With just over 217,000 sockeye harvested in the terminal fishery on Monday the 24th some people are asking how many are Kenai? I thought I would provide some perspective. Final numbers will come out after the season from ADF&G but right now they are not saying much. Inseason politics are starting to get in the way of good discussions.
However, here is one way to look at the data. The Kenai River sockeye run right now is composed of about 42% five year old fish that reared one year in freshwater. Therefore, we can use this to make a Kenai estimate.
In the terminal set nets the percent 5 year olds is 16.5 %. In the drift fishery it is 29 %.
So if all the 5 year old fish were Kenai then the set nets took 16,500 and the drift 34,000 or a total of 50,500 5 year old fish. Since 5 year old fish are 42 percent of the escapement then the total Kenai portion can be estimated by 50500/.42 which gives 120,000 Kenai fish if all 5's that rear one year in freshwater are Kenai.
However, the data for Kasilof show that 5 year old fish are going up that river also. Therefore, the 120,000 estimate would be a maximum amount. I suspect that around 50,000 Kenai fish will be in the range of harvest when this all sorts out. I need to get recent Kasilof escapement age data to see what portion is 5 year olds.
So what does this all mean? It means ADF&G had no choice when they stopped fishing the set nets but to use this area. It appears to be targeting Kasilof but the drift fleet may be harvesting more Kenai than the set nets since they are further from shore. ADF&G maybe should think about reducing the drift area.
However, with the counts going up in the Kenai (84,000) everyone may be back in the water by early next week. There is probably over 450,000 fish committed to the river - it looks better everyday but only time will tell.
According to the management plans the sport fishery should reopen above the sonar counters when ADF&G can project they will meet the 500,000 spawning requirements. Since there was little harvest before the closure (there was no fish in the river) the turn on for the sport fishery above the counter should come before the downstream sport fishery or commercial fishery. Those fisheries are managed to reach 650,000 at the sonar counter. The upriver fishery has different management objectives.
Therefore, they do not need 650,000 by the counters - probably around 575-600 thousand should do it. With a full blown fishery they usually only harvest around 100 -150 thousand fish at these escapement levels. Therefore, with a July closure they should project a much lower harvest and therefore turn on the sport fishery earlier - lets see if they do it.