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Thread: The demise of ("trophy") Kenai kings?

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    Question The demise of ("trophy") Kenai kings?

    There's an op ed in today's Peninsula Clarion titled "The demise of the Kenai River king salmon." (I'll post a link as soon as the Clarion puts it online and if anyone's interested.) The article's title is a bit misleading, because the author is not talking about Kenai kings in general but rather about "trophy" Kenai kings, which, evidently, is a Kenai king over 55". While I'm not interested in this subject from a management perspective—more acrimonious rehashing of the commfish/sportfish debate—I am interested in whether the article's claim is true, and, if it is, why does it matter.

    First, the author claims that "Between 2003—2007 we averaged 6 [trophy kings] per season" but since then only one, and that one was caught in 2009. My questions: 1) Can that be true, and 2) how would anyone know?

    Second, if the article's claim is true—that Kenai kings over 55" are gone—why would it matter? Sportfishing for King salmon is an important part of our area's economic base, but is it really the hope of a trophy that drives the fishery or merely the chance to catch a big fish? After all, 20 pounds is a good-sized fish to most of us. Moreover, the Anchor River, Deep Creek, the Kasilof River (especially), the Ninilchik River, and the salt water all support King salmon sportfishing, and, as far as I know, those fisheries are not driven by the hope of a trophy.

    So what's the story—are "trophy" kings really gone, and if so, does it matter to our area's economy? Is the hope of catching a "trophy" all that important to the continuance of king fishing? Would the demise of so-called "trophy" kings lessen the appeal of king fishing to locals and tourists alike?

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    Watching from outside the Kenai region I liken it to hunts for 10' brown bears. There really aren't all that many measured each year, but by the time the hunters get home lots of bears were 10'. The possibility of that 10' bear sends lots of guys into the hills, and one way or another they seem to get home with one.

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    I heard there hasn't been a 60lb fish caught in the last 2 years, any one know if that is true or not?
    Well Marcus, I guess it depends on your reasons as to why your fishing for kings on the kenai in the first place............I suppose to some it wont matter that the 5yr ocean fish may or may not be gone, for me it matters, not that I even fish for kings on the river but just from the stand point that fish size is an indication of how healthy a river and the run is, not 100 percent but just an indication. Also I think it is sad to know they are a dying breed and when they are all gone then the history dies with it, and so does the persona.

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    Are we basing this on reported lengths? I wasn't aware there was a requirement for that (but I don't fish for Kings anymore anyway so no flames please). If not a requirement, are we basing this on guide reports and scuttlebutt? I imagine the guides are pretty cutthroat, if they had a hole would they talk about it?
    just curious.
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    Exclamation Link . .

    Here's the link to the Clarion article:

    http://peninsulaclarion.com/opinion/...n#.ToIi2ka1uDQ

    Don't quite know what the guy's lamenting—trophy kings, I guess. Beyond that, it would seem that the king fisheries in the Anchor, Deep Creek, the Ninilchik, the Kasilof, the salt, and the Kenai remain viable if not healthy.

    Don't really know what a lack of trophy kings might mean for our area's economy. Lack of "trophy" fish doesn't seem to bother the fishing in the other rivers.

    Who knows . . .

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    I think any Kenai King over 55" needs to be sealed by ADFG. Not positive on the length but positive its close to that and positive they need to be sealed.

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    Marcus.... I think you are missing the point. It seems to me that the author is talking about the Kenai King runs in general. I also believe the King runs are in great trouble. The numbers are ambiguous at best and people just aren't seeing them in their spawning area much anymore. They are on the going, going, gone trend. The problem is that KRSA and the guide lobby has bought, paid and lobbied for control of the King salmon management. Unless they support changes on how we can conserve more of these fish we will lose these runs. They have the total responsibility at this point. And don't look for ADF&G or the Commissioner for help as they are part of the bought & paid for. Sad but true.

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    Question Missing the point?

    Quote Originally Posted by AKPacman View Post
    Marcus.... I think you are missing the point. It seems to me that the author is talking about the Kenai King runs in general. I also believe the King runs are in great trouble. The numbers are ambiguous at best and people just aren't seeing them in their spawning area much anymore. They are on the going, going, gone trend. The problem is that KRSA and the guide lobby has bought, paid and lobbied for control of the King salmon management. Unless they support changes on how we can conserve more of these fish we will lose these runs. They have the total responsibility at this point. And don't look for ADF&G or the Commissioner for help as they are part of the bought & paid for. Sad but true.
    Pacman,

    Dunno, you could be right. I certainly wouldn't argue that KRSA and others have exerted deleterious effects on the management of second-run Kenai kings, especially the "trophy" sized fish. But does your grim assessment of king runs in general apply to the other streams as well?

    If so, then the demise of Kenai Peninsula king fishing in general—other streams and salt water—would certainly impact our area's economic base. It is Kenai reds that comprise the bulk of the area's economic base where fishing is concerned—rod and reel plus dip-netting—but the king fishery helps.

    Still can't figure out what the op ed's author was lamenting—trophy kings, Kenai kings, or kings in general. His reference to the dip-net fishery only complicates what he's trying to get a across.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenaibow fan View Post
    I heard there hasn't been a 60lb fish caught in the last 2 years, any one know if that is true or not?
    Well Marcus, I guess it depends on your reasons as to why your fishing for kings on the kenai in the first place............I suppose to some it wont matter that the 5yr ocean fish may or may not be gone, for me it matters, not that I even fish for kings on the river but just from the stand point that fish size is an indication of how healthy a river and the run is, not 100 percent but just an indication. Also I think it is sad to know they are a dying breed and when they are all gone then the history dies with it, and so does the persona.
    I saw a few fish over 60 lbs caught this year, with the biggest pushing 70 lbs. Two things could be happening. Either nobody is catching 75 lb + kings or people now realize how important they are and do not retain them anymore. I would like to believe the later.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishGod View Post
    I saw a few fish over 60 lbs caught this year, with the biggest pushing 70 lbs. Two things could be happening. Either nobody is catching 75 lb + kings or people now realize how important they are and do not retain them anymore. I would like to believe the later.

    Well that is good to hear, maybe it is a little bit of both, but I am hard pressed to think people would throw back a king that big especially if they are from out of state.

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    I think we need to look at the saltwater take as well as the in river take. How many kings are caught in the salt that never make it to the river. I am NOT talking just comfish here but the "feeder" king fishery hits them hard as well. No they may not be AK fish that are caught in Homer but they fish them pretty hard from Kodiak to California.

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    It was not this year but in 07 my first trip to the Kenai,I let what the guide said was 60# plus go back. I just could not see killing such a magnificent fish even tho I knew it was going to die after spawning. That was a fish I will remember all of my life.I sure hope that this fishery remains a viable opportunity for a once in a lifetime fish

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    Lufkin,
    Thank you for putting that fish back, I hope and wish there is more people like you fishing the Kenai. I have to say though it is irrelevant if the fish dies after spawing, what is relevant is that the fish will spawn and hopefuly keep the DNA in the pool.

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    the lure of catching that illusive 60+ pounder draws me to the Kenai, it is one of the things on my bucket list. having only a slight chance won't stop me from fishing the river, I still have more than enough fun catching a 20 pounder. I would like to see the chances improve, also just the chances of catching a Kenai King. I got skunked this year. although not fishing the last week cause of the bait closure and low fish numbers didn't help that much. well there is always next year and I have no problem trying.
    if this will effect the economy down there, I'm sure it will. to what extent is the million dollar question. if an Oregonian has a better chance of catching a 50 pound king down there he/she isn't going to make the trip to AK.
    I wasn't able to fish the streams further south either, how was fishing down there this year?

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    Please pass the word, until we get a handle on it, stay away.!!!
    If a dipnetter dips a fish and there is no one around to see/hear it, Did he really dip?

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    Dwight deserves 5 stars for that article.... articulate, to the point, and for the most part very accurate.

    I don't get how anyone can be confused about the intent of the article. I wrote a very similar article 10 years ago which was later published in the Apr-May 2002 issue Salmon Trout Steelheader.

    Bottom line is that the resource has been over-used and over-exploited.... yeah, all of it.... but in particular, disproportionate exploitation of large early-timed mainstem spawners.

    Large size has become a VERY detrimental trait for the reproductive fitness of Kenai kings. If you are a big aggressive biter, chances are you won't survive the intense in-river fishery selectively targeting your big-ness. Your genes will be snuffed out in the bottom of an aluminum box rahter than being perpetuated in the river gravel.

    The same can be said for early-timed mainstem spawners below Skilak. Once they enter the river, they are relentlessly exposed to the fishery for the ENTIRE season. Their window of vulnerability is their ENTIRE adult streamlife. They NEVER leave the open fishing zone, unless its in a cold dark aluminum box.

    What to do?

    Simple.

    Stop targeting big fish. If you're gonna take one, take a buck under 20-25 pounds. If in doubt, carry a yardstick on the river. If it's over 36" long, that fish is a whole lot better off in the river than it is in your fishbox. A 36" threshold would also eliminate the harvest of the vast majority of hens.

    Stop killing red fish. Those black-bellied fire-engines are NOT fit for consumption. The old worn out excuses of "it'll smoke".... "it's the biggest fish I've ever caught"..... "it's the first king I've ever caught".... are seriously ridiculous reasons to kill a big boot, esp given the present day plight of these fish. Limiting the fleet's take to the brightest fish in the run will effectively compress and shrink the window of vulnerability for earlier-timed fish so that they are NOT disproportionately exploited as they have been for the past 4 decades.
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    From another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post


    What rancher in his right mind, year after year after year, harvests and hassles the biggest and best of his herd and expects anything but ruination...
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    I don't want to break anyones heart so I won't single out a post to quote, but hooking, fighting the fish in a swift current till exhausted, netting and removing the hook. The fish died w/o spawning. Sorry but there was a double waste going on, you didn't get to eat it and it died of exhaustion and didn't make the mother gravel. Catch and release of a migratory monster like this in swift current is a death warrant. No matter how noble it sounds to turn it back, its a travesty. I'm guilty of doing it myself so I could keep catching, its hard not to if you love to fish





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    Quote Originally Posted by fullbush View Post
    I don't want to break anyones heart so I won't single out a post to quote, but hooking, fighting the fish in a swift current till exhausted, netting and removing the hook. The fish died w/o spawning. Sorry but there was a double waste going on, you didn't get to eat it and it died of exhaustion and didn't make the mother gravel. Catch and release of a migratory monster like this in swift current is a death warrant. No matter how noble it sounds to turn it back, its a travesty. I'm guilty of doing it myself so I could keep catching, its hard not to if you love to fish
    Hey, we agree on something. Eliminate all bait and C&R, times have changed.
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    "but hooking, fighting the fish in a swift current till exhausted, netting and removing the hook. The fish died w/o spawning"
    I hear this quote an awful lot, but are there any studies available on this? Seems to me that AKDFG must have looked at this issue sometime as it seems to be a logical opinion. Anyone have any on-line references?

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