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?