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Thread: What the heck is the deal with low returning King numbers?

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    Default What the heck is the deal with low returning King numbers?

    For the past several years we've been getting lower numbers of adult King Salmon returning to Cook Inlet and other areas of Alaska. Everybody's theory is that whatever is happening to the Kings is out in the ocean, but if that were true, wouldn't we see lower returns from other States? Washington's Columbia River runs have been strong and steady with this year being predicted as the largest return yet and Oregon's run shows a similar pattern. So what gives? Why are the Cook Inlet kings having such a hard time getting back to the rivers to spawn? Theories, assumptions, guesses anybody?

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    There is plenty of theories, assumptions, guesses. It wont take long for this thread to turn ugly. My gut feeling is it is in decline because of the conditions in the spawning grounds, habitat and overfishing in the rivers is the problem. Just my opinion though.
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    Oregon and Washington have lots of hatchery fish to go around! We know that 5 wild kings are much better then 1500 hatchery culls, right?

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    I still believe that they need to take a strong look at the amount of beaver activity on the upper reaches of the Susitna basin streams. Beaver dams turn king habitat into pike habitat and raise water temperatures. Everyone I have spoken with who has floated these streams says that they are inundated with beaver dams. They all say that areas they used to be able to float are now constant portages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    There is plenty of theories, assumptions, guesses. It wont take long for this thread to turn ugly. My gut feeling is it is in decline because of the conditions in the spawning grounds, habitat and overfishing in the rivers is the problem. Just my opinion though.
    If I had to "guess", it'd be this.

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    This might have something to do with it!
    http://homertribune.com/2011/03/king...aste%E2%80%99/

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    There is plenty of theories, assumptions, guesses. It wont take long for this thread to turn ugly. My gut feeling is it is in decline because of the conditions in the spawning grounds, habitat and overfishing in the rivers is the problem. Just my opinion though.
    I think you hit it about right! Also killing them in the salt does not help either

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fathom View Post
    This might have something to do with it!
    http://homertribune.com/2011/03/king...aste%E2%80%99/
    I'd say this has a LOT more to do with than overfishing in the rivers and/or habitat issues. Isn't it ironic that 54,000 king salmon become bycatch so people can eat pollock?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    I'd say this has a LOT more to do with than overfishing in the rivers and/or habitat issues. Isn't it ironic that 54,000 king salmon become bycatch so people can eat pollock?
    Hmmmmm...let's see, King salmon and halibut.....or......pollock...??? I can't believe there is still a pollock fishery (in the Gulf) after hearing this.

    Actually I've always thought that our Kings were being intercepted far out to sea by Asians or the like. But I had NO idea it was right here by our own people.. Much less in those numbers........YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME...???!!!!

    Are the Kings caught in Kachemak Bay some of the same Kings headed for the Kenai and farther north?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    Are the Kings caught in Kachemak Bay some of the same Kings headed for the Kenai and farther north?
    That's kind of hard to give an answer to because a large percentage of kings caught in K-Bay are feeder kings and are fish that will eventually spawn in a number of places including BC, WA and OR. But SOME of the kings that are caught in K-Bay will be heading for points north such as the Kenai. What the actual number are I don't think has actually been determines scientifically. If I'm incorrect there I do hope someone will correct me.
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    I'm not a local, but I was at a fisheries conference in ANC in Sept and the consensus was that the cause was mainly the pollock fishery...

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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    from the link

    ""The 54,000 is a projected estimate because only 30 percent are observed, said Kip Thomet, a commercial fisherman and member of the Gulf of Alaska King Salmon Coalition. The previous 2003-2009 annual average for total catch of bottom and mid-water trawlers was 20,793.
    “The 54,000 – that’s a huge number. It’s over twice the 10-year average and its definitely unacceptable, but I would argue 20,793 is unacceptable. Especially when only the pollock fishery is counted,” Thomet said. ""

    Me thinks this is DEFINATELY one source of the problem.

    Sure, there are other problems. The winter king fishery in Katchemak bay is one of them too. The charters should not be allowed to kill as many as they are (whatever that number - it is too much IMNSHO).

    Another source is in-river habitat and fishing pressure.

    I heard that the AKDF&G has not checked a king from the Kenai in that was over 55 inches in 3 years. If this is true - we are losing something that can NEVER be re-gained.....NEVER.

    ALL potential sources causing this problem should be STOPPED.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullelkklr View Post
    Sure, there are other problems. The winter king fishery in Katchemak bay is one of them too. The charters should not be allowed to kill as many as they are (whatever that number - it is too much IMNSHO).
    The problem with that statement is that the winter king fishery in K-Bay has absolutely nothing to do with the annual return to South Central AK fresh waters. The 54,000 or so (or even just 20,793) has everything to do with that return. Even 20,793 king salmon being wasted because people want to eat pollock is obscene.
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    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the PDO (Pacific Decadal Occilation) There are indications that the periodic shift in water temperature and current trends tends to affect salmon returns in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest in opposite ways. This is a very, very incomplete gist of the trends, but it seems that either Alaska's returns do well and the PNW returns struggle or, when the PDO shifts, the Alaskan returns struggle and the PNW returns rebound. That seems to be the trend of late and a number of articles I've read indicate that the PDO is at least a piece of the puzzle. Habitat degradation and fishing pressure cannot be ignored, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    The problem with that statement is that the winter king fishery in K-Bay has absolutely nothing to do with the annual return to South Central AK fresh waters. The 54,000 or so (or even just 20,793) has everything to do with that return. Even 20,793 king salmon being wasted because people want to eat pollock is obscene.
    I am not trying to argue with you muttley, and I certainly am not defending the bycatch, but is it proven that those 54,000 kings are from southcentral waters? If is is proven then disregard my comment. Either way, something is going to have to give if we want the kings to recover.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    The problem with that statement is that the winter king fishery in K-Bay has absolutely nothing to do with the annual return to South Central AK fresh waters. The 54,000 or so (or even just 20,793) has everything to do with that return. Even 20,793 king salmon being wasted because people want to eat pollock is obscene.

    So are sure that none of the salmon in K-bay are headed into Alaska waters or C.I. waters? I don't think anyone could answer that with 100% certainty.
    Boatless

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    I am not trying to argue with you muttley, and I certainly am not defending the bycatch, but is it proven that those 54,000 kings are from southcentral waters? If is is proven then disregard my comment. Either way, something is going to have to give if we want the kings to recover.
    Oh I don't take it as argumentative, so no problemo. But it is a pretty well accepted theory that the primary feeding grounds for south central ak kings is exactly where the pollock fishery is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FISHFACE View Post
    So are sure that none of the salmon in K-bay are headed into Alaska waters or C.I. waters? I don't think anyone could answer that with 100% certainty.
    No I'm not "sure" of that, but all of the scientific knowledge gained from genetic testing of those fish that I've come across, and all the people that I've talked to about it, the prevailing thought is that the VAST majority, if not all, of those fish will eventually spawn in BC, and I've also heard possibly WA and OR.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muttley Crew Fishing View Post
    No I'm not "sure" of that, but all of the scientific knowledge gained from genetic testing of those fish that I've come across, and all the people that I've talked to about it, the prevailing thought is that the VAST majority, if not all, of those fish will eventually spawn in BC, and I've also heard possibly WA and OR.
    Yep, homerdave pointed me to some data a year back (I can't recall the actual source) stating such. A lot of winter kings from K Bay were sampled, and if I recall correctly, not a single one of them was a Cook Inlet spawning fish, but rather they were a mixture of BC, OR, WA, and even CA stock.

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    The last 2 years (maybe 3, can't recall) have been "plus" years on the cycle. If you were fishing the west coast of BC or SEAK in 2010, you knew that already Forecast is for 'good' cycles over the next 3-5 years. Time will tell but with so many variables, the 'PDO' is a very small piece of the puzzle. PNW fish usually spend time in the offshore areas of southern BC and AK fish rarely get that far south, so it would be tough to make a correlation between the two. They're essentially independent. You could tie AK chinook to N BC steelhead and SEAK chum with more accuracy...but it's still hella complicated.

    In my half-professional opinion, I would hazard that the habitat in AK is far better off than most people would give it credit for. You only have to compare it to the PNW to see how well off you really are. That said, chinook usually feel habitat degradation the most out of all salmon. It's a crapshoot.

    But one thing to remember: these fish are designed (ecologically) to take the majority of their mortality in juvenile age classes. Fish in general do not take on the majority of their mortality as adults, that's just not the type of life history strategy they use. So when you start killing off tens of thousands of them as adults, it's pretty easy to cause declines. The pollock fishery has some pretty hardcore implications...

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the PDO (Pacific Decadal Occilation) There are indications that the periodic shift in water temperature and current trends tends to affect salmon returns in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest in opposite ways. This is a very, very incomplete gist of the trends, but it seems that either Alaska's returns do well and the PNW returns struggle or, when the PDO shifts, the Alaskan returns struggle and the PNW returns rebound. That seems to be the trend of late and a number of articles I've read indicate that the PDO is at least a piece of the puzzle. Habitat degradation and fishing pressure cannot be ignored, though.

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