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Thread: Early Kenai River chinook counts

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    Default Early Kenai River chinook counts

    I talked to ADF&G yesterday and asked how the early Kenai River chinook run is going. They said that early Russian River sockeye are impacting the counts and that they are proceeding in a conservative mode because of this and the fact the back end of some returns have failed. So they are just going to allow the fishery to proceed as it is and see what happens. I just thought some would like to know since if you just looked at the counts they appear fine. ADF&G is doing the right thing given this uncertainity in the data.

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    Then why are the posting the data to the public?

    Are they following the management plan at this time?

    How many of the fish that are counted as kings, actually sockeyes, do they have a number?

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    Default do not know

    Quote Originally Posted by yukon View Post
    Then why are the posting the data to the public?

    Are they following the management plan at this time?

    How many of the fish that are counted as kings, actually sockeyes, do they have a number?
    I do not think they know the level of impact but maybe Aktally could comment. Yukon, I do not believe they have to go to bait but rather they have the option. I do not have the early run plan in front of me to say for sure.

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    Yeah...I had to take a look, too...to see what was in there now. I'd seen earlier comments about bait seemingly being "mandated" if the escapement was going to end up being within the range (after harvest). It pretty much reads that way, IMO.

    From 5 AAC 57.160 (d)(3):
    "if the spawning escapement is projected to fall within the optimal escapement goal, the commissioner shall, by emergency order, liberalize the sport fishery downstream from the outlet of Skilak Lake, by allowing the use of bait if the department projects that the total harvest under a liberalized sport fishery will not reduce the spawning escapement below the optimal escapement goal; only king salmon less than 46 inches in length or 55 inches or greater in length may be retained; "

    The Dept. definitely has some wiggle room in projecting the increased harvest by allowing bait, and I can't fault them at all for holding out if things are expected to be "close"...especially given how kind runs are performing everywhere else this summer. Also, there still is the SSFP guidance about providing escapements across a range and not just shooting for the minimum (or max) all the time.

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    Default Here is the most recent info from the dept:



    ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME
    Denby S. Lloyd, Commissioner


    DIVISION OF SPORT FISH
    Charles O. Swanton, Director
    Robert Begich, Area Management Biologist
    (907) 262-9368
    Tim McKinley, Area Research Biologist
    (907) 262-9368

    KENAI RIVER EARLY-RUN KING SALMON

    INSEASON DATA SUMMARY #4
    Friday 6/12/09




    Comments

    Latest daily sonar estimate (Thur 6/11)

    603

    Sonar at River Mile 8.5

    Cumulative sonar (thru Thur 6/11)

    5,609

    Of 21 years on record: 15 years were higher, 6 years were lower through 6/11.

    On average, ~50% of run has returned to date.

    If the run proceeds at the current rate, estimated run size

    12,500 (+/-2,200)
    Below average run size projected
    Escapement goal range

    5,300 - 9,000

    Goal range since 2005

    Pre-season forecast of in-river run

    ~16,500

    Average run is ~16,400

    Sport fishery thru 6/11 in lower river

    Catch 453

    Harvest 373

    Well below average catch and harvest to date

    Average time it takes guided anglers to catch a king in 2009

    38 hours

    Much slower than usual

    Average time it takes unguided anglers to catch a king in 2009

    64 hours

    Much slower than usual

    Water clarity

    Poor; last visibility reading 0.7 meters on 6/11

    Water flow/current

    Above average; 8,160 ft3/sec today vs 44 yr median (7,480 ft3/sec)

    Summary: The department believes that the cumulative estimate of king salmon passage into the Kenai River in 2009 may be biased high due to the large influx of sockeye salmon. Factors that the Department has taken into account include: low catch rates in the sport fishery, low catch rates of king salmon in the department test net project, and additional indices of king salmon passage from the sonar project. These factors in combination with below average run strength of king salmon throughout Cook Inlet this year dictate the early-run fishery be managed conservatively. Consequently, no in-season management actions are anticipated at this time. This could change as the run continues to develop.

    This information was compiled based on raw and historical data for inseason management purposes.
    Final data is subject to change.

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    Default Shall means "WILL"

    Just looking at what Mr. Fish quoted from the regulation, if the escapement is projected to fall within the OEG (which it obviously is), then the commissioner shall (read WILL) liberalize the fishery to the use of bait by EO. The fishery should be open to bait.

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    So, the first run is projected to be 12,500 (plus or minus 2200) if the run progresses at the current rate. Based on these numbers the run will fall within the goal or go over the top end even if bait is allowed tomorrow. It will even be within the goal or go over the top if the current numbers are inflated by up to 40% due to sockeye contamination.
    I am all for proceding with caution before allowing bait, but with all due respect, when the sonar numbers came in the last three days any conservation concern has dissapated.

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    Default Seems pretty clear to me.....

    Quote Originally Posted by fish247 View Post
    Just looking at what Mr. Fish quoted from the regulation, if the escapement is projected to fall within the OEG (which it obviously is), then the commissioner shall (read WILL) liberalize the fishery to the use of bait by EO. The fishery should be open to bait.
    The department believes that the cumulative estimate of king salmon passage into the Kenai River in 2009 may be biased high due to the large influx of sockeye salmon. Factors that the Department has taken into account include: low catch rates in the sport fishery, low catch rates of king salmon in the department test net project, and additional indices of king salmon passage from the sonar project. These factors in combination with below average run strength of king salmon throughout Cook Inlet this year dictate the early-run fishery be managed conservatively. Consequently, no in-season management actions are anticipated at this time. This could change as the run continues to develop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fish247 View Post
    Just looking at what Mr. Fish quoted from the regulation, if the escapement is projected to fall within the OEG (which it obviously is), then the commissioner shall (read WILL) liberalize the fishery to the use of bait by EO. The fishery should be open to bait.
    yes, shall is compulsory, but as I mentioned, the department has some wiggle room in estimating harvest with bait being allowed.

    I still have to wonder along the lines of Yukon's earlier question. But, undoubetdly, if they made some kind of in-season factor/adjustment to try and correct for an estimate of "sockeye pollution", they'd catch major heck for being subjective...UNDOUBTEDLY.

    Like I said earlier, I can't fault them at all for their decision at this time...not because of the sockeye issue, but because of how king returns are performing elsewhere in UCI and across the State, so far: dismal. If there is a time to be conservative, this is it.

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    Default Numbers may be biased....

    The numbers may be biased by sockeyes but then again they may not be. Were there huge numbers of reds in the test nets? What about the Kings (and reds for that matter) that were inriver prior to sonar postings? Come on, the regs are pretty clear. Please don't get me wrong, I am all for caution, but the regs are clear as to the use of shall and clear as to the OEG.

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    Default Give it a break.......

    Quote Originally Posted by fish247 View Post
    The numbers may be biased by sockeyes but then again they may not be. Were there huge numbers of reds in the test nets? What about the Kings (and reds for that matter) that were inriver prior to sonar postings? Come on, the regs are pretty clear. Please don't get me wrong, I am all for caution, but the regs are clear as to the use of shall and clear as to the OEG.
    ADFG has been very generous about the bait openers the last three years... If they don't feel here are enough fish or that the counts are accurate, by all means keep bait closed!

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    Default Easy TYNMON....

    Again, don't get me wrong. I am all for proceeding with caution. However, if the State is going to have a management plan then the plan should be followed. I am sitting in front of my computer looking out the window at the Kenai right now. A river that I grew up fishing on, guided on for years during college and am now teaching my daughters to fish on. I want the runs to continue and I want the numbers of fish and BIG fish to return to what they were in my youth. I would personally like to see the fishery go to a no retention fishery until the escapement has been met. No slot, no bait, no retention until the fish are inriver. Is that a realistic option? Probably not. I have read this forum for a while now and never posted, but this management plan that has never been followed finally got me to post. The State set the plan and needs to be held accountable for following the plan.

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    Default That is completely fair assesment...

    Quote Originally Posted by fish247 View Post
    Again, don't get me wrong. I am all for proceeding with caution. However, if the State is going to have a management plan then the plan should be followed. I am sitting in front of my computer looking out the window at the Kenai right now. A river that I grew up fishing on, guided on for years during college and am now teaching my daughters to fish on. I want the runs to continue and I want the numbers of fish and BIG fish to return to what they were in my youth. I would personally like to see the fishery go to a no retention fishery until the escapement has been met. No slot, no bait, no retention until the fish are inriver. Is that a realistic option? Probably not. I have read this forum for a while now and never posted, but this management plan that has never been followed finally got me to post. The State set the plan and needs to be held accountable for following the plan.

    Couldn't aggree more w/ you evaluations... Personally I would like to see the early run conserved.

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    The plan is being followed. The BOF is well aware that actions based upon projections are flexible due to varying confidence levels in projections and uncertainties in the data. They understand and expect managers to use all the information available and use their best judgement when determining confidence in projections that are generated. Without that flexibility one could argue that bait should have been allowed May 1 since the preseason projection indicated that the escapement would be met. Projections change daily.

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    Default Double-edged sword....

    The department believes that the cumulative estimate of king salmon passage into the Kenai River in 2009 may be biased high due to the large influx of sockeye salmon. Factors that the Department has taken into account include: low catch rates in the sport fishery, low catch rates of king salmon in the department test net project, and additional indices of king salmon passage from the sonar project.
    Look, I am all for conservation and I've been quite vocal about my objections to the new-and-improved BEG/OEG that's been established for the early run.

    That said, the folks that set policy should CLEARLY have their feet held to the fire.

    They lose all credibility when they set out to craft a management plan based on the new "science" with what they feel is a biologically defensible BEG/OEG (despite the objection and skepticism of much of the principal user group) then decide they are under no obligation to follow their own plan. That's when the BS meter hits red-line!

    The bait mandate for any escapement projection > 5300 was put in place to help increase exploitation on a run that was not being consistently cropped down to OEG by the existing fishery. Bait not only improves the odds of a chinook encounter for any individual angler, but also acts a "stimulus" to encourage greater participation in the fishery. That's two distinct mechanisms for increasing exploitation on the run.... which was the primary objective in the first place!

    Let's be clear here. The objective was to kill more fish... and by golly, the bait mandate was certainly one effective way to help managers do just that.

    One might raise the argument of conservatively managing for escapements within the full spectrum of the BEG, but when we consider that escapements have ALL gone over the top end since the inception of the new OEG, isn't it high time we had an escapement near the bottom end? Of course that's only if you believe that the new OEG is what's best for the resource. ADFG certainly did in 2005... in fact, they were willing to go all the way down to 4000 and call it a "healthy" escapement. What happened over the past 4 yrs?



    Perhaps ADFG is equivocating on whether or not that's truly the case. So which is it? Do we need a mechanism to help the fishery kill a couple thousand extra kings each season to stay within "goal" or not? If not, why not? Or is this just a cleverly-disguised covert way to raise the goal without actually having to do it in black and white?

    ***

    Let me paint two ridiculously extreme scenarios....

    Let's start with a best case scenario. Right now, if we suppose the counter is 100% correct, the fishery could potentially kill every last king that's destined to return to the river thru June 30, (100% exploitation on the kings that have yet to enter the river) the management plan would still be satisfied. Tell me that's going to happen. NOT!

    Now consider a worst case scenario. Right now, if we suppose the counter is over-inflated by 50% we are sitting on 3700 kings thru peak sockeye passage (of the supposed 5600 fish counted, 1900 are "phantom" kings). The historic mid-point of chinook passage is June 12-13, so we're not even halfway yet. For nice round numbers, let's call it an even 4000 for the first half of the run. We all know that within a few days, the sockeye pollution will abate and the counter will suddenly become more "reliable" again. But let's suppose (for worst-case purposes) that the sonar continues to overcount by an additional 50% for the remainder of the run. That makes another 4000 kings for the second half of the run, for a total of 8000 by June 30.

    Recall that 2700 of those 8000 could be taken and still make the lower OEG. Right now we've harvested about 370 fish of the 3700 in the river (again, assuming 50% hyper-inflation).... that works out to an exploitation rate of about 10% without bait. HMMMMM.... 2330 additional kings (2700 minus 370) could be harvested and still satisfy the management objective.

    To kill an additional 2330 kings, the fishery would need to be prosecuted with an exploitation rate of 58% on the remaining 4000 fish that have yet to enter the river. Tell me that's going to happen. NOT!

    ***

    I don't care how good you think you can fish the Kenai with bait, but ain't no way on God's green earth the fleet is gonna come anywhere close to either 100% or 58% exploitation. No freakin' way! Under the best of circumstances (and I'm being extremely generous here), bait might make the fleet 2-3 times as deadly..... TOPS! That would raise exploitation from 10% to perhaps 20-30% at best! No way, no how that could jeopardize the OEG.

    If they truly believe in the validity of their plan, the EO to bait is simply a no-brainer if they have any hope of fulfilling the management objective. Seriously, it could have been called last week, and they would still make goal even with 50% sonar hyperinflation for the remainder of the season.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Default some follow up

    I think this points out the issue of management plans and ADF&G authority independent of the Board of Fisheries. They try to compliment each other most of the time but in point of fact the Commissioner can act outside the plans at his will if in-season information changes the situation. In this case the influence of sockeye salmon and indicators of poor returns allows the Commissioner to act independent of the management plans. This is part of the balance between the Board of Fisheries and the Commissioner.

    I believe the management plans work most of the time but sometimes they need to be altered. Recent management plans have done away with the words shall and used may to help ease the conflict between two regulatory groups. In addition, the Board of Fisheries in following the court decision has recognized that the Commissioner's e.o authority is not subject to their alteration. So overall it is a good approach and this is a judgement call - ADF&G is right to put opportunity second to conservation in this case - in my mind only because of the sockeye influence and not knowing where they are at. What is the sockeye influence is half of the coutns ( not saying they are) but what if? Would that change people's mind?

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    This is ridiculous. Why are the sockeyes affecting the counter so badly this year???? We have had lots of sockeyes in the first run before and we are continously told the king numbers are "good", but this year the sockeyes are having a significant impact????

    Don't get me going on July sockeyes!!!!

    Don't give me some crap that it is a different counting method and such, I got ripped on this board for saying their 3000 king days were BS and other high days were BS based on my personal observations of catch rates with great water conditions.

    Now we have terrible water, lots of crap floating down the river, catch rates are down and NOW they are taking that into consideration????!?!?!?

    I was basically called a moron (not a direct quote) for saying on the river observations are important and valuable, now they are being used for enumerating kings under very poor river conditions. Give me a break.

    So the counter sucks, are they admitting that now?????

    So F&G biologists, I know and appreciate your tough job, really I do, but how many kings do you think we actually have???

    What kind of error are we talking???? How much??? Do you have guess? or is it just a gut feeling based on everything not scientific?

    Out of the 5600 kings counted, how many do you really think we have?


    Nerka, if we have a 50% error in the counter then why have it?????

    I have heard F&G doesn't know if they have 5000 kings or 3000 kings, 40% error?? that is not good enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TYNMON View Post
    ADFG has been very generous about the bait openers the last three years... If they don't feel here are enough fish or that the counts are accurate, by all means keep bait closed!
    Too bad you aren't here to experience the fishing conditons, low catch rates and frustrations of many anglers. All that is being asked is for the management plan to be followed, heck, F&G wanted the low end to be 4000 kings, they shouldn't be worried about making escapement.

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    Default out on the table.

    If long term residents on this forum remember we have had the discussion of what the chinook sonar operation is counting. I and others have questioned whether this counter should be used to set escapement goals and have precise management objectives because of the uncertainity in the counts. The record is clear on this.

    What is not clear is the level of uncertainity and whether the goals are reaslistic given the counter operations. I believe and stated that lowering the goal and assuming the counts are perfect would lead us to this point. With lower goals increased uncertainity makes a manager nervous. So today we have a conflict between those, for a variety of reasons, who took a firm stand on the counter being accurate enough to set a goal and those who did not.

    ADF&G was caught in a long term conflict in logic. If the early run counter is being impacted by sockeye and has great uncertainity then how can a late run management plan be written to regulate the commercial fishery with the same counting technique? In fact, the uncertainity was thought to be greater with the late run chinook counts. Internal politics played a large role in that decision and I was here when it was debated.

    So where are we? Management wants to maintain the long term helath of the return. The risk of overharvest is greater than the risk of underharvest with early run fish ( inflated counts, harvest in July that is counted as late run when they are early run) and therefore a manager will error on the side of conservation. I think ADF&G with the statement quoted above is opening the door to an honest discussion of this topic for once and should not be beat up. This debate should be welcomed.

    Also remember that management can live with error in counts if the runs sustain themselves - which the early run has appeared to do. They are just managing on a fixed exploitaion rate model. In contrast, research which sets escapement goals based on counts needs a higher level of precision and accuracy to set defendable goals.

    So given the state of the situation I believe ADF&G is doing the right thing. However, they need to come out at BOF meetings and be clear that the historical data set is compromised and probably not useful for setting rigid goals or for lowering goals as they did in 2005. I believe the action then was a mistake and still do today..

    Counting chinook in the Kenai River is a huge complex issue and the ADF&G has struggled for 20 years on this issue. However, instead of keeping it a research project the rush to have goals and counts - mainly for late run chinook management set ADF&G and the public on a path that leads to distrust and confusion -

    On a final note- if the July chinook counts were inflated and the projected escapement was close to the closing point of the commercial fishery would people be saying follow the plan regardless of what you think about the counts - ie. keep the commercial fishery open. Or would in this case would Yukon and Doc argue for closure of the commercial fishery because the counts are inflated? Just a logic question for the group not picking on Yukon or Doc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yukon
    This is ridiculous. Why are the sockeyes affecting the counter so badly this year????...So the counter sucks, are they admitting that now?????
    This year is no different than any year...ADF&G has always said there is bias due to sockeye. The difference this year is that ADF&G is taking a more conservative approach, and the bias is more important, particularly considering the weak runs throughout Cook Inlet (and the entire PNW), test nets, sport catch rates, etc. Sonar confidence is more critical when poor runs are indicated. And the conservative approach, which includes the sonar bias, is appropriate.


    Quote Originally Posted by yukon
    I got ripped on this board for saying their 3000 king days were BS and other high days were BS based on my personal observations of catch rates with great water conditions.
    That's not true. Someone simply pointed out the exaggeration and flaws with a statement you made (posted below)....There has only been 3 times in the last 10 years where the sonar counted 3000 Kings in late July. And due to a number of variables (fishing ability, tide timing, conditions, bite, etc.) personal on-the-water observations don't mean the counter is wrong.


    Quote Originally Posted by yukon
    I was basically called a moron (not a direct quote) for saying on the river observations are important and valuable...
    That's not true either. What you said was that on-the-ground observations trump a lack of data, like on the Kenai in late July.

    "I think the point that is trying to be made is there isn't always scientific data available and on the ground observations trump a lack of data. Kinda like a day on the Kenai in late July that sucks and there are 3000 kings that swam by the scientific counter. Being out there tells you there is no way 3000 kings came in." - yukon


    I am not condoning or defending the bias of the sonar, or saying that personal on-the-water observations/catch rates aren't one indicator. However, with the exception of last year's mysterious bust, the sonar and management methods have given us excellent fishing and a surplus of Kings over the years...fixed eploitation rate model. Considering the recent concern for lean times (experienced all over the PNW), the more conservative approach is wise, and the confidence of the sonar becomes more important.


    Quote Originally Posted by yukon
    I have heard F&G doesn't know if they have 5000 kings or 3000 kings, 40% error?? that is not good enough.
    Who told you that?

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