Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River king escapement misses key target

Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced preliminary estimated escapement numbers for Kenai River late-run King Salmon on Thursday.

Currently, the total is estimated to be 13,952 king salmon. This falls significantly short of both the preseason forecast of 16,004 as well as optimal escapement goals of 15,000 to 30,000. The final number does achieve the sustainable escapement goal, which was set as 13,500 to 27,000.

ADF&G Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka said that the sustainable and optimal escapement goals are two separate numbers because they are implemented by two different entities.

The sustainable escapement goal is set by ADF&G and designed to provide a long-term sustainable population. The optimal escapement goal is set by the Board of Fisheries, with input from ADF&G. When it comes to management objectives, Lipka said, optimal escapement goal is the number that matters.

ADF&G attributes achieving sustainable escapement to the restrictions implemented on sport, personal use and commercial fishing this season.

Final numbers will not be available until this winter, after all postseason analysis is complete.

Current assessment by ADF&G shows that the king salmon run was on time and matched the July 27 historical midpoint of the run. Six-year-old fish made up a smaller proportion of the population than predicted, while 5-year-old fish made up more of the population than expected.

Lipka said that the distribution of ages for the fish population could shift slightly in the final numbers released this winter. For the preliminary reports, fish length is used as the indicator, as fish of the same age are generally the same size. Final numbers will use scale samples to age fish.

According to ADF&G, low numbers of king salmon on the Kenai River are a continuing consequence of “poor overall production of the stock.”

ADF&G said most fisheries were impacted by the lack of kings.

The in-river sport fishery was restricted to no retention of king salmon, with bait and multiple hooks prohibited.

Personal use fishers were prohibited from retaining king salmon.

The commercial east-side setnet fishery was limited to 24 hours a week of fishing with a reduction of gear.

Marine king salmon sport fisheries north of Bluff Point in Cook Inlet were prohibited within a mile of shore.

The Kenai River king salmon sport fishery was closed July 17 after in-season projections for escapement indicated that optimal escapement would not be achieved with continued harvesting.

This closed the commercial setnet fishery and restricted the commercial drift gillnet fishery in the Central District in accordance with the Kenai River late-Run King Salmon Management Plan, which requires the closing of these fisheries if projected escapement is less than 15,000 fish.

The closure of the east-side setnet fishery in particular caused a stir among those fishers, who argued that they do not target king salmon. They unsuccessfully sued to have the fishery reopened.

Though the preliminary total escapement of king salmon is significantly higher than the counts reported for 2021, 2020 and 2019, Lipka said that improvement cannot be taken as a promising sign because it was only achieved through significant restrictions on users.

“This was a below average run. We got this escapement only because of the heavy restrictions. The run numbers met SEG, at great cost,” Lipka said. “The overall production of kings is still low.”

ADF&G says that it is aware of the impact of restrictions and closures to users, but must continue to take necessary measures to conserve the king salmon population and attempt to rebuild the stock. The steps taken this year allowed sustainable escapement to be achieved, but optimal escapement remained out of reach.

More in News

Soldotna Montessori Charter School Principal John DeVolld explains Montessori materials in a classroom at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Soldotna Montessori maxes out

The relocation of Soldotna Montessori is included in a bond package on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot

Engineer Lake Cabin can be seen in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 21, 2021. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, that $14.4 million of a larger $37 million package will be used to build cabins in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Millions designated for cabins in Tongass, Chugach

$18 million is allocated to the construction and maintenance of cabins and historic buildings — of which $14.4 million is destined for Alaska

Puffin sits by a scratching tower in front of his main pad of buttons on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. Owner Geri Litzen says Puffin can communicate by pressing different buttons on the pad to form sentences. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Puffin with the buttons

Verbose Nikiski cat earns TikTok followers

CCFR officials and residents gathered at the section of Gastineau Avenue that sustained damage from the landslide on on Monday, Sept. 26, in Juneau, Alaska. At the time of 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday officials said they were still trying to assess the damage and no cleanup efforts had started yet. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Juneau set to begin cleanup after landslide

Three homes were damaged; at least a dozen people displaced

Members of the community attend the first part of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska’s Food Security and Sustainability Series in August 2022. (Photo courtesy Challenger Learning Center of Alaska)
Challenger Learning Center workshop focuses on food sustainability

Gathering, growing and preserving food in the form of plants, fish and other animals will be discussed

Examples of contemporary books that have been banned or challenged in recent years are displayed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library hosts Banned Book Club

Books have been challenged or banned for their content nationwide.

Nikiski Middle/High School Principal Shane Bostic stands near a track and field long jump sand pit on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. The track is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election next month. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Nikiski athletes await upgrade

Funding for long-delayed school projects on Oct. 4 ballot

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Most Read