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Thread: Why No Kenai Pinks in Odd Years?

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    Default Why No Kenai Pinks in Odd Years?

    I know most streams in Alaska have variations in pink numbers between odd and even years. Also read in a book that they are distinct stocks because of 2 year life span. But Kenai seems so extreme. Huge runs on even years, hardly any fish on odd. Why is that? And Kenai also has two runs of kings, sockeye and silvers. Why not two runs of pinks?

    kim

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    I'm no biologist so I'll be interested in the answer.

    When I'm asked these questions I always say......ain't Mother Nature grand. It is what it is and the Kenai is very unique.

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    Member L. G.'s Avatar
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    From ADF&G Wildlife Notebook:

    "Pink salmon mature in two years which means that odd-year and even-year populations are essentially unrelated. Frequently in a particular stream the other odd-year or even-year cycle will predominate, although in some streams both odd- and even-year pink salmon are about equally abundant. Occasionally cycle dominance will shift, and the previously weak cycle will become most abundant. "

    http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/fish/pink.php

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    Sockeye systems with distinct early and late runs are often much the same as pinks. The early run fish are typically lake spawners whereas the late run fish are typically stream spawners. Essentially the separate runs are, for the most part, isolated populations and intermixing of genes between runs can be very low, as they are isolated both in spawn timing and geography.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skookumchuck View Post
    Sockeye systems with distinct early and late runs are often much the same as pinks. The early run fish are typically lake spawners whereas the late run fish are typically stream spawners. Essentially the separate runs are, for the most part, isolated populations and intermixing of genes between runs can be very low, as they are isolated both in spawn timing and geography.
    Just for my own clarification, I was always under the assumption all sockey salmon were lake spawners, or, sockeyes required a lake to spawn in and that's why you don't find sockeyes in streams that don't have a lake system. Or is the statement "Early run fish are typically lake spawners whereas the late run fish are typically stream spawners", relating only to the Humpies?

    Just curious.

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    To clarify, yes, you are right that sockeye salmon require a lake to reproduce. Where they spawn is a different story. What I meant is that sockeyes can have two genetically isolated populations in the same watershed spawning in the same brood year.

    Some sockeyes will spawn right in the lake itself (usually in area of upwelling or other source of cool oxygen rich water such as a creek mouth) whereas others will swim up past the lake and spawn it the tributaries.

    Humpies will spawn about anywhere, even in the intertidal
    Nice Marmot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kimjn View Post
    I know most streams in Alaska have variations in pink numbers between odd and even years. Also read in a book that they are distinct stocks because of 2 year life span. But Kenai seems so extreme. Huge runs on even years, hardly any fish on odd. Why is that? And Kenai also has two runs of kings, sockeye and silvers. Why not two runs of pinks?

    kim
    There are pinks on odd years. There is not a lot of them and they don't overrun the river like even years, but they are present. Now as to the why, well that is a huge debate, and everyone will give you some debatable scientific facts on that one.

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    Default ??

    I dont remember where I read this, but I believe it has something to do with the earthquake. I will have to do a memory dump and see if I can find the article!

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    The lake is not necessary for spawning but rather for the fry. Once sockeye hatch they need the available food in the lake to (plankton) to grow for at least a year or two, sometimes three before heading to sea.

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    Like already stated above, the Kenai is unique. The odd year return of pinks to the Kenai is very small compared to the multi-million even year return. However, they are there. The exact reason why this is remains yet to be completely understood although you will hear or read several explanations that seem plausible to one degree or another. Perhaps one of the biologists that frequent this site can explain more in detail.

    Now in regards to multiple runs, the way I have come to understand the presence of pinks in the river (without getting too scientific about it) is that there are localized populations with their own unique run timing, just as with all other Kenai salmon species. Simplified, there are two runs of pinks in the Kenai; chrome tributary fish that generally peak in numbers on the lower river in mid-July and fresh mainstem fish with a mid-August peak. The early tributary fish are physically smaller than the late mainstem salmon, averaging about the same as most other Cook Inlet stocks (2-4 lbs.) and with identical run timing. Not certain about the population size of these fish but without a doubt it is considerably less than the late run (at least in even years).

    Last year, the return of tributary fish was large compared to a normal odd year. The mouths of some tributaries were clogged with pinks. Even so, fishing the mainstem river gave no significant indications of more pinks, although a few anglers reported catching more fish than usual for an odd year. Remember, the Kenai is a large river and can hide variations or nuances of small runs very well unless you target certain stocks in specific locations.

    Hope this information helps. Keep in mind that all of the above are my own personal observations on the river and not backed up by any scientific data. Additionally, the information is general in nature and, as always, there are exceptions. Would be interesting to hear from one or more of you Kenai guides or others with longtime experience as well.

    GP

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    My thoughts are right in line with what gpedersen posted on this subject. I noticed an marked increase in pinks last season than what I would tend to see on a normal "odd" year with the pink peak last year seeming to be mid July to early August. Some mainstem spawners mixed in but the vast majority of these pinks were headed up the tributaries. Killey River - Wally's Creek had a pretty impressive pod of them stacked out in front for quite awhile during this timeframe.

    I also believe that there are at least two runs of pinks that come into the Kenai on the even years. Ever notice how the lower river will be full of them and then a lull will come towards the middle to third week of August and just when you think that the pinks are done for the season here comes another big wave of them lasting another couple of weeks? One thing that I have noticed is that the first shot of them seem to head to the tribs and then they seem to stop in the first available spot to spawn in the mainstem and as that spot fills up they move on up to the next spawning spot. So, when the run is over and they are dying off it is easier to avoid the pinks fishing from the mouth going upstream if that makes any sense. For example, in the middle river the pinks will be loaded from say the Kenai Keys upstream but there will be fewer of them as you get closer to Bings and as time goes by this "pink line" will slowly creep upstream. Yes, there will be pockets of them here and there but in general this is has been my experience with them.

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    Thanks guys. That's interesting. So much to learn. Maybe I should have become a biologist instead. By the way, are there any rivers that get more than two runs of a salmon species? It just seems like all I read about are first and second runs, never third.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kimjn View Post
    Thanks guys. That's interesting. So much to learn. Maybe I should have become a biologist instead. By the way, are there any rivers that get more than two runs of a salmon species? It just seems like all I read about are first and second runs, never third.
    Not aware of any in Alaska.

    But it certainly occurs in the Lower 48, mainly in BIG systems with lots of tribs.

    The Sacramento River has four runs of kings.... spring, summer, fall, winter.

    The Columbia River has three runs... spring, summer, fall.

    In my back yard, the Chehalis River has three runs.... a small run of spring kings that utilize the upper river and a couple of the upper tribs, a much smaller summer run that spawns exclusively in the Satsop (lower trib), and a much larger fall run that utilizes virtually the entire system.
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    gpederson and iceblue...

    Very interesting discussion about pink salmon sub-populations. Never seen anything in print about them from the hallowed halls of ADFG. Guess they just don't get the same attention as the other "glamour" species.

    I can't imagine the pink run over such a diverse drainage could have ever been considered one generic homogeneous stock. Would love to learn more about the different subpopulations.

    I once flossed a micro pink on an odd year at the Riverbend launch. Shocked to see a fish so ripe and so small (it was a BROWN 2-3 pound male with purplish bars/blotches) so close to tidewater. W-T-F? Surely, I thought it had to be a stray from the Susitna system. Guess I was wrong!

    Gotta love the Kenai. Learn something new all the time.
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    I would not be surprised to find that there are three distinct runs of coho that enter the Kenai River. First run (mid to late July - late August) are mainly tributary fish. Late August - into late September are mainly mainstem spawners but some do go into the Russian River as well (look at the ADF&G counts online on the Russian), and then another shot of coho hitting the Kenai from October into November that seem to mostly spawn in the areas right below Skilak & Kenai Lakes. Maybe because the water temps are warmer there in the winter.
    Another thought on the Kenai Coho is that I have caught & witnessed fresh sea lice fish into December with some years having large numbers of dark coho as late as February. Cannot target them downstream of Skilak past November and in the upper past October but they are still present. Just ask the winter trout fishing folks. ADF&G has also documented coho in the Kenai 11 months out of the year. 11 months seems like a long time if there are only the two runs...

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    Default Kenai chinooks

    Originally Posted by kimjn
    Thanks guys. That's interesting. So much to learn. Maybe I should have become a biologist instead. By the way, are there any rivers that get more than two runs of a salmon species? It just seems like all I read about are first and second runs, never third.

    The Kenai River has three runs of chinook salmon. The "middle run" of kings is not officially recognized or managed in any way by ADF&G due to it's small size but it definately exists and provides a slight boost to fisherman in late June/early July at a time that is smack in the middle of the early and late runs. The middle run spawns in upper Kenai system tributaries such as Quartz Creek, Crescent Creek, Daves Creek, and Juneau Creek. Tag recoveries made in these systems of fish tagged in the lower river in the early to mid-80's documented the timing of these runs. Eggs were taken at the Quartz Creek weir and ADF&G learned that the peak of spawning occurred almost exactly in the middle of early run and late run chinook spawning times. If you check out the chart in a tide book you can see how there is a small increase in numbers of kings counted over the sonar every year for a few days in late June.

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    There were definitely a lot more pinks last year than on an average odd year, and nearly all of them were in the system during the heart of July... they were stacked up thick at superhole in the middle river, which made for some outstanding trout fishing during that time as the bows and dollies were gorging themselves on pink spawn for about 2 weeks or so.
    Most odd years we may catch 4-5 total pinks in front of the lodge while fishing for sockeye, but in 09' there were probably around 30-40 of them caught altogether. I also had a few days on the middle kenai in which we landed over a dozen pinks in a day while trout fishing.
    My point is that there were definitely a lot more pinks in the river last year than on any other odd year I can remember... now the question is why? It seems as if there is something about that "early" run of pinks that facilitates a run every year. Maybe 09' was just a outlier in the data, but I'll be watching 2011 closely to see if there's a trend towards a growing odd year early run of pinks.
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    So cool, three runs of kings and silvers in the Kenai and an early run of pinks too. Hubby just picked up a book called Fishing the Kenai River. Haven't read it yet but looks like its got tons of good info, alot of it being discussed here.

    Followed up on some posts on winter fishing on the upper Kenai and sure enough they mention catching silvers. Remember seeing it awhile back. Are you allowed to take silvers in winter? OR is it catch and release only? Imagine having fresh silver fillets for dinner!

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    Silver fishing closed on the Upper Kenai River on first day of November and it closed below Skilak Lake on the first day of December. Silver season is closed so you are not suppose to target them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skookumchuck View Post
    To clarify, yes, you are right that sockeye salmon require a lake to reproduce. Where they spawn is a different story. What I meant is that sockeyes can have two genetically isolated populations in the same watershed spawning in the same brood year.

    Some sockeyes will spawn right in the lake itself (usually in area of upwelling or other source of cool oxygen rich water such as a creek mouth) whereas others will swim up past the lake and spawn it the tributaries.

    Humpies will spawn about anywhere, even in the intertidal
    sockeye don't require a lake, just large scale sockeye runs do, some spawn in rivers and just go right out into the ocean these are called river type. Most sockeye spawn in streams which flow into lakes and the fry travel to the lakes to spend 1-2 winters in the lake then travel to the ocean. Some sockeye can successfully spawn in lakes especially on gravel beaches, sockeye are the only member of the Oncorhynchus genus (pacific salmon, rainbow/cutthroat trout) that successfully spawn in lakes on a large scale.

    Humpies can spawn pretty much anywhere.

    To answer the origional question the reason humpies are only abundant some years is because they show very little varibility in life histories, you rarely find a 3 year old humpy in a river or a 1 year old humpy in a river. Some systems have two populations of humpies and odd year and and even year population. I'm not sure what the mechanism is that makes this happen except for the widespread stocking of humpies in this state and the fact that humpies are more likely to stray from their natal stream than any other pacific salmon, sometimes up to 30% strays
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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