A months long review of escapement goals for salmon in the Upper Cook Inlet won’t immediately affect the king salmon fishery on the Kenai River, but some fisheries at the Kasilof might be affected.
Fish and Games sports fish and commercial fish divisions met five times since November for an interdivisional escapement goal review. Because the recommendations were needed before a board of fisheries deadline for comments on April 10.
On the Kenai River, the escapement goals for large kings, those equal to or greater than 25.9 inches in length, in both the early and late runs, were not updated, as only three new years of sonar escapement data were available since the methods of measuring the run strength changed.
After trying several different statistical management models on the Kenai River sockeye salmon data, Department biologists settled on the tried-and-true “Ricker Model” and the Markov Yield Table. It suggested a sustainable escapement goal of 750,000 to 1.3 million. The current sonar-based S-E-G is a range of 700,000 to 1.2 million. Managers caution in their memo that the escapement change could affect allocations in all area fisheries, including Upper Cook Inlet Drift, East Side setnet, the personal use dipnet and in-river sports fishing.
The Russian River’s two sockeye runs have different outcomes. The early run has no suggested changes. Managers had over 34 years of data on which the most recent escapement goals were based, and when they applied different models, the return changed the parameters very little, and so no changes are recommended.
The late run, which has a current S-E-G of 30,000 to 110,000 sockeye will be updated. The lower end of the escapement goal is being pushed up to 44,000 fish, while the upper end is being contracted to 85,000.
These escapement goal suggestions will not be in effect this year. Rather, the Board of Fisheries will be updated on them at an October work session by the Department, and a more detailed report submitted to the board in February 2020.