After reading, writing, and responding to comments in other threads regarding ADF&G's management of the Cook Inlet, I have to ask: how many posters to questions about the Susitna system have a dog in the fight? I live in Willow, formerly Wasilla, and fish Mat Valley streams all summer and fall. I'm lucky to hit the Kenai peninsula twice in a season. So my concern is first about what I see in my backyard, and the Kenai is secondary. It seems like most of the comments on complaints about the Susitna's sockeye, coho and chinook runs come from men who have never sportfished these fish. Those who state that its a habitat problem, so therefore habitat must be fixed before any regulatory changes are made, I'm just curious, do you fish those systems? Do you believe, if there are multiple problems in a system, that before one can be fixed, the other must be? Or better yet, before one is even addressed, the other(s) must be completely fixed?
Specifically, Fish and Game, and now the public, know several things.
1. We know commercial fisheries throughout the Cook Inlet intercept Valley bound salmon of all species.
2. We know the rivers have changed.
3. We know Ma Nature threw some curve balls: 2 years of drought and extremely low, hot water in the spawning beds of chinook and coho, followed by a flood that scoured their spawning beds and flushed most smolt out to sea.
4. We know more people live on Valley streams than did in the past.
5. We know there are pike in many lakes and streams where they weren't before.
6. We think production in some Yentna systems is down.
7. We know that ADF&G has closed the sport fishery for reds in the Susitna and/or Yentna rivers more in the last 10 years than they have left it open.
8. ADF&G stated that the sport fishery on the Yentna River only kills about 4,000 sockeyes (Tom Vania, Girdwood work session)
9. Fish Creek supported a dip net fishery throughout the 90's; now it does not, and the sport fishery operates for 12 hours Saturday and Sunday, starting in mid August, after most of the reds have passed.
Theres a lot more I'm sure Fish and Game actually knows about this, but lets hit on these points. For point number one, we not only know its happening, but also have some solid numbers on how big an impact it has. We have numbers now that show where the most Valley fish are caught, when, and how many are caught over the course of the season. Numbers 2-6 are knowns, but the impact is unquantified: we don't have concrete data showing how big an impact any one factor or all of them together actually has on the health of salmon runs.
Now this is the reason I ask if you really have a dog in the fight? Was your fishery completely shut down to "protect" Yentna/Susitna sockeyes? I have been told that ADF&G is doing a great job managing, that they have a tough job to do. I will agree 100% that they have a tough job; I'll agree that in most places they manage pretty well; however, i won't use that fact to excuse poor management in my backyard. They acted to close down fisheries they claimed were threatened by continued sport fishing: even though they stated the fisheries only kill 4000 fish. 4,000 fish out of a projected 200,000 (Yentna data from which SEG is derived). That's fine, close down fisheries if it looks like escapement isn't going to happen. However, in 2006, they did not prevent commercial fishermen from harvesting 159,000+ sockeye salmon heading to the Susitna. By F&G's numbers, half those were Yentna bound, half were Su bound. Why? If they are managing well, why did they place the entire conservation burden on the biggest user group (sportfishermen) who has the smallest impact (4000 fish) on the resource?
Yes, they should be doing studies to quantify the impacts of habitat factors on the salmon runs. Yes, there should be long term goals to rectify problems, to restore health to unhealthy systems, if they are unhealthy. But in the meantime, do you advocate doing nothing with mixed stock commercial fisheries, to ensure that at least the minimum SEG is met? Do you continue to hammer the fishery in the areas you know have significant impact, and close it in areas of minimal impact, but huge public exposure, and claim this as good management?
Oh, I didn't even hit on Fish Creek. In deference to Michael Strahan, I won't name names. But a high muckety muck in the ADF&G has stated that it is so messed up it can never be revived: he says the hatchery component of the run is now so large a wild run will never exist there. He states that those fish are so few, and scattered so widely through all components of the Cook Inlet commercial fishery, that no measures can be taken in commercial fisheries to help escape more wild fish into that system. I won't name names, because that could be seen as besmirching a public figures character, but I don't see how that attitude is in accordance with a state regulation which is in place to keep wild stocks of salmon from going extinct, and also is set to allow sustainable fisheries upon wild stocks. But all that must be a moot point, because as others on this forum are so quick to shout out, ADF&G is doing a fine job managing!