Ok I know this will not go anywhere because when the Fish and Game make a decision it is made with no change in direction ever. I am approaching this as an outfitter and fisherman and yes the bottom line is the Gulkana Closure hurts my bottom line for about 2 weeks each June.
I called AF&G in Glennallen and the reason for the closure was due to "Anticipated Weak Returns" When I pressed them on what data set they were using AF&G cited Miles Lake sonar counts and I returned with the question "Can the Miles Lake sonar tell the difference between a Red and a King Salmon?" The answer was no. So I pressed on with what data were they using to justify the "Anticipated Weak Return" and AF&G came back with the Eyak fish wheel.
This is where I have a serious problem. The fish wheel is manned with my daughter and she gives me day to day updates. They have been operating for 7 days total and she is seeing 75-100 per day. I also looked up the historical data from the Eyak fish wheel and the data runs from 2001-2010. This 10 year period shows daily numbers ranging from 2-3 fish upward to 120 and the average daily count running between 40-50 fish. This is 2009 data and in 2009 the AF&G reports a total of 2400 Kings were tagged, and the tagging period ran from May 13 to July 1st.
This year the wheel did not become operational until June 3rd or 4th because of the ice and flood conditions on the Copper River. Kelsie estimates that they have been tagging 75-100 fish per day for the past week which is right on the normal tag numbers. They will see a drop off after the major push goes through and historically that happened after June 18-20th at Miles Lake. If she averages 75 fish per day through June 20th they will tag about 1300 fish and they will still have another 10-15 days at reduced numbers. Without even considering the fish they could not tag in May due to the ice/high water conditions her numbers will be right in line with 2010 and 2009 tagged fish returns. It is important to understand they are only sampling a fraction of the total number of Kings that push through in to the upper Copper River.
I know that we need to protect the fish stocks period but I really see red when the state makes these decision with no real data, just "Anticipated Returns". The Gulkana and most likely the Kultina will only catch and return King fishing this year, and I hope AF&G gets it right. The sad thing is we are seeing a loss of returning Kings across the entire state. Sport fishing is paying the price for the errors of commercial fishing. Until the state finds a way to reduce by catch we should expect to see King fishing in Alaska a catch and release sport. Tough to get the fishing public excited about catch and release every year and in every major drainage.
One man's opinion
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