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Thread: Got jack? Kenai dinks rule....

  1. #1
    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default Got jack? Kenai dinks rule....

    Test net and sport creel seem to be the most reliable indices of assessing this year's late run. And smaller, younger fish appear to be the order of the day.

    "Based on department inriver test net and creel survey data, many king salmon that entered the river are smaller and younger than the average."

    The Chinese Zodiac may tell you this is the Year of the Tiger, but on the Kenai, it's looking more like the Year of the Rat.

    If that trend is a concern to you, here's a bit of deja vu from 2007:


    Age-class shift in Kenai River late run kings

    In recent years, a disturbing trend has been observed in the age-class composition of late run kings returning to the Kenai River. Some time in the first week of July, large numbers of small 2-ocean kings (virtually all male) begin to enter the river. This phenomenon persists for two to three weeks during which 2-ocean males greatly outnumber 3-ocean kings, males and females combined. Some years they even outnumber the 4-ocean fish. What would cause this dramatic age-class shift where puny 6- to 12-pound bucks dominate the run in the first two to three weeks of July?

    I suspect it’s because very unnatural selection pressures are affecting late run fish returning in the first three weeks of July. The sportfishery is now in its fourth decade of selectively harvesting the larger fish that historically dominated the run. As the fishery has expanded and matured, the focus on targeting the biggest kings has persisted. And because of several factors, more and more of the angling effort for king salmon has shifted from May and June over to July.

    Compared to the late run, king salmon are considerably less abundant in the early run. The early run numbers have also been much more erratic from year to year. When the Killey River releases its annual mid-June mudflow into the mainstem Kenai, the river is much less conducive to angling success. With a prohibition on using bait, it becomes very difficult to entice a salmon to bite a plain artificial lure in these limited visibility conditions. Additionally, the early run slot limit requires anglers to release all kings measuring 44-55 inches. As if things weren’t tough enough, this means anglers will statistically have to release about one out of every four kings they are lucky enough to land in May and June. Many anglers elect to forgo king salmon fishing until a change in numbers, conditions, and/or regulations begins to better stack the odds in their favor. Not surprisingly, this occurs on July 1.

    July offers a much more plentiful late run, the unrestricted ability to use bait, and the complete freedom to harvest ANY size king salmon. Throw in the bonus opportunity to catch abundant late run sockeye, and it’s easy to see why both resident and visiting anglers would rather choose to fish in July, particularly the last two weeks when both the king and red runs are at their peak.

    What all that angling effort in July really means for late run kings is increased exploitation, especially so for the earliest returning fish. A late run king salmon’s vulnerability in the fishery is directly proportional to how early it arrives. Simply said, the earlier a king enters the Kenai, the more likely it is to perish in the fishery. A fish entering the river on July 1 will be susceptible to harvest for 31 days, while a fish arriving on July 31 will be susceptible for only one day. By the time the season closes on August 1, most of the late run kings harvested in July are in fact the fish that returned earlier in the month. Moreover, because the fishery is selective for large fish, it’s the biggest of the earliest returning late run kings that take the brunt of the exploitation.

    After 35 years of targeting the biggest late run kings, is it any wonder that the unnatural selection pressures exerted by the fishery have preferentially depleted the older larger kings at the front end of the run? __________________




    This old thread may give folks some additional perspective on a growing (or should I say shrinking?) problem.

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    The small fish phenomenon also seems to be affecting the fairer sex this year.

    Got a friend who has spent decades on the river and he has seen more teener hens out of his boat this year than he has seen in all of the previous years combined.

    A sub-20 hen is an incredibly rare critter on the Kenai.

    Anytime I've ever thought I finally caught one (fat platinum short-nosed chromer) that screams GIRL on the outside, I'm proven wrong once again at the cutting table. MILT SACS? ? ?

    This fellow was thinkin' the same thing... typical fag-got fish when he put 'em over the gunnel..... only to find egg skeins at the cutting table!

    He didn't get scale samples, but it sure would be interesting to know if those hens were 2-salt or 3-salt fish. What could this be saying about ocean conditions where these fish were foraging?

    Anybody else out there seeing or hearing about these micro-hens?
    "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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    Can't weigh in on the Kenai issues since I don't fish kings there, but I did see more jacks than ever come out of Ship this year and smaller fish being caught in the valley before the closures. There were some decent sized fished mixed in, but A LOT of jacks. Maybe it's happening in more places than just the Kenai????
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    We got into our fare share on bigins this summer. Caught and released alot of kings
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    As did I. Never said there wasn't any big ones around, just that I saw a lot of jacks around, more than usual.
    Alaska: We're all here cuz we're not all "there"

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    Member Lake creek fishermen's Avatar
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    Yeah we did cant more too. Caught 4 jacks. kept one it tasted exellent!
    -Its better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees.
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    Just curious Doc, have you noticed an incress in jacks in washington? I grew up salmon fishing on the Sacramneto River and in 2004 while home on leave we had a huge run of 10-15 pound fish ( in 15 days I personaly caught 32, all of wich were males) the typical fish in that river would be 25-35 with some topping 40 Lbs. the run in that river has not been the same since and most years since has been closed to salmon fishing or very limited. I have had to watch my favorite river from afar die a slow and painfull death. Did the sudden influx of "jacks" cause this? I don't know, but I don't ever wanna watch a magnificent run that once had 100K fish go like that again. Sometimes what we do today will haunt us tommarow.

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    Default Migration Studies?

    Don't know if there have been any recent ocean migratory studies to look at chinook distribution. I do know that Pacific Ocean warming has occured in the past decade, likely due to global warming. If a significant change has occured and as a result the migratory pattern of chinook salmon has been altered to a more northerly distribution, could this not possibly result in a larger percentage of younger 1 and 2 ocean fish returning to their river systems earlier than previous years? Have other river systems in Alaska besides the Kenai seen more jacks? I used to think that an abundance of 2-ocean fish bode well for the future return of 3's and 4's. In recent years this event does not seem to convert as well. I'm not saying that ocean warming and migratory change would be the only reason for the smaller fish, but perhaps it is contributing to this situation.

    As for the Kenai I believe by week three the age comp will shift quite dramatically and we'll begin to see more dominance by age 3 and 4 fish. I'll be surprised (and disappointed!) if this doesn't happen.

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    What percentage of the second run comes into the Kenai during August when king salmon fishing is closed? 10%? 15%? 25%? More? Less? According to Kenai River sonar data in the back of the tide book Kenai Kings continue to enter the river in good numbers several weeks after July 31. In fact if you take the average of the sonar numbers in August (last ten years was only data that I looked at) it comes to over 600 kings a day entering up until August 10 which is the latest the sonar was counting kings during this timeframe. There is no sport fish harvest on these kings thus no selecive harvest. All of these late entering kings made it to the spawning beds regardless of size or sex.

    The commercial fishery in Cook inlet isn't selective in nature either and this is another percentage of the overall returning kings. So, how in the world can the remaining percentage of Kenai Kings that are harvested by inriver sportfishing be changing the returning age class structure?

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    Quote Originally Posted by brownclown View Post
    Just curious Doc, have you noticed an incress in jacks in washington?
    Fished the WA coast all day today with two buddies. We brought 7 kings to the boat today. Biggest was 11 pounds. Owner of the boat has fished every open weekend day since the beginning of the season and has yet to break 15#.

    2-salt fish seem to be dominating the run this year. Older age classes of chinook, so far, have been a no show off the WA coast. Another month or so to go... we'll see.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceblue View Post
    What percentage of the second run comes into the Kenai during August when king salmon fishing is closed? 10%? 15%? 25%? More? Less? According to Kenai River sonar data in the back of the tide book Kenai Kings continue to enter the river in good numbers several weeks after July 31. In fact if you take the average of the sonar numbers in August (last ten years was only data that I looked at) it comes to over 600 kings a day entering up until August 10 which is the latest the sonar was counting kings during this timeframe. There is no sport fish harvest on these kings thus no selecive harvest. All of these late entering kings made it to the spawning beds regardless of size or sex.

    The commercial fishery in Cook inlet isn't selective in nature either and this is another percentage of the overall returning kings.

    So, how in the world can the remaining percentage of Kenai Kings that are harvested by inriver sportfishing be changing the returning age class structure?
    My hypothesis is that it's happening principally on the front end of the run. That's because the earlier returning fish (particularly the big ones) bear disproportionate exploitation. The back end of the run is largely intact... as per your explanation about later returning August fish bearing almost NO exploitation.
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    As the fish have gotten smaller and smaller over the decades, expectations have had to change along with the times. The truly giant kings have become oh so rare that standards for bragging rights have had to be adjusted accordingly. Compared to the big fish heyday of the 1980's...

    60 is the new 80
    50 is the new 70
    40 is the new 60.

    Check out the new 20.....
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    "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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