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Thread: C&R Kenai kings.... the hidden killer?

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default C&R Kenai kings.... the hidden killer?

    Lots of speculation among the anti's in several other threads that C&R is a major killer of Kenai kings. That somehow all of this rampant catching and releasing of kings is the occult malignancy killing off the run.

    Really?

    The data CLEARLY does not support that ridiculous assertion. In fact C&R of Kenai kings comprises the smallest measurable impact in the exploitation of Kenai kings.

    First of all, there is VERY little discretionary C&R going on in the fleet. My own on-the-water observations of current retention patterns tell me that 85-90 percent of Kenai kings that are landed on any given day are indiscriminately bonked. That's a day to day ratio of 6-8 fish bonked for every one released. Statistically that means the average boat does not release even one king per day! So much for all that rampant C&R.

    ADFG data (when they used to release it on the weekly fishing report) would corroborate my personal observations. In the last decent late run of kings (2008) the lower river creel census showed that 10688 LR kings were caught by anglers and 9032 of them were harvested. That's a retention rate of about 85 percent.

    Among the VAST minority of fish released, Bendock et al showed that only 7.6 percent of them are mortally wounded by the encounter. That means only about 1 percent of the total catch (0.15 x 0.076) dies as a result of C&R mortality.

    Get over it folks.... in the great grand scheme of things, for every 100 kings caught, 85 die of wood shampoo and only one dies from release mortality.

    Take it to the bank.

    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Default Thanks . . .

    Thanks, Doc, for those observations.

    It's my opinion that c&r, while I disagree with the practice, is exercised by folks with a genuine concern for the resource, and, in and of itself, one angler at a time, is not a major killer of king salmon runs in the Kenai. That said, I do believe that, practiced on the scale that it is, especially during the slot-limit fishery, c&r is a major factor in the decline of big Kenai kings.

    Catch-and-release, I think, is the hidden culprit, a contributing factor, not to the decline in run numbers but to the decline in the average size of the fish. Between bonking and subjecting the biggest kings to the stress and mortality of c&r is, in my opinion, the reasons that Kenai kings are getting smaller.

    What rancher in his right mind, year after year, kills off and harasses the biggest and best of his herd and expects anything but ruination?


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    Member slimm's Avatar
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    Good post Doc,, I don't know much about nuthin', but common sense tells me that when you see spawned out Salmon with big hunks missing off of em from what i guess is damage from Seals props nets or whatever it is taking hunks out of em and they still make it to the gravel, a little C&R just don't compare. For hells sake take Idaho Salmon for instances, they gotta find their way through something like 7 dams,getting hacked up by turbines, numerous sets of falls and a 900 mile upstream battle and they still make it to the gravel.
    I caught over 20 Kings on the Deshka this year and never bonked a one of em, I took a little time to help em catch their breath and admire em, they all swam away just fine, no doubt in my mind they lived on to spawn..

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    A very thoughful post - but it leaves a couple of things out. First, when the river (any river) goes to C&R, 100% of the fish that die do so from being caught and released, tired and beaten, back into the river. Second, some of the other rivers aren't quite as strictly regulated as the Kenai - for instance, I watched a guided group on the Gu-lkana catch and release king after king and justify it by saying that they had pinched their barbs. Hello? The barb isn't killing the fish, idiot. So that group bonked one fish per angler and then proceeded to catch/kill another four or five per angler (20 total?) by fighting them in the current and throwing them back. I realize that you were talking about the Kenai proper, but a king is a king. Shoot, we've got one angler on here admitting to catching/killing 20 in the Deshka by himself, and he's not alone. Still, none of this is as ridiculous as the notion that a dipshatter can keep a king in his net. We are only conservative to the point that it doesn't interfere with the good time that we're having with the resource.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    The pre-spawn mortality rate of C&R fish varies greatly depending on more factors that I care to count, including the species of fish, water temperature, spawning condition, location of the hook set, the use of lures or bait, the time spent fighting the fish, and more. This applies to more than just Kenai Rv Chinook. It's a big issue on the Columbia River as well. We should not put a single estimate on C&R mortality because of the various factors that affect the mortality rate. But that happens. We assume the mortality is rate is X when it's really something very different. Ultimately, it's either 0 or 100% since the fish either lives to spawn or it doesn't.

    However, at some point, C&R and mark-selective fishing outlives it's usefullness if the C&R mortality rate exceeds the allowable take (for an individual angler). The coho fishery off the Oregon and Washington Coast is a good example. It's not hard to sort thru 20 wild coho (unclipped) to land your daily limit of 2 hatchery coho. So how many of those 20 wild coho will die because of C&R? Tough to tell. But at a mortality rate of 10%, that's two dead wild fish. The mortality rate is likely much higher, particularly for coho. So wouldn't it be better just to keep the first two fish (wild or hatchery) and retire the rod? Yes, but it's almost impossible to enforce. How can a game warden know whether an angler who has zero fish in his/her possession has caught zero fish that day or has C&R 20 fish that day? Possession is 90% of the law, except in fish and wildlife law enforcement, where it's 100% of the law. C&R has it's place, but it also has it's limits. But I'm not sure where they are.

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    Do they have proof that the king salmon that goes through the stresses of getting caught and released still spawns? Catching kings on rod/reel is rather tuff on them. Just because they swim away doesn't mean they recover from it.

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    Some fish tolerate C&R much better than others. Ex... salt and transition coho are HORRIBLE. Kings WAY better. Reds very well. Pinks? Who knows.

    Some species are subjected to far more discretionary C&R than others. Ex.... pinks lots... kings very little.

    Some are subjected to mandatory C&R. Ex.... kings under slot limit on the Kenai or minimum size rules, say in SE AK.

    Bottom line, some element of C&R is going to occur in any fishery. To the extent that it is practical, it behooves us to apply C&R only when/where the fish have been demonstrated to tolerate the handling. It also behooves us to handle those fish with as much care as humanly possible to maximize their chances of surviving the encounter.

    So what do I personally do? Virtuallly all my Kenai fishing takes place between RM 8 (Pasture) and RM 14 (Big Eddy). With rare exceptions.... Kenai kings and pinks are typically released unless mortally wounded. I infrequently fish reds, but don't have a problem releasing them whether or not I take a limit. Virtually none are mortally wounded. ALL tidewater coho are harvested because of the obscene release mortality.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    I'm curious if they've tagged kings caught in the river on rod/reel, and then observed them spawning later on? i'd be really curious to hear what the outcome of that study was.

    Based on the large quantity of kings I've caught on sport gear, I never get the warm/fuzzy releasing kings. I know how stressful it is to play a king out to exhaustion, for the opportunity to safely release it. I've had to shake kings (non-bleeding) that have done the flip over and sink upon release. Bleeding kings.. well, we all know they are goners.

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    Sounds like ADFG should radio tag some rod and reel caught kings and see where they wind up. They are still out there tracking kings from the test netting program. I believe most of the ones that do not get bonked will make it to spawn. Maybe some guides could participate in the tagging so ADFG does not need to find more funding and staff for such a project.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 270ti View Post
    I'm curious if they've tagged kings caught in the river on rod/reel, and then observed them spawning later on? i'd be really curious to hear what the outcome of that study was.
    The most authoritative H&R and radio-tagging study was done by Bendock et al in 1989-1991. The vast majority of fish survived their H&R encounter, initially dropped downriver to rest/heal for a few days, then subsequently progressed upstream to spawn.... many of them high into tributary streams and even into the interlake reach of the mainstem. These fish were presumed to spawn based on the migration pattern emitted by the radio-tag.

    Most were NOT directly observed in the act of spawning, esp the ones "doing it" in the mainstem.

    The scope of the study did not specifically entail direct observation of spawning behavior. But I'm sure some of the fish in clearwater tribs were "caught in the act."

    I'll try to contact Terry Bendock tomorrow to get some more info on that specific matter.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician
    Get over it folks.... in the great grand scheme of things, for every 100 kings caught, 85 die of wood shampoo and only one dies from release mortality.
    Understand you want to defend C&R Doc, but I am not buying only a 1% mortality rate. You have your own area you mostly fish with your own observations there, and that's fine. But the pics I see posted in various places definitely lead one to the conclusion that there is a huge discrepancy in how C&R anglers handle fish, and that mortality rates thus vary widely among all anglers.

    The #1 factor in mortality rates is...a camera.

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    AHHH! The deadly camera. I was waiting till somebody brought that up. Heck, I even have a whitetail head mount with a camera around it's neck in my living room. Right next to the one with a roll of toilet paper around it's neck. Think about that?
    If a dipnetter dips a fish and there is no one around to see/hear it, Did he really dip?

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    The deadly camera- the reason I lack proof of catching a 30" steelhead 2 years ago. Because that fish took all my effort to land, dehook, cradle, and then boom he was gone. Haha. I'll never forget that fish though. I had to go sit on the bank and reflect on that one for a while...

    Anyway, my take is this: trout, dollys, grayling, etc... are great c&r fish. I regard salmon as food fish, and as such I only catch what I need to put in the freezer (or better yet eat fresh!). I would never go on a fishing trip to C&R salmon, nor do I agree with the practice.

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    Working in the fisheries field for over a dacade, I have a vast amount of experience capturing, holding, and releasing various salmonids at various stages of there life. With regards to kings, I've live captured 1000's of kings with rod & reel, fish traps, nets etc. In one instance, we netted 15-50 lb kings with a king net and IMMEDIATELY placed them into a holding pen. The next morning it was blatanly clear that the larger fish do not do well after being handled. EVERY king in the 40-50 lb range had died. Keep in mind, every fish spent less than 45 seconds in the net. No hooks were used, no long exhausting battle insued, and I treated every king like they were fine china. Just the sheer act of netting these kings, led to their demise.
    Your bait stinks and your boat is ugly

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    HMMMM.... every big king dead?

    So what do you suppose happens to kings caught in a gill net, handled and untangled from the mesh, then lassoed by the tail and towed downriver while others in the net are similarly untangled and lassoed.... then each is corralled into a cradle, measured, scale sampled, DNA sampled, hole-punched in the tail fin, then force-fed a radio-transmitter before being released?

    http://www.alaskafisheriessonar.org....ant_tools.html

    Scroll down to the video at the end of the page to see for yourself.

    The vast majority of these fish moved on upriver to distant spawning sites with a mean stream-life of 33 days in the original study which involved the added stress of a hook/release encounter.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    If you consider saving the big fish in the Kenai as a worthy goal, would it in the best interest of the big fish to catch and kill (100% mortality), or catch and release and give that fish a chance to reproduce?

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    Thumbs down Too much of a bad thing . . .

    "If you consider saving the big fish in the Kenai as a worthy goal, would it in the best interest of the big fish to catch and kill (100% mortality), or catch and release and give that fish a chance to reproduce?" . . . or take the first two kings you catch—kill 'em or let 'em go, your choice—and get off the river.


    If c&r is the hidden killer, it isn't so much the eight percent or so mortality rate as it is the eight percent mortality rate over and over and over and over . . ad nauseam . . .

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    Marcus, That is a great point. I only wish I were a good enough Kenai King fisher to catch lots of fish.

    I have felt that most of the fishermen on the Kenai put many many hours in to get their one or two fish, which are mostly killed.
    Getting the fishermen off of the river addresses a separate real problem, which is the overcrowding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    If c&r is the hidden killer, it isn't so much the eight percent or so mortality rate as it is the eight percent mortality rate over and over and over and over . . ad nauseam . . .
    Over and over and over?

    Really now?

    The numbers don't lie... in the great grand scheme of things, for every 100 kings caught, statistically 85 die of wood shampoo and only one dies from release mortality.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    The KeenEye MD

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    The following opinion is a carry-over from another thread.

    All Kenai Kings over 42" should be released without being taken out of the water.
    It should be mandatory to keep, kill, & record the first sub-42" fish caught and cease fishing with King capable tackle for the remainder of the day.
    The bag limit should be set at one per day/two in possession with a seasonal limit of two fish between 28" and 42".
    The definition of a jack should be any King under 28" with no bag limit.

    Our current fishing practices are evolving Kenai Kings to get smaller. The slot limit is bass-ackwards. Instead we should be keeping the small fish, and releasing the big ones.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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