Kenai king salmon could benefit from enhancement

The last two weeks have been busy for the Board of Fisheries. As a guide, lodge manager and avid fisherman, I was listening intently to as much as I could, especially regarding the Kenai and Kasilof king salmon returns.

Unfortunately, but obviously, there was much disagreement among the attendees and the various fishing interests involved. I am convinced that there will probably never be a consensus.

However, one significant proposal received little attention. That was stocking or enhancing the Kenai salmon runs. From what I was able to hear, ADF&G has the ability to enhance a run without prior approval. The question then becomes, why hasn’t this happened?

If the numbers are correct (according to testimony), 10 female salmon taken from their native environment and fertilized with the help of sperm from a few male salmon, could produce 1,250 mature returning fish. Arguments occur regarding 2,000-plus salmon that setnetters supposedly catch while sockeye fishing, yet 20 adult females could easily replace those fish.

It certainly would be a proud statement to make that “Kenai salmon are not enhanced and are one of the last native stocks in the world.” But without enhancement and with continued depletion of stocks for numerous reasons we can all only point fingers at results (while pointing at each other). Hence, the statement will be “Kenai salmon WERE one of the last native stocks in the world and now they are sadly gone.”

I am not a biologist, I am simply a sportsman. I also believe commercial fisherman have a right to make a living just like I do as a guide. I also think commercial fisherman would support such an initiative of enhancement, because it would reduce some of the pressure on them.

Rumor has it that funding is an issue. That would seem like a legitimate reason, but I would think that with some effort between Peninsula fisherman, guides, commercial fisherman, lodges and local businesses downstream of the revenue, that the financial concerns could easily be minimized.

Another reason is that sportsman do not want an enhanced fishery. Some may and some may not, but the state has the tools to easily extrapolate a “poll” to see where the average sportsman stands.

I have spoke to many guides and we all seem to think that done properly, an enhancement program would benefit the fishery long term. Again, easy enough to find out.

I have been fishing the Kenai since the late 80s and the arguments are still between the same groups and the results are the same — an annual decline in numbers and sizes of the prized Kenai king salmon. By the time this issue is fixed, even if enhancement were to take place, I will be retired or in “the Kenai in the Sky.” For the benefit of the fish and its legacy, please do something about this!