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  • Kenai Peninsula Fish Waste Issue

    Hi folks,

    Just an FYI here, plus your comments.

    I just spoke with Ricky Gease of the Kenai Sportfishing Association concerning the salmon carcass issue that is becoming an increasing problem in attracting bears on the Russian River. As some of you know, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, together with the parks folks, is suggesting that we chop our salmon carcasses up into small pieces before we toss them back in the river. The intent of this is to reduce the attraction to bears that prowl the banks looking for these carcasses.

    Last year I suggested in this forum that we consider using hand-grinders to reduce these carcasses to pulp before we put them back into the river. These grinders could be installed at each fish cleaning station, and I think they would work well for their intended purpose. I even mentioned it to Craig Medred over the phone (he writes outdoor stuff for the Anchorage Daily News). But I was disappointed that some of the folks in this forum, and Mr. Medred as well, rejected the idea. Medred's position was more focused on controlling people than on dealing with the fish waste issue; he just didn't think the fish waste problem was much of a problem (or so he told me).

    Now I see that we're being asked to chop up our salmon carcasses; an idea I support. But it's not working. I was just there two days ago, and nearly nobody is chopping up the carcasses. Consequently we're seeing buildups of this material all over the place, and it's just business as usual. I'm still seeing them laying on the banks where folks filleted their fish, etc. We're training bears to come to the places we fillet our salmon. So, I'm looking at this issue again, and trying to find a way to help clean it up.

    So... it appears that others are thinking the same thing. The Kenai Sportfishing Association appears to be moving toward securing funding for grinding stations along the Russian, the Kasilof, both banks of the Kenai River, Ninilchik, Deep Creek, and other popular locations. I also spoke with some representatives with ADFG and was told that there is a process under way to move that direction, but it appears to be getting tangled up with bureaucratic red tape. The fish cleaning stations on the Russian this year were apparently provided by a hunting organization (I think he said it was Safari Club, but I could be mistaken).

    My question to you folks is this. What if we took donations to place a couple of grinders down there as an experiment, to see if it works? Let's cut through the red tape and just "git 'er done", shall we? I will post a poll on this to see what sort of interest there might be.

    Thanks!

    -Mike
    28
    I support the idea of fish grinders and would send a check.
    7.14%
    2
    I support the idea of fish grinders and would pay online.
    25.00%
    7
    I support the idea of fish grinders if somebody else pays for it.
    39.29%
    11
    I disagree with this idea.
    28.57%
    8
    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

  • #2
    Just thinking. . .

    The first question that pops into mind is what makes anyone think anglers who won't or don't chop their fish carcasses will bother to grind them?

    The second question is what makes anyone think it's the bears that are the problem? Isn't it equally possible that it's the people who are the problem?

    The third question is what makes anyone think that a sport-fishing association or ADF&G, both of whom have an economic interest in sport-fishing "opportunities," would contemplate any solution other than one that preserves the economics of the fishery?

    Restricting access by area, time, numbers, etc. are possible solutions that could be made the subject of polls that would include other segments of the public—conservationists, hikers, photographers, wildlife viewers.

    Comment


    • #3
      To make it work, you'd really have to look at installing them every 100 yards or so. Take the fish cleaning tables, for example. They're spaced pretty well downstream, but there are none upstream from the white trail (just above the Red Salmon campground). That's ~3 miles of river with no tables, thus I would assume that there would also be no grinders up there. I always fish up about 300 yards below the upper line, and end up filleting my fish on the ground. Most others who fish upstream do the same, as carrying the whole fish downstream adds considerable weight. Now, I have no problem with dicing up my carcass, but if this really is a workable solution it would have to be along the whole length of river, not just down where the masses like to congregate. I will say, though, that Marcus makes a good point - I don't know that those who won't chop their carcass now would bother to grind it up, which seems like it would take even more effort. Sad, but likely true.

      -Brian

      Comment


      • #4
        Marcus - Just thinking as well, in response to your third point there... While there are certainly those that have an economic interest in this fishery (and others), there is validity to the issue of "opportunity". You seem to deride that term sometimes as though it's just a pseudonym for economic activity. There are thousands of Alaskans who truly just want the chance to be on the river and to have a reasonable chance at catching a few fish. I don't know how else to put it...it's not just about the money when talking about opportunity.

        As for including other segments of the public, I just wanted to say that the above groups - conservationists, hikers, photographers, and wildlife viewers - are not mutually exclusive to hunters and fishermen. I consider myself to be all of the above. I don't think it was your intention, but it almost sounded like you were suggesting that fishermen are not conservationists, etc. Some aren't, perhaps, but some certainly are. Additionally, there are LOTS of opportunities for the above group in southcentral Alaska, including on the Russian. The vast majority of the Russian River watershed is closed to salmon angling, thus allowing those who want to observe this amazing drainage without the chaos of the confluence the opportunity to do so. I agree that multiple user groups should be involved in mangagement discussions, but I see two things - 1. The groups aren't as well defined as one might think, as many (most?) of us fit into multiple user group categories, and 2. Multiple uses and preferences are already well accounted for in the current management scheme of this watershed.

        -Brian

        Comment


        • #5
          Reply to Marcus

          Originally posted by Marcus
          The first question that pops into mind is what makes anyone think anglers who won't or don't chop their fish carcasses will bother to grind them?

          The second question is what makes anyone think it's the bears that are the problem? Isn't it equally possible that it's the people who are the problem?

          The third question is what makes anyone think that a sport-fishing association or ADF&G, both of whom have an economic interest in sport-fishing "opportunities," would contemplate any solution other than one that preserves the economics of the fishery?

          Restricting access by area, time, numbers, etc. are possible solutions that could be made the subject of polls that would include other segments of the public—conservationists, hikers, photographers, wildlife viewers.
          Marcus,

          You ask some good questions. I'll attempt to answer.

          1. "If they're not chopping the carcasses, why would they grind them?" Have you ever tried to chop up a salmon carcass with a fillet knife? I did, and it's not easy. You're as likely to stab yourself or cut off a finger. If the grinders are mounted on the cleaning tables, I believe people will use them. In fact, in the words of an ADFG Management Coordinator I spoke with this afternoon, "Every ten-year-old boy within a mile of those grinders will be grabbing carcasses to grind up". If you've ever had a ten-year-old, you know this is true! We will still have carcasses in the river from people not using the cleaning stations, but the grinders will help a lot.

          2. "People are the problem". I agree to an extent. So what's the solution? Limit the numbers of anglers? Let's be realistic and discuss something that has a chance of happening. The Russian River is arguably the most popular and productive fishery per-capita on the entire Kenai Peninsula. Limiting the opportunities anglers have of fishing there is extremely unlikely to occur. This leaves us with coming up with solutions that reduce bear-human encounters. I see two ways of doing that; eliminate some bears (probably not going to happen), or reduce the attraction bears have to this river. The method we're discussing here is reducing the attraction to salmon carcasses. The food goes away, the bears go somewhere else. I think this has a chance of reducing bear numbers in a non-lethal way.

          3. "Economic gain to ADFG and Kenai Sportfishing Association by increased fishing opportunities". Two problems with this. For starters, neither organization is a commercial enterprise. In fact, the Kenai Sportfishing Association is a nonprofit organization. While it's true that both organizations exist to maintain sportfishing opportunities... uh... what else do we expect them to do? I have to wonder what our alternatives are. Do we just quit fishing? Are you offering to do that? Again, this has to be realistic. People are down there to fish. We need regulatory oversight (ADFG), and advocacy through groups like the Kenai Sportfishing Association are ultimately a good thing for fishermen. Do I support increased fishing opportunities? You betcha I do. Am I upset that it takes money to make that happen? Nope.

          4. "Restricting by area, time, numbers, etc." Let's talk about this. The notion that the problem will go away if we quit fishing at night is simply absurd. Nothing personal here; you didn't think of this idea, so I don't blame you for it. It's been around a while and it has always been absurd. Think about it; the food source is still there. The people who fish at night are just going to fish during the day, and less fish will be caught because there will be more human competition for the same fish. This ultimately results in MORE carcass material in the river after spawning die-off. Bears don't just come out to eat at night; I was just there and bears were out all hours of the day and night. Rumor has it that there are currently at least a dozen bears working that river right now. Restricting the nighttime fishery will not only not solve the problem, it will actually make it worse. Restricting the area? If by that you mean "human-free zones", that's not going to happen either. Really, how would you do that? Create a slot where only bears can fish? What about carcasses that drift into that area from fishing areas? Do you lock up the upper river? What about the rights people have to hike on public lands? This isn't going to happen. How about restricting the numbers of fish taken? We do that and spawning success goes up because there are more fish spawning. This creates more dead fish in the river, providing more food for bears, and on and on. Granted, you do reach a saturation point where you have too many fish, and then you end up with a die-off because there's just too much rotting fish flesh in the water (a biologist could say that more succinctly), but you get my drift. This is not the solution.

          I'm not saying that grinders are the only way, but I do believe they will help.

          -Mike
          Michael Strahan
          Site Owner
          Alaska Hunt Consultant
          1 (907) 229-4501

          Comment


          • #6
            Reply to B_M. . .

            Originally posted by B_M
            Marcus - Just thinking as well, in response to your third point there... While there are certainly those that have an economic interest in this fishery (and others), there is validity to the issue of "opportunity". You seem to deride that term sometimes as though it's just a pseudonym for economic activity. There are thousands of Alaskans who truly just want the chance to be on the river and to have a reasonable chance at catching a few fish. I don't know how else to put it...it's not just about the money when talking about opportunity.

            As for including other segments of the public, I just wanted to say that the above groups - conservationists, hikers, photographers, and wildlife viewers - are not mutually exclusive to hunters and fishermen. I consider myself to be all of the above. I don't think it was your intention, but it almost sounded like you were suggesting that fishermen are not conservationists, etc. Some aren't, perhaps, but some certainly are. Additionally, there are LOTS of opportunities for the above group in southcentral Alaska, including on the Russian. The vast majority of the Russian River watershed is closed to salmon angling, thus allowing those who want to observe this amazing drainage without the chaos of the confluence the opportunity to do so. I agree that multiple user groups should be involved in mangagement discussions, but I see two things - 1. The groups aren't as well defined as one might think, as many (most?) of us fit into multiple user group categories, and 2. Multiple uses and preferences are already well accounted for in the current management scheme of this watershed.

            -Brian


            B_M: Strictly speaking, there is no validity to "opportunity" until we ask, "Opportunity to do what?" Opportunity is an abstraction until we attach a proposed action to it. Houses of ill-repute afford "opportunity." I do not object to angling "opportunities" unless those "opportunities" afford an opportunity to do something I'm opposed to. And you're correct — opportunity isn't always about money. However, when a particular group has an economic interest in a specific opportunity, follow the money. . .

            Second, while some, but not all, anglers are indeed conservationists, hikers, etc., it's equally true that all conservationists, hikers, etc. are not anglers, and there is indeed a lot of overlap between the various interest groups. That's precisely why we need polls that reflect a broad spectrum of social preference.

            Finally, just as user groups overlap, so does use itself overlap — one brownie killed by an angler is one less brownie for a photographer.

            Comment


            • #7
              My question is who is liable when some idiot grinds off thier fingers? Deep pockets somewhere. If the grinders are provided then are they who provided them responsible?! If every kid within 100 yards is trying to grind fish most likely without any adult supervision my guess is one of them will be first to lose a digit.
              Not to be a pessimist, but thats how the world works now.

              Comment


              • #8
                Reply to Mike. . .

                Mike, if you want to pursue these points at more depth, email me. We're fundamentally poles apart. Thanks. . .

                Comment


                • #9
                  I can't help thinking of the Ratapult, a rat "trap" friends used in the desert to deal with one year's overpopulation of pack rats. It was powered by a truck leaf spring, and when the rat tripped it, he was launched clean out of sight. Didn't do much to keep down the rats, but man, was it fun.

                  As much sense as grinding (which would help spread the smell along the banks and potentially attract even more bears) would be something to launch the carcasses way out in the middle of the river. If it was pure fun to use, folks might be a whole lot more likely to use it.

                  Crazy? Creative thinking, more likely. Why not think about solutions that would be fun rather than a chore? Heck, I'd stand in line waiting for a turn to launch other people's carcasses, just to watch them go.
                  "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
                  Merle Haggard

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Part of the natural scheme of recycling salmon carcasess is that the flesh-derived nutrients are released slowly into the system thru the summer fall and even into winter for some of the later-arriving salmon species.

                    A whole carcass drifts downriver in faster current, hangs up on a rootwad, and becomes a repository for the slow release of nutrients, keeping them in the system as long as possible so that the organisms dependent on them get maximum benefit from the carcass.

                    Same thing happens when carcasses pile up in the slack water on the inside corner of a riverbend.

                    By chopping them up or grinding them, the nutrients are more readily flushed downriver and out of the system in one big bolus.

                    Just another consideration.
                    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
                    sigpic
                    The KeenEye MD

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Good points-

                      Originally posted by fishNphysician
                      Part of the natural scheme of recycling salmon carcasess is that the flesh-derived nutrients are released slowly into the system ...
                      Excellent point. I was discussing this with someone at ADFG today and there appears to be at least some disagreement over this matter. The Russian hosts salmon runs that start in early summer and last through into October. Without humans fishing the system, it's unlikely that there would be much biological material available for consumption by other fish until mid to late July. As of right now, June 30, the first salmon run has not even started spawning yet. Then you have some lag time between actual spawning and the death / decomposition of spawned out fish. The area of greatest impact, therefore, is the fact that these nutrients are deposited in mid JUNE, rather than a month later. This is certainly a question for discussion by biologists, but with all the material being consistently deposited in the river over the season by anglers, even with the grinding issue in place, I can't see a real problem with losing the time-release system that naturally occurs. In other words, it's not as if all of it hits the river at the same time. We would have continuous flow from mid-June into October, if you count natural decomposition and grinding by anglers.

                      Still, I'd be interested in what an ADFG biologist would say about this. I know some of them write here, so perhaps one will chime in.

                      -Mike
                      Michael Strahan
                      Site Owner
                      Alaska Hunt Consultant
                      1 (907) 229-4501

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Bears eat fish.......... Grinding up fish is not going to stop bears from coming to a stream to eat , its one of there main sources of food. thers no fish grinders at the Katmai but bears go there to fish every year when the salmon run.. Im not buying the whole fish grinder idea . The only real way to reduce the amount of bears in a area is to do exactly that( i dont toatly agree with that either).

                        Hell , if you play with enough dogs sooner or later someones going to get bit

                        just my 2 cents
                        sigpicLOVE MY LITTLE SKULL CLEANERS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've gotta say, although akpredator's statement seems simple, I think he's right. I just don't see the bears leaving the Russian if all the human-dumped carcasses are gone. I'm sure there have always been bears along that river, and I'm sure there always will be. I agree that we should do what we can, but it's not likely that the bears will move.

                          I suppose it's possible that more of them would move to the upper river, where the spawning fish might be easier to catch than those streaming by anglers. The problem with that, though, is that there are already a lot of bears up there that might be reluctant to share their territory with a bunch of black bears and gimpy-footed 3-year-old brownies. It's worth a shot, but I just don't know...

                          -Brian

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Mike,
                            I think we need to think about the safety standpoint of fishing at night. I know that the bears are down on the river 24/7. The issue with fishing at night is your ability to see the bears from a distance. If we can reduce the chance of suprising a bear, we would be reducing the chance of a mauling. Just my opinion on that.

                            akpredator,
                            I also agree with you that the bears will not go away. But Brian is correct, if we can do the little things it might help control the encounters. But as far as Katmai, they have a more structured system there to help reduce the interactions. One of the things they do is they remove the fish from the bank as soon as they land one and take it to the camp, and I believe it has to be whole. But here is the link going thru their rules. It also has some good advice on bear encounters and what actions we should take.

                            http://www.katmai.national-park.com/hike.htm#fish

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              fine point

                              Are these bears eating only the dead carcasses or are they also fishing as bears are wont to do?
                              If they are eating only the carcasses then work on that problem, I like the catapult idea. If you think 10 yr olds would like the grinder.
                              If they are fishing, then we have a different problem. Every sow that brings her cubs is teaching them a great place to fish, and in years to come we will be seeing more and more bears including the large boars.
                              I'm not one for more government or restrictions, but it seems to me that is where this is headed. People are not going to continue to allow these bears to be killed, wounded, and cubs abandoned. When we are able to read that
                              Rambo with his 44 was warned that the sow and here cubs were in the area and couldn't walk a little farther to avoid a confrontation, then we can't exect public sympathy to go our way. If we don't wake up and realize that this is a fight for our hunting and fishing privilege then we are a lot closer to losing than anyone realizes.
                              I think that Rambo with his 44 ought to have his butt kicked for ignoring the warning about the sow and cubs, it's people like this that draw unwanted attention so then when an accidental mauling takes place and a bear has to be killed the flames of outcry are even greater because the sparks that ignited this fire of descent were caused by an act of contemptous disregard.

                              Comment

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