Kenai River to close to ALL king salmon fishing as of Thursday

Shawn Seeger

(aka. wabowhunter)
Opening ends Wednesday; catch and release not legal in worst season in 30 years.

With no letup in the dismal return of king salmon to Alaska waters, the state on Tuesday announced maximum restrictions for its premiere salmon river: Starting Thursday at 12:01 a.m., all fishing for kings on the Kenai River is over.
This means no catch and release nor any targeting of kings. Any king salmon caught accidently must not even be brought to the surface before being immediately released.
"This run, at this time, is projected to be one of, if not the lowest, return on record dating back into the early 1980s," said Robert Begich, area management biologist in Soldotna for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Records before the 1980s contained little systematic data like today, he said, though historical accounts point to a huge king crash 40 to 50 yeas ago.
As the second run of Kenai kings approaches its halfway point, biologists are concerned it won't reach even minimum escapement goals, Begich said. Those minimums assure enough spawners make it upstream to create future runs.
"That's why we closed the fishery," he said. "It's not even going to be close."
The first king run, in June, was also so weak that fishing was banned. Biologists and sportfishing advocates were hopeful the second would come in stronger, but that has not happened.
Now, like dominoes falling, the state also closed the Kasilof River to king fishing effective Thursday, as well as sport fishing for kings in upper Cook Inlet. The Associated Press reported that federally managed subsistence fisheries on the Kenai River were also closed to king fishing.
The end of king salmon fishing came as no surprise to Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
The state had already imposed a series of restrictions in an effort to salvage some angling -- a ban on bait, for instance, and catch-and-release- only fishing for all but the smallest jacks and the largest trophy kings.
But even those steps were clearly not enough to protect the spawners, Gease said. Sonar counters indicate that the number of returning kings could end up being half the minimum by the time the run ends, Gease said.
"It's an unprecedented low return for the Kenai River king," he said. "It was the right call to close the river if you're going to make the minimum escapement."
On the other hand, sockeyes are coming in strong, perhaps too strong for escapement goals. That's good news for the commercial drift fleet, which can avoid most king bycatch, but not for commercial setnet fishermen, who can't keep kings from getting caught in their sockeye nets and have seen their season drastically reduced. A strong run of reds is also good for shore anglers and dipnetters, but not necessarily for guides, who make most of their money from visitors who fish for kings.
"A lot of people have cancelled," said Dave Goggia of Hooky Charters and the president of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association.
With 2012 representing the fourth year of declining runs of kings, Goggia is concerned for the future of his profession on the Kenai.
"The people that got shut down last year, that went no bait, they got a sour taste in their mouth. The people that got shut down in June, they got a sour tasked in their mouth. Now this? Even more people. Word's going to get out soon that, 'Hey, you can't count on Alaska anymore,' and it's going to be devastating," Goggia said.
Gease, of the sportfishing association, said he holds no grudges against Fish and Game.
"They're managing it textbook like they should manage it," he said.
Goggia would like to see more done to reduce the bycatch of ocean kings in the North Pacific by trawlers targeting pollock and cod. The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has recently imposed new rules against the bycatch after a spike in inadvertent netting of kings, but Goggia said that effort wasn't enough.

Read more here:


Active Member
this has been an interesting discussion item on several BBs. many factors are in play here but the one that ADFW continues to avoid discussing, just like down this way, is the impact of overfishing by the commercial fleets. looking at data others have posted, the decline actually began when AK moved their territorial fishing boundary to 200 miles thereby excluding foreign fishing fleets. with that move came the imputus to build and deploy self contained vessels which drag the Berring sea. the draggers are credited with shoveling overboard 1/2 of the rec angling halibut quota last year. they also shovel overboard untold numbers of chinook.

pointing a finger at habitat just won't cut the mustard. if you think about the Yukon R. its in perfect shape, but no fish. next up was the ubiquotous 'ocean conditions', events that no one on the planet can measure or define, was the next deflection from ADFW. but these strange 'ocean conditions' seem to have singled out only Chinook, the rest of the anadramous fishes seem to have avoided this phenomona.

protecting the commercial harvest takes first place each and every time and the results are astonishing and pretty dramatic in this case. of course down in WA, we are fighting these same fights only here we have the 'co-managers' demanding higher quotas and WDFW giving them what they want inspite of the fact that escapement goals continue to fall short all over the state.