've lived here for a while or have ever fished the river for its genetically unique Chinook, it is time for some questions . . .
Have you ever experienced such poor king fishing (despite very good water conditions) as this summer? Have you ever worked so hard for a strike? Ever caught so many jacks? Ever seen Kenai River kings of 1-5 pounds? Ever been SO tickled when you finally caught a "huge" 33 pounder? (Remember not-so-long ago when we used to throw back 50's to hopefully catch a 60 or 70 pounder?)
Now the hard questions . . . Without getting into an allocation discussion, do you really think that Kenai kings should be treated and managed as just another salmon, a "meat fish" of unlimited numbers and endless reserves? Do you truly believe that the dismal runs and small fish of 2010 were just an "off year" and that all will be ok in the years to come? Hasn't the writing been on the wall the past few summers as our fish got smaller overall and the "window" of best fishing shorter and shorter? Do you believe that our sonar counter is even close to being accurate, and that the numbers of kings recorded daily is gospel and that all management decisions should be based off of these questionable numbers? Do you think that Fish and Game is acting in a prudent, responsible and accountable way in their management of OUR river and its two runs of native king salmon?
And the final question: as a community that revolves around a sport fishery of what once were the biggest kings on the planet and the tourism dollars that they drew, are we ready to sit idle and grumble amongst ourselves like years past?
As fall arrives and winter approaches, I hope that you remember the frustration that our May, June and July season has produced. Avoid getting too busy, resist the urge to be passive, and contact your local biologists and upper managers in Anchorage, voicing your thoughts and asking them what they plan to do about these serious issues. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and request they fight for our fisheries. Attend the ADF&G Advisory Committee meetings and contact a local sportfishing organization, asking them to get more proactive and aggressive. Write, e-mail or call local representatives with your concerns about our fishery, our community and the businesses that rely on healthy returns of early and late runs of Kenai kings.
Last but not least, participate in this winters Board of Fish process: it may not be perfect, but it may be the best avenue for Fish and Game to hear us. After all, if you care about the future of the Kenai River like I do, doing nothing is simply not an option!
Fishing guide, small business owner and year-round Soldotna resident
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