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Thread: New management plan for the Kenai River

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    Default New management plan for the Kenai River

    So we have beat the bush for ideas on how to handle the Kenai River chinook fishery. So here is my proposal just off the top of my head.

    1. We redefine the chinook return to tributary and mainstem spawners and set goals accordingly and fund weirs on tributary streams.

    2. We have an independent review of the counting and age composition programs to make sure they are scientifically sound.

    3. We create a sport fishery for chinook only below the sonar counter and the season is extended to August 15th

    4. We reduce sport fish selectivity for both stocks by allowing only the first fish caught to be retained

    5. We create a buffer zone around Beaver Creek

    6 We decouple the fisheries relative to management and give ADF&G a goal of reducing ESSN exploitation rate by 30% from historical averages. How they do it is up to them. We give them gear options, reduction of set net separations, increase drift fleet exploitation on sockeye in the corridor fishery (reduce the corridor back to closer to the beach), allow smaller areas to be closed or opened relative to segments of the beach, and we look for documentation of success or failure of the different approaches.

    7. We maintain that ADF&G should manage to all goals but realize that in some years sockeye will go over the goal and in other years chinook may be slightly under the goal in the trade off of mixed stock fishery management. In no case should a trend develop that indicates a bias in these trade offs.

    So if you want to recover the fish it will take something like the above to reach this goal. We may also need to rehab some of the smaller systems either with habitat restoration or jump starting recovery with a temporary stocking program.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    So we have beat the bush for ideas on how to handle the Kenai River chinook fishery. So here is my proposal just off the top of my head.

    1. We redefine the chinook return to tributary and mainstem spawners and set goals accordingly and fund weirs on tributary streams.

    2. We have an independent review of the counting and age composition programs to make sure they are scientifically sound.

    3. We create a sport fishery for chinook only below the sonar counter and the season is extended to August 15th

    4. We reduce sport fish selectivity for both stocks by allowing only the first fish caught to be retained

    5. We create a buffer zone around Beaver Creek

    6 We decouple the fisheries relative to management and give ADF&G a goal of reducing ESSN exploitation rate by 30% from historical averages. How they do it is up to them. We give them gear options, reduction of set net separations, increase drift fleet exploitation on sockeye in the corridor fishery (reduce the corridor back to closer to the beach), allow smaller areas to be closed or opened relative to segments of the beach, and we look for documentation of success or failure of the different approaches.

    7. We maintain that ADF&G should manage to all goals but realize that in some years sockeye will go over the goal and in other years chinook may be slightly under the goal in the trade off of mixed stock fishery management. In no case should a trend develop that indicates a bias in these trade offs.

    So if you want to recover the fish it will take something like the above to reach this goal. We may also need to rehab some of the smaller systems either with habitat restoration or jump starting recovery with a temporary stocking program.
    This is the type of post I have hoped would reflect the purpose behind this forum: constructive and well intentioned. No personal attacks involved. Question Nerka: How reliable would the reporting be of the Chinook caught by the ESSN be in determining the 30 percent reduction in number 6? I think most fishermen are honest, but no one wants to be the person who reports the fish that might lead to a shut down of the fishery. Would your 30 percent reduction involve counting of jacks? Should there be a change in the escapement that is now required and make it based on large fish? If the new location of the sonar sees all fish, perhaps we should use a model that only counts large fish instead of one that requires the sometimes not so useful net apportionment approach.

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    I have a hard time with #6 because the only time I ever kill kings in my drift net is in the old corridor. The expanded corridor lets the fleet spread out off the beach where most kings are taken by the drift fleet. In the last few years you might note king harvest in area 1 is up, but most of those kings have been feeder kings. The reason I say that is because I had 5 one day 2 were white kings and 2 were fin clipped all were between 5 and 10 pounds. I eel locking the drift fleet to the old corridor would not be good for the kings.

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    Excellent Nerka. I am especially pleased to see #4. I first brought that up years ago, and haven't heard much about it since. I think selectivity is only one positive outcome from it, if you think about its benefit to C&R mortality and crowded fishing. Also in #3 I assume when you say extending the season to Aug 15 you mean the counting season, not fishing season?

    Now...how do we work with all user groups and get this stuff refined and implemented?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post

    4. We reduce sport fish selectivity for both stocks by allowing only the first fish caught to be retained
    Please clarify, Nerka. Is that literally what you meant? The only chance for retention is the first chinook encounter?

    What if someone chooses to forgo retention of that first fish? Is he done for the day or can he continue to fish without any option to retain his catch for the rest of the day?

    .
    .
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    Or are you advocating the first fish caught MUST be kept... DONE for the day.

    Or are you saying ONE chinook encounter, kept or released... DONE for the day.

    All three are very different animals.
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    Seems pretty clear to me. The first fish caught is retained. Done for day, go fish the Kasilof or Paddle lake.

    The whole point is to avoid the culling. Foregoing retention imposes C&R mortality, promotes selective harvest, and keeps more people fishing longer.

    Why would you be in disagreement Doc?

    Would it be better as first fish caught is retained unless it is a female over XX inches?

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    Quote Originally Posted by onthego View Post
    This is the type of post I have hoped would reflect the purpose behind this forum: constructive and well intentioned. No personal attacks involved. Question Nerka: How reliable would the reporting be of the Chinook caught by the ESSN be in determining the 30 percent reduction in number 6? I think most fishermen are honest, but no one wants to be the person who reports the fish that might lead to a shut down of the fishery. Would your 30 percent reduction involve counting of jacks? Should there be a change in the escapement that is now required and make it based on large fish? If the new location of the sonar sees all fish, perhaps we should use a model that only counts large fish instead of one that requires the sometimes not so useful net apportionment approach.
    A companion proposal would be for all chinook caught in the ESSN to be retained and reported on a fish ticket. That would stop the releasing of chinook and the unknown mortality. If a method of release becomes available then this can be revisited (for example some people suggested holding pens up and down the beach to put chinook iin until the fishing period is closed).

    The 30 percent would be relative to whatever ADF&G is counting. Not sure I support a large fish goal but ADF&G has said they will not go to a large fish goal to 2020 so yes at this point it would count jacks.

    I agree the counting and age composition methods need review and revision. That is key to any recovery plan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Funstastic View Post
    Excellent Nerka. I am especially pleased to see #4. I first brought that up years ago, and haven't heard much about it since. I think selectivity is only one positive outcome from it, if you think about its benefit to C&R mortality and crowded fishing. Also in #3 I assume when you say extending the season to Aug 15 you mean the counting season, not fishing season?

    Now...how do we work with all user groups and get this stuff refined and implemented?
    I would extend the fishing season to August 15th. Since it is a pass through fishery we need to harvest some August entering fish or we are going to continue to shift the run timing later and later.

    The retention part is the most controversial. I want to move the fishery to retaining the first fish and then stop fishing. However, to get a movement in this direction may take a C&R approach after retention or a size limit that allows a jack to be retained in addition to a fish above the size threshold. What we are doing now in targeting large females is just plain wrong. Fun in principle I agree with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    I would extend the fishing season to August 15th. Since it is a pass through fishery we need to harvest some August entering fish or we are going to continue to shift the run timing later and later.

    The retention part is the most controversial. I want to move the fishery to retaining the first fish and then stop fishing. However, to get a movement in this direction may take a C&R approach after retention or a size limit that allows a jack to be retained in addition to a fish above the size threshold. What we are doing now in targeting large females is just plain wrong. Fun in principle I agree with you.
    Thanks Nerka. I'd be ok with extending the fishing season to August 15th, but only if we had a goal to July. It's still unclear to me if the returns from those August spawners actually arrive in August too. I'm not convinced it's a shift in run timing per say, but rather the same run returning at the same time, just in smaller numbers as a result of when harvest has taken place over generations.

    One drawback to August is the conflict with silver fishermen anchored in their holes. The details would have to be worked out.

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    I'm thinking the kings need a break, limit how many guides on the river, sorry to say
    If a dipnetter dips a fish and there is no one around to see/hear it, Did he really dip?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Funstastic View Post

    One drawback to August is the conflict with silver fishermen anchored in their holes. The details would have to be worked out.

    For instance, treble hooks become legal August 1st. Does that get delayed until August 15th?

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    Quote Originally Posted by penguin View Post
    For instance, treble hooks become legal August 1st. Does that get delayed until August 15th?
    I'm thinking if it's first fish must be retained, then a treble hook wouldn't matter. ???

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    Comments are embedded in your post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    So we have beat the bush for ideas on how to handle the Kenai River chinook fishery. So here is my proposal just off the top of my head.

    1. We redefine the chinook return to tributary and mainstem spawners and set goals accordingly and fund weirs on tributary streams. This involves eliminating the Early and Late run nomenclature, and likely requires some significant supporting science.

    2. We have an independent review of the counting and age composition programs to make sure they are scientifically sound. Sorry, but auditors are the guys you send in to bayonet the wounded. This needs some expansion in to what is to be accomplished, who is to do it, deliverables, and so on.

    3. We create a sport fishery for chinook only below the sonar counter and the season is extended to August 15th Some have suggested that the season be moved from July 1 to July 8 for "late run". Also, why Aug 15 and not some other date? As long as it is below the counter, is there any reason not to go into September?

    4. We reduce sport fish selectivity for both stocks by allowing only the first fish caught to be retained I need some help here, but size matters. What about any chinook/king in the jack range? Just for arguments sake, the daily limit is any one king over 25" ( this may be the wrong size), and the first one hooked may be retained or released, but counts as the daily limit. Kings under 25" caught before a king over 25" may be retained up to a limit of 2 per day. 25" and up is one and done.

    5. We create a buffer zone around Beaver Creek

    6 We decouple the fisheries relative to management and give ADF&G a goal of reducing ESSN exploitation rate by 30% from historical averages. How they do it is up to them. We give them gear options, reduction of set net separations, increase drift fleet exploitation on sockeye in the corridor fishery (reduce the corridor back to closer to the beach), allow smaller areas to be closed or opened relative to segments of the beach, and we look for documentation of success or failure of the different approaches. If this is an asperational goal, it may not do much harm, but it is a concession to the agenda of the KRSA. Why? It has been pointed out here on this forum a number of times over the years that there are combinations of tides and winds that will maximize sockeye harvest in the ESSN and minimize kings. Encourage ADF&G to open the ESSN under those conditions. Further, the ESSN king harvest is after July 8, and runs have made their target. There will be arguments about the effect on dipnetters. It has been mentioned a lot that a competent angler can easily harvest sockeye with hook and line when they are present. Perhaps in-river harvest is best at a number greater than 6 per day. If a PU permit is good for 30 fish in a dip net, why not by hook and line? The issue for ADF&G is sockeye escapement, which seems to pretty much run over the goals. Note that this id ONLY for a PU permit.

    7. We maintain that ADF&G should manage to all goals but realize that in some years sockeye will go over the goal and in other years chinook may be slightly under the goal in the trade off of mixed stock fishery management. In no case should a trend develop that indicates a bias in these trade offs. ADF&G should have a primary focus on sockeye after mid July.

    So if you want to recover the fish it will take something like the above to reach this goal. We may also need to rehab some of the smaller systems either with habitat restoration or jump starting recovery with a temporary stocking program.
    Overall it is a good place to start. I pointed to areas with some concern, but a vigorous debate would clarify those issues quickly.

    Thanks for the effort.

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    Teejay let me try to answer some of your concerns. First, the genetic data is available for redefining the new separation of stocks. Mainstem spawners coming in toward the end of June and earlier tend to be more closely related to later entering fish in July. Plus tributary spawning fish tend to enter the tributaries by late July.

    The independent review is to do exactly as you state. The ADF&G has failed to count chinook for more than 30 years and today still points out that they cannot estimate the age composition correctly. Independent review and suggestions bring new thinking into the process and is part of the scientific process. I went through an independent review with the Bendix sonar counter and Skilak Lake juvenile studies because it was court ordered or part of EVOS. It was welcomed and led to some really good suggestions and collaborations.

    August 15th based on netting and run timing from sonar is usually the end of the chinook return in most years. Lesss than 1% per day enters after this date.

    Your jack position is one for discussion. While it is not perfect to allow differential harvest on jacks some managers argue for it. It is open for debate.

    Decoupling the fisheries is not a concession to KRSA just the opposite. They want the fisheries to be coupled.

    Relative to the corridor for the drift fleet the data show that fishing a number of days in the corridor catch as many Northern bound sockeye as a district wide period. It is better to move the drift fleet offshore to the whole district and use the restricted corridor when necessary. Fishing out to 8 miles increased the harvest of northern bound stocks and the corridor was suppose to reduce harvest on that stock while targeting Kenai and Kasilof sockeye.

    ADF&G cannot have a primary focus on sockeye after mid-July as the stocks have similar run timing. It is a trade off and depending on where the stocks are relative to the goal is the important point.

    Thanks for the comments. It is very helpful but we need to do something like this to get off status quo

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    OK, same drill.

    QUOTE=Nerka;1526039]Teejay let me try to answer some of your concerns. First, the genetic data is available for redefining the new separation of stocks. Mainstem spawners coming in toward the end of June and earlier tend to be more closely related to later entering fish in July. Plus tributary spawning fish tend to enter the tributaries by late July. I think you are saying that early run fish are mainstream spawners and that continues thru late July, and later entering fish are tributary spawners. Did I get that right?

    The independent review is to do exactly as you state. The ADF&G has failed to count chinook for more than 30 years and today still points out that they cannot estimate the age composition correctly. Independent review and suggestions bring new thinking into the process and is part of the scientific process. I went through an independent review with the Bendix sonar counter and Skilak Lake juvenile studies because it was court ordered or part of EVOS. It was welcomed and led to some really good suggestions and collaborations. OK, we know there are discrepancies. Can they be resolved? I see resistance to an audit if other methods are available. Yep, we know a lot of early counts are bogus, but if they are consistently so, can we resolve the differences? The point I am trying to get at is can we get to 90% of the value of an audit by acknowledging the real facts. I would rather spend the money elsewhere, like in future looking things. We already know the past screwed the pooch, lets move forward.

    August 15th based on netting and run timing from sonar is usually the end of the chinook return in most years. Lesss than 1% per day enters after this date. Don't disagree. If the issue is partly the run has become later, extend the season. A later season with no fish is a no harm-no foul.

    Your jack position is one for discussion. While it is not perfect to allow differential harvest on jacks some managers argue for it. It is open for debate. The jack question needs to be looked at. If we are counting mature kings, or we we are counting all kings. My parameters may be way too faulty, I don't fish kings, never have. But the collective wisdom ought to produce an appropriate size range. Below that range ought to be treated like trout or perhaps an evil infestation. Or not. Let the debate begin. However, at some critical size it needs to be one and done.

    Decoupling the fisheries is not a concession to KRSA just the opposite. They want the fisheries to be coupled. You and I disagree on what your post meant about decoupling. Maybe I failed to get it right.

    Relative to the corridor for the drift fleet the data show that fishing a number of days in the corridor catch as many Northern bound sockeye as a district wide period. It is better to move the drift fleet offshore to the whole district and use the restricted corridor when necessary. Fishing out to 8 miles increased the harvest of northern bound stocks and the corridor was suppose to reduce harvest on that stock while targeting Kenai and Kasilof sockeye. This is not about the drift fleet, it is about ESSN. You are likely right about the drifters, and they can expand the knowledge base with comments.

    ADF&G cannot have a primary focus on sockeye after mid-July as the stocks have similar run timing. It is a trade off and depending on where the stocks are relative to the goal is the important point. ADF&G can do anything the BOF tells them to do. Administrative discretion lets them do a lot of things. If over-escapement is an issue, focus on sockeye. Greatly increasing the in-river bag limit for at least certain users will help control excess escapement.

    Thanks for the comments. It is very helpful but we need to do something like this to get off status quo[/QUOTE]

    Appreciate the discussion.

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    I am saying that fish entering the Kenai are not separated by a date. The stocks are mixed. Tributary fish enter first but overlap with mainstem spawners entering in june.

    The review is not about the past but the future. Reviews can also be used to secure funding for new approaches.

    The drift fleet is very much part of the essn discussion. They can reduce the need for eesn fishing time in some years.

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    Default The females are EVERYTHING right now...

    Quote Originally Posted by Funstastic View Post
    Seems pretty clear to me. The first fish caught is retained. Done for day, go fish the Kasilof or Paddle lake.

    The whole point is to avoid the culling. Foregoing retention imposes C&R mortality, promotes selective harvest, and keeps more people fishing longer.

    Why would you be in disagreement Doc?

    Would it be better as first fish caught is retained unless it is a female over XX inches?
    When the run is only 20% female with exceedingly few 4-ocean hens, we don't want them to be removed from the return.

    You'll NEVER get ADFG to support a NO HEN RETENTION rule because they feel very strongly that the average participant is UNABLE to tell the difference. Compliance and enforcement would be a nightmare.

    The best you can do to keep hens from ending up in cold dark aluminum boxes is to place a size limit on retention.... yes, that dreaded slot limit that you hate so much.

    ...

    Historically, the 50%-ile for hens occurs at 39.4 inches, and for bucks it happens at 40.6 inches. For the sake of round numbers, let's call it good at 40" across the board.

    39-40 inches seems to be the natural, biologically defensible cutoff to achieve meaningful savings in large kings and reducing overall exploitation.

    Setting the slot limit at 40" would have virtually equal (proportional) protection for BOTH sexes. It would also take a significant bite out of the total rec exploitation by taking half of the fish out of the harvestable pool of kings.

    If there is to be ANY harvest of kings, then retention < 40 inches only seems like a prudent way to go.
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    And on a related note, trebles would be a "no go" in that plan as half the run is taken out of the harvestable pool of fish.
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    Doc, that's the beauty of a first fish must be retained and then done rule. Those 20% females are less likely to be caught in the first place, and anglers would not get another shot at them by releasing a slot limit fish, and then continuing to fish.

    You are correct I don't like slot limits in the context that they promote C&R, and therefore exacerbate C&R mortality. In the past, as "slots" they have also had a top end which encourages anglers to trophy hunt. In my opinion slot limits and C&R are characteristics of this failed fishery. I would be somewhat more open to a "length" limit along with a first fish retained and done rule. 40" works for me.

    I have to disagree with your assumption that fishermen are incapable of identifying female Kings, and thus we can't enforce it. For example, as sportsmen we are expected to know the difference between pelagic and non-pelagic rockfish, male crab, and even recognize the difference between a 49" and 50" moose rack. Perhaps identifying a female King is something Kenai River fishermen will need to learn if they want to fish? We have a guide academy, lets use it to educate the 350 guides - that whacks off a large percentage of catch right there. If you have trouble identifying a female, we can start another thread and I'll help you out. Oh, as for treble hooks...if there is any C&R due to slot, female, or whatever, we should have single barbless only - less handling time.

    One thing's for sure: We are at a point where something needs to be done, and Nerka is on the right track.

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    It's not my assumption that folks can't reliably identify a hen. I think it's pretty dam easy and could be highly successful (nearly 100% accurate) with a modest education campaign. I have no problem with NO HEN RETENTION.... however the bios and the rule-makers do. I believe it has been officially proposed and failed to pass the last two board cycles for the very reasons I cited.

    Apart from ONE mortal bleeder in 2005, I haven't personally kept a hen king on the Kenai since 2000. I'm a firm believer that "I need the eggs" is the sorriest excuse to justify bonkin' hens. If the use of eggs was simply prohibited for king fishing, I'm convinced there'd be much less hen-bonkin' going on. The bucks eat far better anyway!

    If it ever goes down the path of ONE and DONE, I'm glad to hear you would concede to the modification specifying a 40" maximum size limit. The rule might read something like this....

    "Daily bag and possession ONE king salmon under 40". No king salmon under 40" may be intentionally released."

    Does that capture your proposal?

    ...

    And yes, I agree that single barbless would be the way to go in that scenario.
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