Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Case For Catch and Release Fishing

With the recent announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game restricting the early Kenai king run to catch and release fishing, the debate over the practice has once again become front and center. One side will argue it's about recreation and economic opportunity, while the other side believes it is abhorrent and should not be allowed. Which is it? 
People who oppose catch and release fishing often say “you’re playing with your food" and "hundreds and hundreds of king salmon die from being caught and released." I really can't argue the first statement because it's based on emotion and opinion. I find it’s difficult to convince someone who has this mindset to think any differently. On the other hand, the second statement, “hundreds and hundreds of king salmon die from being caught and released” can be refuted by facts. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has conducted two extensive studies on the mortality rate of released sport caught king salmon and their findings have been the foundation of their management approach.  

Let’s take a look at what they have found. 
From 1986-1989 a study was conducted by Terry Bendock and Marianna Alexandersdottir about the hook and release mortality rate of sport caught king salmon on the Kenai River. The detailed analysis and methods of data collection can be found here.

The key finding is this: over a four year period of study, the mortality rate of sport caught released king salmon ranged from a high of 10.6% to a low of 4%. That averages out to 7.6%. The study was conducted with bait and the use of multiple hooks and found that the "frequency of gilled and bleeding fish was small”.  It’s important to compare that to where we are today. When ADFG mandates catch and release, fishing is restricted to a single hook with no bait. Single hook with no bait equates to less fish being caught and handled. Common sense would say that today’s mortality percentage would be even less than 7.6% that was established through this study. This, of course, is my own opinion. 
Over thirty years later a follow up study was done to the seminal Kenai River findings. Jason Dye and Lee Borden conducted a mortality rate of sport caught king salmon on the Nushagak River (Bristol Bay) from 2017 to 2018. The detailed analysis and data collection methods can be found here.

In 2017, the mortality rate for a released sport caught king salmon was 6.7%. In 2018, the mortality rate was 6.0%. Both slightly lower than what was observed on the Kenai River thirty years earlier.
Some believe these rates of mortality are high. Relative to other fisheries, these numbers are low, very low. Try googling mortality rates of catch and release walleye fishing. You are going to find rates between 28% and 50% (Northwest Territories and Alberta, respectively). 

Let me end this post by saying this: I believe in the efficacy of catch and release fishing as a management tool for king salmon runs. When ADFG announces a catch and release emergency order, they are doing it with the knowledge and understanding gained from two comprehensive studies of the practice. Their decision is based on allowing recreation with an acceptable mortality rate all the while preserving future runs of king salmon. It is no easy task, and, unfortunately, often  political winds rather than facts come into play....for both sides of the argument.  

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service

Thursday, February 14, 2019

2019 Kenai River Early King Salmon Run Emergency Order

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) has announced today an emergency order (EO) for the 2019 early Kenai River king salmon season. The official press release can be found here.

In an effort to protect future king salmon runs, ADFG has restricted the lower Kenai River (from the mouth of the river to Slikok Creek) to catch and release fishing. This restriction is in effect from May 1st, until June 30th.
As of now, there are no restrictions on the late Kenai king salmon run (July 1st until July 31st).  I repeat, as of now, there are no restrictions on the late Kenai king salmon run.....

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Passive Aggressive Fishing Guide? Maybe...

A friend of mine sent this to me. I thought he was trying to tell me something and I asked if I was “THAT GUIDE.”

He said I wasn’t.

I’m glad.

I try to be patient with my clients and the last thing I’m going to do is yell and tell you you’re doing it all wrong.  My normal modus operandi is I’ll explain the technique/style that’s been working, and after three reminders you’re on your own. I figure the first time maybe you didn’t hear it correctly, so I’ll say it again. If you’re still doing it wrong, you’ll get a third reminder. If you’re still doing it wrong, well, you’re not coachable. Luckily, I haven’t had to bench anybody, but some people can’t quite figure out why they were the only one who didn’t catch fish that day.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Team USA

from left to right, Gus Schumacher, Alaska, Ben Ogden, Vermont, Johnny Hagnebuch, Idaho, Luke Jager, Alaska
I know this is a fishing blog, but there is a Kenai River connection. Above is Team USA celebrating their 4x5 relay win at the 2019 World Junior Ski Championship in Lahti, Finland. This is the first ever gold medal for Team USA in this event (silver last year).

The fishing connection is this: the young man on the left is my neighbor, Gus Schumacher. Not only a heck of a salmon fisherman (he was backbouncing when most kids used a Snoopy rod), but now he’s a gold medalist.  Way to go Super G! It will be fun to see what comes next.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Kenai Profiles: George French

Since I started this blog, I've periodically profiled people who've made a lasting impression on me. This post is devoted to my friend, George French.

I first met George in 2005. It was an introduction I'll never forget. It went something like this:

George: "I'm from LA."
Keith: "You have a southern accent...LA?"
George: "Yes. LA. Well, lower Alabama."
Keith: "Lower Alabama?"
George: "Well, Florida. Chipley Florida to be exact."

Thus began my relationship with George French.
The year of the "raise your right hand" stickers
There are too many stories/observations to tell about George, so I'll boil it down to just a few. Afterall, this is a blog and not a biography....

There are a few rules that need to be followed in my boat; most are mandated by the Coast Guard, but there's only one rule I've adopted that came from a client. If you guess it came from George, you would be correct. Fisherman tend to tell stories, and if you tell enough of them you start to repeat yourself. The Rule of George is this: if the story being told is a repeat, you raise your right hand. If the majority of the people in the boat raise their hand, you have to stop telling the story. The Rule of George is politely effective, and mildly amusing for other boats on the river who see hands being raised all day long.
I always laugh a little when people tell me their trip to Alaska is a trip of lifetime. It usually isn't. Since his first "trip of a lifetime" in 2005, George has been back to Alaska in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and twice in 2018 (one trip he accompanied me on the AlCan Hwy, the other to fish). Each time he has brought colleagues, friends, or family to share the Alaska experience.
In 2008, George came to Alaska with his son-in-law, his son-in-law's father, and his grandson Riley, who is in the photo above with George. The fishing was good and memorable, but what cemented my relationship with George is he happened to be in my boat when I received the news that my father had passed away. His kindness and understanding have not been forgotten. I'm sure these same qualities served him well as coach, teacher, counselor, and principal in Chipley.
I had to include this photo from 2016 for two reasons. One, that's a big fish, and 2) Riley has grown a lot since his previous visit in 2008. 

When you live in a northern climate, it's always good to know people from the south. I think George feels sorry for us because the last few winters he's sent us freshly picked lemons (and bay leaves) from his backyard in LA.  Not sure if he's just rubbing it in (probably), but we sure do appreciate the gift. One of these days we'll have to come pick our own...

I'll end this post by saying this, George is much more than a client of ours. He's a good friend. He always finds time to give us a call to talk about the weather, fishing, or how Phil Mickelson is doing in a tournament. If you stay on schedule, Jane and I look forward to seeing you on your next "trip of a lifetime" in 2020. See you then.

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service

Sunday, January 20, 2019

When’s The Best Time To Come To Alaska?

Certainly, this is one of the questions Jane and I are asked the most. Our simple answer to the question, when is the best time to visit Alaska, is....wait for it....anytime you can get here!
However, answers to the following questions will help determine your best fit.
Is your vacation about catching fish? What kind of salmon are you after? Do you like crowds?
Is your trip about filling up a cooler with fillets to bring home? Is it about catching a trophy? Is it about an experience on the water?
Are you okay with cold temperatures? What about rain?
Do you want to sight see? Do you want to hike?
How long are you visiting? Are you traveling solo, with the guys, the girls, your parents, your wife, husband, or children?
It's a fact that there is no perfect time to visit Alaska. Any given time period will have something that is good, bad, and ugly. Knowing that in advance is key to your preparation.
Give us a call, or an email, anytime and we'd be happy to sort through options to find your best possible experience in Alaska.

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2019 UCI Sockeye Forecast

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) has released the 2019 Upper Cook Inlet (UCI)  sockeye (red) salmon forecast. Details can be found here.  To summarize, ADFG believes 6 million sockeye will return to UCI, with 3.8 million returning to the Kenai. This is considerably more than last year's Kenai forecast and 200,000 fish greater than the 20 year average.
This is good news for the sockeye fishery, but expecations should be tempered based on the fact that this is a forecast. Time will tell how accurate this estimate will be. In the meantime, it's okay to be patching any leaks you may have in your waders, and sharpening your hooks...

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service