September 26th, 2012

Think About It………                                                                                                      September 26, 2012

A friend of mine fished the upper Kenai River for Rainbows a couple of days ago, and as you may know, the Kenai River is an awesome river for huge rainbows. His boat caught six rainbows on the trip from 22 to 30 inches long….and these are Kenai River Rainbows, big, wide and fat.

Our Kenai River has big, fat, long Rainbow Trout only because to its great runs of salmon. The river spawns millions of them:  Biggest Kings in the world, Sockeye. Silvers and Chum.

Can you imagine how many fish returned to the Kenai River prior to man beginning to harvest them commercially with huge fish traps, drift and set nets? Every summer fish of all kinds must have been packed in the river and swimming from bank to bank by the millions. Wouldn’t you have liked to seen that summer spectacle.

Now, however, our wonderful Kenai River has huge problems. With so many user groups groping for their share of the salmon, one has to wonder what the solution might be. The Federal Fish Traps are long gone and the Salmon Canneries as well and that is a good thing.  But….now we have:

     – almost 320 salmon sport-fish guides on the river taking hundreds of Kings and Silvers….

     -more than 570 drift boat permits and over 740 set-net sites on the beaches of Cook Inlet…..

     -hundreds of personal use set-netters on beaches near the Kasilof river…..

     -un-countable personal use dip-netters standing and holding big nets right in Kenai river…..

      -and thousands of sport fishermen, with rod and reel, fishing from shore.


So….what is the answer to reach minimum escapements of the mighty world famous King Salmon and prevent over escapement of Sockeye?  That is the big question facing state leaders.

First of all, we probably need at reliable way of counting the fish.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is responsible for counting those big Kings, but their supposedly “state of the art” salmon counting sonar equipment seems to leave something to be desired….desired, not only in accuracy but efficiency.  Here it is almost October and the department told fishermen last week they are still analyzing computer data.

Evidently in order to determine an actual final count of the Kings, personnel must study the on-screen recorded pattern of each fish passing the sonar receptors to determine if the fish is a Red or a King.  One can only imagine just how much time , study and measuring that would take.

Then to save our Salmon, one would think that cutting back on the number of people allowed in each user group would be the next step.  So, how would you determine which river guide does not get a license, which Cook Inlet drift permits to eliminate, set limits on the number of people who can put a dip net in the water, eliminate some of the personal use set-netters, or limit the number of commercial set nets that are allowed? What would be the cost of such a drastic but important move?

Big questions for sure, but if our desire and goal is to always reach minimum escapement goals for our mighty King salmon it appears that some kind of user group limits are definitely in order. Unfortunately, if in their wisdom, our leaders determine that last summers move to totally cut off and shut down one user group, namely disenfranchising all east side set-netters, then what happened in Washington State is like hand-writing on the wall. Commercial fishing declining. Sport and Personal Use fishing growing.

Cook Inlet set-net sites may soon become nothing more than a grand period of Alaskan history.  Set-net families forced into retirement and their children forced to find other ways to earn a living.

Think About It!     JCD   9-26-12

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