I wonder if some of you biologist types ever get tired of the Cook Inlet problems and look for distractions. If you do here is an interesting one that I would be real interested in hearing some comments on.
Sockeye jacks, a natural phenomena or mismanagement.
There is a small man made run of sockeye into Fraser Lake up the Dog Salmon River through Alitak and Olga Bays at the South end of Kodiak Is.. It’s an early run of sockeye that runs concurrent with other natural runs of sockeye into Olga Bay. At its inception there was great hope that this once barren system would produce over 3 million returning adult sockeye. Stocks from several other Kodiak Island systems were introduced into the lake in the 1950`s and 60`s. A fish pass over a barrier falls was built with a monitoring weir and another weir was built at the stream mouth.
Cousteau visited the system in 1966 and made the movie “Tragedy of the Red Salmon” about this new run of sockeye.
By the 1980`s escapement was stabilized and a scheduled aggressive fishery (seine and setnet) was developed to capitalize on this new stock and many big seasons were made off of the run.
The fishery was so aggressive that by the year 2000 to keep the fisherman happy 3 of 4 other natural runs of sockeye with good production history were completely written out of the management plan and the once dominate early run into the Olga Lakes system was reduced to an OEG escapement level so as to not impeded the harvest of the introduced run in traditional areas by seine and set net gear. Even though a terminal fishery plan exists for all systems in the area.
The decimation of 4 natural runs for the benefit of an aggressive fishery on a man made run is in its self imho a shameful act by management. As escapement began to lag into the introduced system someone in management decided it would be OK to start including all jack sockeye as part of the viable escapement.
From what I understand most natural sockeye runs of the US and Canada have a jack component of 2% to 5% and it has been a state wide policy of ADF&G to not included any daily counts of jacks in excess of 10% towards the viable escapement goal.
Most fisherman were pretty mute towards the subject during the good years but the last 10 years have not been so good and we have slowly woken up. Maybe to late. In recent years up to 70% of the total escapement was counted as jacks and we now have 2 consecutive year classes dominated by jacks going back several seasons 2014 and 2015 being the most recent.
We have brought this to the attention of the BOF and we were pretty much laughed out of the room for lack of credibility. The Depts. Position is that they have no research funding or extra staff time and maybe its just a passing thing because it’s a new system that has not yet found its balance. The standard answer seems to be we just don`t know how it happened or what the effect is.
They did however write a memorandum to begin a very feeble culling program by widening the pickets on a weir panel to allow some of the jacks to squeeze through into a trap. They totally disregarded suggestions and equipment shown to them that has been proven effective for size selection of salmonoids and they will not allow any fisherman participation in the culling process. In 2015 around 20% of the entire escapement was again counted as jacks if the tally can be believed.
Today what was once a very viable fishery for up to 40 families with 90 SO4K permits is now a bankrupt fishery supported by selling assets, retirement accounts and cannery credit. Is this good management ?
What say you retired biologists.