# Thread: Kenai Kings...where's the EO?

1. ## Kenai Kings...where's the EO?

OK... the other thread about king counts being inflated by heavy sockeye passage is going nowhere fast. We can all argue til we're blue in the face about just how much chinook over-counting is going on.

I'm starting this new thread to highlight the HORRIBLE king run the Kenai is currently experiencing... and this is based purely on the published king counts taken at face value.

You should all check out the latest Kenai LR chinook summary:

As I said in the other thread, this is currently the second worst run in the history of the program! How ADFG is able to model a projected in-river return of 34.5K is beyond the laws of mathematics, physics, and plain old common sense!

If 55% of the run is already in-river with a count of 13.4K, then the projected total in-river return is only 24.5K! (Do the math any way you like, but if the laws of math dictate that 2 + 2 still equals 4, then 13.4 divided by 0.55 only comes out to 24.5 in my book). A projection of 34.5K in the face of that mathematical reality just doesn't pass the sniff test. It's simply not possible to conceive a projection that big without the aid of mind-altering pharmaceuticals. Not even Viagara can make things grow that much bigger!

Anglers are currently retaining about 84% of the estimated catch. C&R kills 7.6% of the estimated 835 fish released. Exploitation is currently running 33% without considering ANY harvest above-the-bridge (Soldotna). That's the harvest (4313) plus C&R mortalities (64) divided by the in-river return (13464). Basically one of every three fish is dead before reaching Soldotna!

If you conservatively figure in 20% additional harvest above the bridge (one fish caught above the bridge for every 5 fish caught below), that comes out to about 40% in-river exploitation on the late run. This is very much in keeping with recent years' levels of in-river exploitation.

Now let's go back to the more believable in-river projection of 24.5K. If only 6 out of every 10 make it to spawn, then that leaves an escapement of only 14.9K... clearly below the lower limit of BEG!

If exploitation is allowed to continue at the current rate, it would require an in-river return of at least 29-30K to just barely clear the 17.8K escapement threshold.

It really begs the question... Where is the EO to help reduce the exploitation rate? A more precautionary approach should rule the day! A little bit of pain today ensures we'll have healthy returns in years to come. At the very least we should be talking about a bait ban. And if the numbers continue to tank, we should brace ourselves for the possibility of non-retention.

The historic precedent has already been set. The worst return and the third worst return BOTH were restricted to C&R regs. I believe when it happened in 1998, there was a provision for trophy retention... at that time 52" rather than the current 55" used as the upper bound of the slot limit.

If #1 and #3 all-time worst returns in the database both went to C&R by emergency order, wouldn't we expect #2 to do likewise?

Reliable sources tell me that Sportfish hasn't even blinked at the dismal king return. Managers are OK with what they are seeing... hey, it's all good.

I'd like to see what some of the board's guide members have to say about this. Iceblue? Yukon? AKfishingguide? Gotfish? TCman?

2. Can Nerka, AKtally, or Akkona help out? Is Doc even in the ballpark on this one?

Maybe F&G feels or knows there are enough kings in the Inlet to make the goals. We are at 55% of the run with only 13,000 fish, doesn't seem like there is a lot of room for error. I don't doubt the department has a handle on it but I hope they aren't wrong. I am not sure where they get 34,500 as a return estimate. Is there any science behind a "late run"? That theory didn't play out for the Deshka.

3. ## Deshka was NOT alone!

Originally Posted by yukon
Is there any science behind a "late run"? That theory didn't play out for the Deshka.
Nor Karluk (<600 total run)

Nor Ayakulik (<3000 total run)

Nor Yukon (so bad even subsistence users were restricted)

BTW total run for the Deshka was only 7300 fish.

Kenai ER kings certainly weren't late. Just look at the graphs... textbook run-timing on the cumulative slopes by my account.

Why would anyone suspect LR fish to be "late"?

4. Originally Posted by yukon
Can Nerka, AKtally, or Akkona help out? Is Doc even in the ballpark on this one?

Maybe F&G feels or knows there are enough kings in the Inlet to make the goals. We are at 55% of the run with only 13,000 fish, doesn't seem like there is a lot of room for error. I don't doubt the department has a handle on it but I hope they aren't wrong. I am not sure where they get 34,500 as a return estimate. Is there any science behind a "late run"? That theory didn't play out for the Deshka.
The whole issue here is run timing. Doc used an on time run while ADF&G is using a later run timing. No one knows what it is at this point. I believe the harvest estimates are on close as doc presents so I believe ADF&G knows that the final escapement will be in the lower end of the goal range. However, remember the escapements are to be spread equally over the goal range and maybe this is one year when it comes in low.

Not debating doc on the no bait idea - just pointing out the use of restrictions is to achieve the goal range. If you use doc's figures go with restrictions - if you believe it is late you do not restrict. I suspect the end of this week will be a decision point but by that time little is gained with restrictions. That is the problem with the way the run comes in.

5. As it has been pointed out in another thread, there is a little bit of voodoo science that takes place in fish counting. In this case 2+2= at least 5. The king numbers are seemingly low this year and while I am not ready to jump off a bridge yet or sell my favorite lures, this is of a concern. I am glad I am not a manager on that river.....

6. Originally Posted by T.R. Bauer
I am glad I am not a manager on that river.....
I agree with that.

Nerka, is there any science behind the use of "late run timing"? Seems to me to be a pretty big gamble. Is there any data or reason to believe that the run is late? (more than "it is cold this year") I guess that "if I were manager for a day" I would go conservative, you can always "unrestrict". I do agree that with such little time left in the season restrictions really wouldn't be effective (statistically). By the time the managers know if they guessed right it is too late. It is my guess they are counting on the August component which will be tough to count as there will be thousands and thousands of pinks.

7. ## A few more considerations into the pot

The king forecasts are relatively accurate and it is unlikely that it would be that far off. Has to do with the overlapping age structure of kings.

When fish counts are way off the forecast like this, they usually (9 times out of 10) move back toward the forecast as the season progresses.

King catches in the set net fishery continue to build. On Sunday the Kasilof set net fishery caught 500 kings fishing only within 1/2 mile of the beach. Suggests a good push of kings moving through the inlet. Today's regular period catches will tell us more when they get the numbers added up tomorrow.

Even with an average run timing, the run is tracking at the bottom of the escapement goal range. It won't take more than a few days of decent counts to fall in line.

So low king counts:
lousy fishing? Yup
cause for concern? Sure
time for restriction? Not yet

Let's see how this week goes and then we can talk. And if I'm wrong, Doc can say he told me so.

8. ## a little more.

Originally Posted by Bfish
The king forecasts are relatively accurate and it is unlikely that it would be that far off. Has to do with the overlapping age structure of kings.

When fish counts are way off the forecast like this, they usually (9 times out of 10) move back toward the forecast as the season progresses.

King catches in the set net fishery continue to build. On Sunday the Kasilof set net fishery caught 500 kings fishing only within 1/2 mile of the beach. Suggests a good push of kings moving through the inlet. Today's regular period catches will tell us more when they get the numbers added up tomorrow.

Even with an average run timing, the run is tracking at the bottom of the escapement goal range. It won't take more than a few days of decent counts to fall in line.

So low king counts:
lousy fishing? Yup
cause for concern? Sure
time for restriction? Not yet

Let's see how this week goes and then we can talk. And if I'm wrong, Doc can say he told me so.
Do not disagree with the above comments. One thing to consider is the social impact and economic impact. When a manager makes a restriction in the sport fishery it tends to reduce effort for more than the restriction period. People leave and do not come back when the fishery is made whole again. So sport fish managers want to make sure the restrictions are necessary and will last longer than a day or two.

Last year the Palmer office made this error with coho and it created all types of issues -

9. Originally Posted by Nerka
Do not disagree with the above comments. One thing to consider is the social impact and economic impact. When a manager makes a restriction in the sport fishery it tends to reduce effort for more than the restriction period. People leave and do not come back when the fishery is made whole again. So sport fish managers want to make sure the restrictions are necessary and will last longer than a day or two.

Last year the Palmer office made this error with coho and it created all types of issues -

Nerka,

And some positives too. One was it was really easy to find a campsite on the Little Su.

10. ## EO's come and EO's go..

Social and economic disruption may occur with EO's... the more restrictive, the more disruptive. Sometimes you just have to buck up and say "So what?" If a restrictive EO eventually turns out to be a bit of overkill when the run finally picks up steam, it can always be taken back. Isn't that what we do with the gillnet fleet? EO'ing restrictions and liberalizations according to the rate of escapement? Can last minute changes be disruptive? Of course they can, but the commercial fleet is expected to roll with the punches. But for some reason, the almighty opportunity card does not allow the same standards to be applied to the sportfishery. Look don't get me wrong, I like stable and predictable as much as anyone else, but every once in a while it can't hurt to err on the side of caution.

Gambling on the waiting game of a "late" king run is not without its risks. Taking bait away is clearly NOT going to cause a collapse of the in-river sportfishery for kings, any more than coralling the setnets to within a 1/2 mile of the Kasilof beaches to help get more Kenai and Susitna sockeye past those nets. Sure it might make things tougher and more inconvenient for the particpants, but the overwhelming majority of folks would still choose to fish under the EO. At least the king fishing can go on at a reduced rate of exploitation that hopefully increases the likelihood that we'll make escapement, at least up until the point that managers are CERTAIN that the goal is guaranteed.

If ADFG loses the EO waiting game and later decides there are so few fish that more drastic measures like non-retention or a shutdown are necessary to make the goal, then the pain will be much much worse. Talk about community disruption!

My take on it is this:

Why incur ANY risk of holding out on the EO to no bait and potentially missing the lower end BEG... when there is virtually ZERO risk that the same EO will put them over the upper end BEG. I'll say it again... ZERO! If it's really all just about managing for the goal, that's certainly one way to do it without any liability of missing the management objective.

***

Some small measure of social and economic disruption is sometimes a necessary part of responsible stewardship of our fish resources. But sadly it has largely been a missing component in how we have historically managed the fish. This current situation is no different.

In the long history of salmon "management" worldwide, the fish have ALWAYS paid the price whenever decision-makers' priorities revolved around avoiding social and economic dispruption. Time and again, it was simply too "inconvenient" for society to live with the responsible decisions that put the salmon first. Repeated often enough, that irresponsible strategy would eventually lead to sweeping and irreversible declines in wild Atlantic salmon populations throughout Europe to the East Coast of N. America. Sadly, that pattern continues today in CA, OR, WA, BC, and AK as the list of imperiled stocks of Pacific salmon continues to grow.

Now I'm not about to make the leap suggesting that late run Kenai kings are "imperiled" at this time.They aren't. But neither were all of the other salmon stocks of the world when innocently "small" (but nonetheless bad) decisions were being made about their fate... just because the responsible decisions were simply too inconvenient for people, God forbid that they should be made to suffer any economic or social disruption.

And so the fishing continued even when spawing escapements were lagging. Why bother to stop when the fishing season was nearly over... damage done... oh well.

The roads and the dams went in without adequate fish passage. Just too dammed expensive... besides the fish could always get up that "other" tributary just upstream... well, at least until they put an impassable road/dam on it.

Water was diverted for irrigation because we needed it more than the fish.

Hatcheries were built to augment (usually over-harvested) stocks with little or no regard for their negative impacts on wild salmon populations.

Columbia River dams were erected for "cheap" electricity without thinking about the real costs in terms of wild fish depletion and the \$500 million "recovery" dollars spent annually to keep those dams from running afoul of the ESA.

The list of examples goes on and on. Social and economic convenience has trumped the welfare of salmon each and every time. When are we ever gonna learn?

11. ## russian roulette

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why would we want to play Russian Roulette with the finest run of Kings on earth? I am not sure what the rules say about restrictions in river affecting the commercial fishermens openings. Might be a good time to reel in the commercial in river fleet and joe fisherman by restricting bait, and maybe pull the east side set nets a day or two to insure this runs future. Sometimes its not possible to have our cake and eat it too!

12. Originally Posted by fishNphysician
As I said in the other thread, this is currently the second worst run in the history of the program! How ADFG is able to model a projected in-river return of 34.5K is beyond the laws of mathematics, physics, and plain old common sense!

If 55% of the run is already in-river with a count of 13.4K, then the projected total in-river return is only 24.5K! (Do the math any way you like, but if the laws of math dictate that 2 + 2 still equals 4, then 13.4 divided by 0.55 only comes out to 24.5 in my book). A projection of 34.5K in the face of that mathematical reality just doesn't pass the sniff test. It's simply not possible to conceive a projection that big without the aid of mind-altering pharmaceuticals. Not even Viagara can make things grow that much bigger!
There is a serious flaw in your scenario....

You are assuming 55% of the run is already in-river. When in fact, in years past that has ranged anywhere from 34% to 83%. As Nerka said 55% represents a "typical" run timing percentage (and I don't think this year is "typical").

Using a 40% in-river number (later run-timing), which falls well into the range, it's easy to see how F&G achieves their 34,500 projection...Mind-altering pharmaceuticals not necessary.

Using the 40% in-river number (34,500 projection), along with your supposed scenario that 6 out of every 10 make it to spawn, we end up with an escapement of 20,700...well above the lower limit of BEG.

I would not be against restrictions and a "play it safe" approach. I never feel totally comfortable with lower end BEG's, particularly when runs all over the west cost have been dismal this year. Plus I have concern for how many Kings are being taken by the personal use dipnet fishery...I know of many. One thing we have in our back pockets is the late Kings that come in after the counters are done. Over the years I've seen more and more Kings hit the river extremely late (late-Aug into Sept). Nice large bright Kings with sea lice.

If only a crystal ball....

13. Grampy and Nerka, (annyone else)

I know in the ER F&G has discussed run timing and wanting the catch spread out over the entire run, not just part of it. Do you think that he king run is getting later and later because we are catching the early spawners of the July run and the later kings (August) are not being caught and causing a later run timing because of spawing genetics? As in, the later kings are not being caught and therefore they are spawing in significant numbers causing the run to be later and later, and sockeye too (possibly). Just a thought for duscission.

14. Huh, Yukon that's pretty interesting. Sounds like a good theory to me, but let's see what Nerka and others say. Makes sense as it's been fished hard for kings for generations of kings mainly in June and July.

15. I agree, with reds as well, not so much this year but in years past there have been a lot of early commercial E0's then later restrictions, possibly affecting run timing of reds. I know it takes a lot to change genetics but it is an interesting discussion. I know F&G likes to see equal (ideally) harvest throughout the run in different fisheries it is at least a good topic for discussion.

16. ## Kings are here.... but are they late?

Originally Posted by Grampyfishes
There is a serious flaw in your scenario....

You are assuming 55% of the run is already in-river.

Using a 40% in-river number (later run-timing), which falls well into the range, it's easy to see how F&G achieves their 34,500 projection...Mind-altering pharmaceuticals not necessary.
You are right Grampy. If the fish are late, then the 55% figure is overstated.

But is there really any hard data that suggests the fish are in fact late? What hard indicators in the entry pattern raise the red flag that a run is lagging behind schedule versus the run simply being weak? Or is it just a wild ***** guess until it can be confirmed after the fact?

Based on the graphs in the link below, is it possible to accurately declare this years LR "late"? On what basis?

For those who think the graphs show the run is late, I'd be interested in hearing how late you think the data shows them to be? A day? Two? Three? Four? More?

Seems to me this year's sportfishery is behaving similar to when I last fished the LR in 2006... the first wide-open bite of the season materialized on July 21. The first wide-open bite of 2008 occurred y'day with folks in the drift armada reporting 7-8 hookups per boat.... GOOD fishing.... on HMMM... July 21!

Y'days comm fish opener also took nearly 800 kings off the beaches... another good sign that more fish are on the move.

This morning's tidewater bite for the powerboat fleet was also reported as very good. (I believe yukon can corroborate my 2500 mile report). It's certainly giving us cause to finally breathe a sigh of relief for what had just been the 2nd worst return in history!

Fish have definitely committed to the river... just as they should be doing at this point in the run. But given everything we have seen so far, can anyone really call them "late"?

17. ## not sure on chinook

Originally Posted by yukon
I agree, with reds as well, not so much this year but in years past there have been a lot of early commercial E0's then later restrictions, possibly affecting run timing of reds. I know it takes a lot to change genetics but it is an interesting discussion. I know F&G likes to see equal (ideally) harvest throughout the run in different fisheries it is at least a good topic for discussion.
Relative to reds there is no need to worry about shifting the run timing. The commercial fleet actually does harvest over the run fairly equally - it was delayed a few years with earlier closures in August but that was minimized with the last board of fish meeting.

Yukon and Iceblue - you need to think about how the drift and set net fisheries work together. Run reconstruction is hard but there is little indication that a genetic impact is taking place.

On the question of chinook salmon we just do not have enough information to know where the fish spawn, what component is being harvested and in what proportion, or other factors - so the short answer is I do not know what the fishery is doing - it was not my job to study chinook. For sockeye at least we have a genetic data base, run timeing models, escapement estimates, data on spawner distribution, juvenile rearing studies, and age at return data. I wish we had it for chinook.

18. ## What? No takers?

Originally Posted by fishNphysician

Based on the graphs in the link below, is it possible to accurately declare this years LR "late"? On what basis?

For those who think the graphs show the run is late, I'd be interested in hearing how late you think the data shows them to be? A day? Two? Three? Four? More?
Just for curiosity I ran y'days (July 21) cumulative count against the historic cum-count for the previous 4 days in the run.

Here are the results:

If the run is on time, the projection is 25.2K. With a 40% exploitation, the escapement is 15.1K. Failure to meet BEG.

If the run is a day late, the projection is 27.0K. With a 40% exploitation, the escapement is 16.2K. Failure to meet BEG.

If the run is two days late, the projection is 29.3K. With a 40% exploitation, the escapement is 17.6K. Darn close, but still a failure to meet BEG.

If the run is three days late, the projection is 31.9K. With a 40% exploitation, the escapement is 19.1K. Satisfies BEG by a margin of about 1300 kings. That's a whopping 7% over the 17.8K threshold.

If the run is four days late, the projection is 35.3K. With a 40% exploitation, the escapement is 21.2K. Satisfies BEG with a comfortable margin.

****

So there you have it. The magnitude of this return is so small that a mere 2-3 day swing in the run timing makes all the difference in whether or not the goal will even be achieved. Call me a chicken wearing the sky as a hat, but with that small a margin for error, I would personally take a more conservative course of action. It's just really difficult for someone with my background to make crucial decisions right down to the wire on such bare-bones, razor-thin margins.

I remain cautiously optimistic that we ultimately make BEG, but it will certainly be an outcome that depends just as much on luck as it does science.

Or perhaps a few extra days of strategic counting in the second week of August.

19. ## Exploitation rates

Doc, I think you need to take a close look at your exploitation assumption. Any of the fish hitting the river in August will be unexploited. That drags the average down quite abit as I think you can pretty much count on 3-4 thousand fish after the 31st. ADFG preseason estimated a 30% exploitation rate above the sonar and that is looking about right. Gonna be moot in a couple a days anyway. Counts are likely to jump this week if they haven't already. Your trip timing is perfect this year. Now go fish and quit worryin!

(Though I do need to go back and re-examine my thinking on this since Nerka actually doesn't disagree with me - which is as close to consensus as the two of us will probably ever get. Still it is entertaining to armchair quarterback this fishery management stuff when we aren't in the hot seat ourselves. Beats the heck out of watching golf on TV!)

20. fishNphysician, the 21-year average shows the peak at July 17th. Last year the peak of the run didn't hit until July 25. We ended up with a surplus. In 2005 the peak was July 12. Point being that there is no more evidence the run is late than there is evidence it is on time, or even early for that matter. Remember the range was 34%-83%, so it could fall anywhere. We just have to wait. Is it weaker than other prior years?...certainly at this point. But that doesn't mean we won't get our goal.

Also Bfish made a good point about your high exploitation rate figure, which I think you need to take into consideration when manipulating the numbers to fit your scenario. I gave your 40% figure the benefit of the doubt because I feel many Kings are pulled off their in-river spawning beds and played to death by lower river rainbow fishermen after the king season is closed. Those Kings can never get back up river and find their bed, and if they do, they just get caught and played again.

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