Water Chemistry and Return Projections
Please correct me if I'm wrong:
Salmon return projections should be based on historical cycles and comprehensive climate and water chemistry studies and not on early season commercial harvests or even early season escapement data.
Salmon find their rivers, tributaries, and spawning streams based on water chemistry. When the conditions meet their biologically triggered satisfaction, they leave their years on the high seas and go for home. If the conditions don't meet their satisfaction, they stay at sea for another year.
If the F&G bases their return projections solely on the typical life cycle of the salmon and disregard what kind of winter and spring we're having, the mysterious chemical complexities of the rivers and the conditions at sea, then we get situations like what happened in 2006 and what happened on the Kenai a few years ago.
In 2006 on the Copper, we were seeing an incredibly low return for most of May; far below projections and it looked like a disaster.
Those salmon weren't being caught by the commercial fleet, either, because they were waiting for the conditions to meet their approval, even in the near shore waters.
At the end of May, they got the signal. All of a sudden we went from a cumulative escapement of 70k to over 120k in one day.
2007 and 2002 also had delayed returns at the beginning of the season. 2002 is the year we had the huge return over a 10 day period in the middle of July.
On the Kenai a few years ago, F&G declared a return disaster and shut dipnetting down completely, only to have to reopen it as the river got slammed with a huge return all of a sudden.
From all reports coming through this forum, people are picking up kings like they normally do. How come they weren't caught by the commercial fleet? Perhaps they were hanging out deeper than the lead lines because of water conditions this year.
Other threads have already discussed how the Miles Lake Sonar station does not differentiate reds from kings, so our families and the needy who can't fish for themselves miss out unnecessarily on the king harvest, if it truly is normal this year.
Fish and Game needs a better method to monitor escapement of reds and kings. Who would be the person in charge of such decisions?
The problem is that you are you suggesting the fish biologists use some chemistry to more reliably track the trends, that could conflict with governmental regulations since they are considered biologists and not chemists. We will have to start a new division of Fish and Game to get the ball rolling. Right now it is easier to rely on commercial fishing harvest numbers and declare a state of emergency if they aren't filling their pocke... er, I mean boats.
We could probably get better estimations with lower costs by hiring high school grads at 8 bucks an hour with snorkels and hand tally counters.
It would be interesting to see a break down of historical trends and their correlation to tides, currents and water temperature. Didn't fin and fur just get some stimulus coin?