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Thread: Kenai River Early Run King ideas

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    Default Kenai River Early Run King ideas

    Seeing the early run Kenai king numbers at an all-time low had me thinking of several ideas that at least, may stimulate a little constructive thinking. I have heard a lot lately that we all need to work together (commercial, sport, guides, and personal use fishermen), as we all lose if we continue to experience the low runs that we are seeing lately.
    Since the bulk of the early run is composed of tributary spawners, I think we need to concentrate there. How about adopting Slikok Creek as a starting point. Slikok is in jeopardy of a total failure with the current numbers. Lets use Slikok as a model as to what a community could do to ensure that a special strain of king salmon in preserved. ADF&G is over its head and lacks the manpower, funding and interest to effectively help this run before it is too late. A joint effort by KRSA, UCIDA, KAFC, KRGA, the set net assoc., cities of Kenai and Soldotna, KPB, the local community college, the watershed forum etc., would be really possible as everyone would benefit. We need to quit fighting each other and put our boots to the ground! This river used to see hundreds of kings returning each year, now we are seeing numbers in the teens. A comprehensive plan, starting with stream bed protection and enhancement. How about using the stream for an outdoor classroom for our local college and schools? This has been done well in the past, but I'm thinking on a bigger scale. How about a small scale hatchery located at the college? I'm sure Dr. Turner could pull some favors from KRSA as well as his connection with our local legislative representatives. We could at least use hatch boxes to give these tributaries a helping hand. I know many locals who would love to assist with the bear predation problems on Slikok.
    I'm sure if all of the groups that have a stake in a healthy Kenai River got together and brainstormed, they could come up with some great ideas. I have heard stories of healthy King runs during the early settlement and homesteading times in Beaver Creek and Soldotna Creek. How about bringing these tributaries back into production? Every one seems deathly afraid of enhancing the Kenai kings but how about just bringing back what once was? A healthy King run means a healthy commercial, sport ( guided or unguided), and personal use fishery, which all contribute to a healthy local economy. Bring on the ideas!

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    Great idea! Your suggestion of adopting a watershed, and developing a restoration strategy that is based on community involvement has huge potential. It works in the PNW, and it will likely work on the KP. The science behind watershed restoration is solid, and should be applicable to streams on the KP. The key to success is ensuring community involvement throughout the watershed, including civic organizations, school groups, and landowners (both public and private).

    I would hesitate about a developing a hatchery however. Building a hatchery (even a small one) is divisive, complex, expensive, and difficult. Those types of solutions should be avoided. Look for solutions that are low-tech, low-cost, simple, effective, minimally distruptive, and encourages community engagement. Fortunately, for Pacific salmon results can sometimes be demonstrated very quickly. Certainly with coho, they will colonize newly restored habitat quite quickly (a year or two). Chinook salmon are very different, and would take more time. But success is very possible in a short amount of time. Best of luck.

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    I don't fish in the KP, but I have been fishing SE for the last 5-6 years and it seems like every single year it gets worse and worse. I know the general thought is that escapement needs to be in a band for maximum yield but I struggle with whether that's actually true. I mean 100 years ago they didn't manage for escapement and we've all seen the videos of the massive numbers of returning fish. I think the escapement figures are more for getting the maximum amount of harvest while still maintaining the fishery.

    I wouldn't be against a total shutdown of the king fishery for one full cycle (I'd guess that's something like 3-7 years). No sportfishing, no comm-fishing, no nothing. Let them come back strong and let most of them get up the river.

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    You would be for a total shutdown of all salmon fishing in the whole state for 3-7 years! That is out there with no facts to what may be the cause. For one thing there is less commercial fishing now then in the last 50 years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MGH55 View Post
    You would be for a total shutdown of all salmon fishing in the whole state for 3-7 years! That is out there with no facts to what may be the cause. For one thing there is less commercial fishing now then in the last 50 years.
    Not all salmon fishing, kings only. I think it's safe to say a major cause is commercial, recreational, subsistence catch, etc. Obviously ALL parties have to go along, Canada, etc. Makes no sense if all parties don't go along.

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    SuperDave - Good thinking but it might not be realistic. Shutting down Chinook salmon fishing in all it's forms may not be the answer. It certainly cannot hurt, but if GoA bycatch is the problem, we would need to shut down that fishery as well. It was difficult enough to get a 7500 limit on Chinook bycatch, but going to zero bycatch is not realistic. Further, if ocean productivity is down, as it seems to be, eliminating fishing may not provide much conservation benefit. So, it may be safe say that fishing a major cause for the decline. The life history of Pacific salmon is quite complex, and identifying specific causes for decline is never easy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MGH55 View Post
    You would be for a total shutdown of all salmon fishing in the whole state for 3-7 years! That is out there with no facts to what may be the cause. For one thing there is less commercial fishing now then in the last 50 years.
    There may be less but the harvests are as high or higher aren't they? Because of management, modern harvesting technology (gear) so catch is as many or more fish in less time? Is that what you mean when you say less fishing?

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    akcarv -- I think your onto something. If anything is going to get done on the Kenai it is going to take a grass roots effort and many continuing phone calls in order to make it happen. The status quo and the same good ole' boys are not working for the Kenai River and its going to take some strong willed people to stand up and make positive changes.

    Here's some interesting counts: Anchor River: June 24 --2,35

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    Sorry pressed return and didn't edit in time, rest of my post.

    Here's some interesting counts: Anchor River: June 24 --2,351
    Kenai River: June 24 --1,384

    So a river with tributaries just as big, if not bigger than the Anchor River has 1,000 less kings than the Anchor River. There are more issues with the Kenai River kings than strictly ocean production problems.

    Coho -- I'm going to disagree with you a little. If my memory serves me correct the Early run king report recently published, in 2012 27 kings went up the Slikok weir. If we assume half are females we are talking 13 spawning female kings. That is on the verge of extinction, and we care so much about this run of fish all we give them is a 300 yard buffer below Slikok Creek. If the people controlling the fishery truly cared about genetics of this stream more drastic measures than closure 300 yards below the confluence would be taken. If reading the king genetics report from the setnet fishery serves me correct the slikok run is mixed with crooked creek strays and they couldn't reliably differentiate between slikok and crooked creek kings. The genetics of this stream is likely not a pure strain anymore so enhancing this run with kings from slikok only until the run can sustain itself is a good option to think of. Currently it is teetering on the brink of extinction.

    In a mixed stock early run kenai king fishery stocking beaver creek and slikok creek on the lower parts of the river is something to think about, its either that or change the early run fishery drastically with more management sections of the river, open/closure dates, C&R days in addition to C&K, and etc., because both of these runs are suffering dearly with high exploitation of stocks on the lower river.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 33outdoorsman View Post
    Sorry pressed return and didn't edit in time, rest of my post.

    Here's some interesting counts: Anchor River: June 24 --2,351
    Kenai River: June 24 --1,384

    So a river with tributaries just as big, if not bigger than the Anchor River has 1,000 less kings than the Anchor River. There are more issues with the Kenai River kings than strictly ocean production problems.
    iver.
    if you read the 2012 fish and game report you also notice that last year fish and game numbers in June for these early kings turned to double that number based because of other data weir counts showed more. If you look back in that report at older years you will see fish and game has runs that had low spawners as we see now of course that report don't have Slikok and beaver creek counts in the report from back then. then the early runs got bigger without stocking. I am saying it has to be a production problem. Stocking the Kenai is gonna just kill it with people and greed.

    I also think that is the main reson fish and game is doing what they are doing by letting people fish next week below in the lower river way below Soldotna only. I have several friends who have talked with fish and game about being able to fish in sterling area after mid- July with fish meaning catch and kill kings and the guy in soldotna is saying make other plans that is what he told them. This is 3 years now of this stance and much different than years when the numbers were as low according to the table in report because they went and fished them in July. yeah anchor 1,000 kings more on paper but really do you believe it? Some of us around here are thinking most people are getting all upset and want instant satisfaction that's why they want stocking I think stocking it is just wrong. Also the Slikok creek sanctuary has not been there forever if fishing 300 yards below it now is bad for it what do you think fishing right in it where it hits the kenai did for it for years and years, I frankly give credit to the fish for still being there at all to tell you the truth and the whole thing is better now than ever Back in those older years with low runs the slikok numbers then probably were not much more then as the 27 you are saying are there now. I think stocking bad regulations good.

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    Powerline--

    I agree with you that 300 yards is better than nothing. But in my opinion a bigger statement concerning slikok kings would be to extend the no fishing restriction down to pillars or honeymoon cove. That and then going up the stream every spring cleaning out any kind of fish pass obstructions.

    Here is the quote I'm looking at from the kenai king run early run update counts:

    "The DIDSON sonar estimates will be updated twice weekly. The daily estimates represent king salmon of all age and size classes and is expanded by 1.55 to account for king salmon passing outside of the ensonified zone. This DIDSON sonar estimate is used to measure total run abundance relative to the early-run king salmon optimal escapement goal of 5,3009,000 fish."

    Last year if memory serves me correct when they were counting early run kings they were not using a conversion factor of 1.55. This year if their numbers and what the quote above says is correct they are multiplying didson counts this year by 1.55. The counts below reflect that. If you look at their other numbers, their test net fishery has caught half the kings of last year at this time so a king run 1/2 of last years seems to be appropriate, which is pretty much where we are at less than half of last years run.

    Is the conversion factor correct? Well that's another conversation entirely. How early run and late runs have conversion factors of 1.55 vs 1.28 is a little confusing to me. I could see a slight difference in conversion factors, but that is a pretty major difference between early and late run conversion factors.

    Hopefully once the weir counts come in the numbers will get better, but right now it looks pretty sad. The Anchor River and Kasilof River, while slower than normal are still on pace to hit their minimum escapements. Kenai on the other hand, not even close. That is the point I was trying to make that something is wrong with the Kenai River beyond ocean production problems. I think now that genetics testing has shown that half of middle river kings caught in early july are actually early run will help management immensely. I just wish this information would have been pursued and researched 10 years ago when early run fish first started showing up poorly. Now we've reached the point that we might be looking at 2 king cycles (about 12 years) with very little early run fishing before runs hopefully improve back to what they once were.

    For slikok to return to its former glory it's going to take a combination of stream stewardship, enhancement, and slight fishery management adjustments, or stream stewardship, no enhancement, and major fishery management adjustments.

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    I don't understand the conversion completely and hope that this year would be a bigger number for converting but the counts you see on the web counts for other years are converted at least that is what I was told and last year conversion was bigger so what they actually counted was not that much more than now with 1.55 was it? but agree on overall management being none or limited harvest for everyone. I think the runs are low not sure what former glory for Slikok is if it is thousands of fish then yeah more protection I am just saying looking at the anchor on the web and others and kenai reports the kings are way over half down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 33outdoorsman View Post
    That is the point I was trying to make that something is wrong with the Kenai River beyond ocean production problems. I think now that genetics testing has shown that half of middle river kings caught in early july are actually early run will help management immensely. I just wish this information would have been pursued and researched 10 years ago when early run fish first started showing up poorly. Now we've reached the point that we might be looking at 2 king cycles (about 12 years) with very little early run fishing before runs hopefully improve back to what they once were.
    What we are seeing is the direct consequence of disproportionate exploitation on the ER with no accounting for the ER fish harvested in July.

    Zip, zilch, nada...

    All harvest in July accrues exclusively against the LR escapement. That means any ER fish taken in July is never subtracted from the ER escapement published on June 30. Consequently EVERY early run escapement on record is OVERSTATED.... and this throws a major chink into the historic ER run reconstructions and the recruitment curves for determining BEG/SEG. That talking point has been splattered all over this board for the past decade... it's no mystery. Managers are well aware of this accounting error.
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    FishDoc - No argument from me. But if the ER escapement is under counted, then the LR escapement is over-counted by the same amount since they're all Chinook.

    Also, with genetic sampling and testing ADF&G could (theoretically) develop a correction factor and apply it to past run-size reconstructions. But without this information, I'm not sure how they could correct their accounting error.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cohoangler View Post
    FishDoc - No argument from me. But if the ER escapement is under counted, then the LR escapement is over-counted by the same amount since they're all Chinook.

    Also, with genetic sampling and testing ADF&G could (theoretically) develop a correction factor and apply it to past run-size reconstructions. But without this information, I'm not sure how they could correct their accounting error.
    If that is true then does that mean that the late run is also not doing very well or less fish now than in the past? Or the same as past? if in the past the early runs were larger and harvest during the time of late run were actually early run fish would that mean early fish were actually the bigger run? I do not understand how you could ever account for all this?

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    PL - It's not possible to accurately seperate ER from LR fish based on run-timing.

    For example, here on the Columbia River we have an arbitrary date of June 15 for spring Chinook and summer Chinook. Any Chinook migrating above Bonneville Dam before June 15 is labeled a springer. Any Chinook migrating after June 15, but before August 30 is a summer Chinook. And anything after August 31 is a fall Chinook. Now throw in the fact that many spring Chinook are ESA listed while summer Chinook are not, and fall Chinook are a combination of both ESA listed stocks (Snake Rv Fall Chinook) and non-listed stocked (Hanford Reach fall Chinook). The situation on the Columbia River is as confusing as it gets. It makes the Kenai Rv Chinook stocks look like a "walk in the park".

    But the real issue is not run-timing or stock identification. The real issue is the differential exploitation rates. On the Kenai, the ER fish get hammered from the time they enter the river until July 31, which can be as much as three months. Conversely, the LR fish might only get fished during the month of July. Or, if they don't enter the river until August 1, they never seen a fishing line. Ever. It's the differential exploitation rate on ER fish that is the concern. In addition, if the LR fish delay their run-timing until August, their chances of spawning successfully increase considerably (zero exploitation). As such, it's theoretically possible that the run-timing for LR will move into August. That has significant fishery management implications, particularly for sockeye. But that's another issue for another thread.......

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    I see what you mean but the numbers say the late run is 5 times great in number so how could most of the fish caught in July actually be early fish when they are only 1/5 of what is out there? Your thinking makes sense I get that but numbers do not, plus from the report if you look at it if you double exploitation rate for run that comes early it still is not that high, then number of those spawning late goes way way way up.??

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    What we are seeing is the direct consequence of disproportionate exploitation on the ER with no accounting for the ER fish harvested in July.

    Zip, zilch, nada...

    All harvest in July accrues exclusively against the LR escapement. That means any ER fish taken in July is never subtracted from the ER escapement published on June 30. Consequently EVERY early run escapement on record is OVERSTATED.... and this throws a major chink into the historic ER run reconstructions and the recruitment curves for determining BEG/SEG. That talking point has been splattered all over this board for the past decade... it's no mystery. Managers are well aware of this accounting error.
    I agree with what your saying. If people have known about this for years, then why has their not been a push with ADF&G managers and at BOF meetings to correct this accounting error?

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    There is no clean mechanism to account for this in the current system of enumeration.

    That system starts with a passage number past the sonar, then subtracts away what is readily measurable in terms of harvest. Everything else is considered escapement. The problem is the arbitrary date of July 1 as the cutoff.

    Moving forward, perhaps going to a stratified 2-tiered accounting of July harvest might be better. Say everything harvested above Soldotna Bridge in the first 2 weeks of July still counts against ER escapement, while everything taken below SB counts against LR escapement. After July 14, all harvest accrues against the LR escapement.

    Would this be perfect? No. Again, this system would be based on an arbitrary July 15 cutoff, but it's probably closer to reality than how we count today. It would mean harvest has to be reported differently than it is today, requiring a change to the format of the SWHS specifically asking respondents to report their catch as above/below SB for spatial differentiation, and asking before/during/after July 1-14 for temporal differentiation. I realize this would be cumbersome, and would take a number of years before data from yr-to-yr would be comparable. But remember it wasn't that long ago that Kenai harvest was split up as above/below SB on the SWHS.

    A totally different paradigm for cleaning up the escapement accounting would be to perform actual observed trib escapements by weir and/or boots-on-the-ground spawning surveys. Yes, much more costly and labor intensive, but it probably would yield much more accurate data than the "sonar minus SWHW" model we use today. Escapements could be structured as trib vs mainstem. The new paradigm would mean trib escapements would become an actual/observed value, as would the sonar passage. Mainstem escapement would be indirectly calculated by subtracting trib esc and harvest from the measured sonar number. There would be no need to apportion harvest to either area or time in this paradigm. Then again, this system would require the management plans to be re-written as trib plan vs mainstem plan instead of the current ER/LR dichotomy under which management currently operates.

    No easy answers.....
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    There is no clean mechanism to account for this in the current system of enumeration.

    That system starts with a passage number past the sonar, then subtracts away what is readily measurable in terms of harvest. Everything else is considered escapement. The problem is the arbitrary date of July 1 as the cutoff.

    Moving forward, perhaps going to a stratified 2-tiered accounting of July harvest might be better. Say everything harvested above Soldotna Bridge in the first 2 weeks of July still counts against ER escapement, while everything taken below SB counts against LR escapement. After July 14, all harvest accrues against the LR escapement.

    Would this be perfect? No. Again, this system would be based on an arbitrary July 15 cutoff, but it's probably closer to reality than how we count today. It would mean harvest has to be reported differently than it is today, requiring a change to the format of the SWHS specifically asking respondents to report their catch as above/below SB for spatial differentiation, and asking before/during/after July 1-14 for temporal differentiation. I realize this would be cumbersome, and would take a number of years before data from yr-to-yr would be comparable. But remember it wasn't that long ago that Kenai harvest was split up as above/below SB on the SWHS.

    A totally different paradigm for cleaning up the escapement accounting would be to perform actual observed trib escapements by weir and/or boots-on-the-ground spawning surveys. Yes, much more costly and labor intensive, but it probably would yield much more accurate data than the "sonar minus SWHW" model we use today. Escapements could be structured as trib vs mainstem. The new paradigm would mean trib escapements would become an actual/observed value, as would the sonar passage. Mainstem escapement would be indirectly calculated by subtracting trib esc and harvest from the measured sonar number. There would be no need to apportion harvest to either area or time in this paradigm. Then again, this system would require the management plans to be re-written as trib plan vs mainstem plan instead of the current ER/LR dichotomy under which management currently operates.

    No easy answers.....
    I believe that the current early run Kenai Chinook assessment does take into account sport harvest that occurs upstream of the Soldotna Bridge in July. I think they assume 50% of the harvest upstream of the Soldotna Bridge in July is early run fish and subtract these harvests (and the c&r mortality) from the run to estimate escapement. In addition, I believe that the weir count data (from the tributaries) are used as part of a post-season genetic-based capture-recapture abundance estimate that is completely independent from the DIDSON counts. This estimator allows them to estimate run size by time period (like the usual June 30/July 1 split of ER and LR) as well as by genetic reporting groups (e.g, tributaries versus mainstem spawning populations).

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