Howard Delo

If you enjoy outdoor winter activities like skiing or snowmobiling, you must be getting frustrated by now! I saw a friend the other day who was wearing his brand-new snowmachining jacket. When I commented that about all he could do was wear it to the store, he agreed, with a sigh. I still want to go ice fishing, but, with this warm-cold-warm weather cycle, it will be a while before the ice is thick and safe enough, in my opinion.

So, what did we learn from the meeting with Fish and Game last week? In general, I didn’t hear much new information. My take-aways were limited to three items. First, I’m pretty sure Fish and Game will strongly push to have the Susitna-Yentna sockeye salmon stock delisted from the statewide stock of concern listings.

Interestingly, many of the escapement figures they showed at the meeting indicating that good returns have happened over the past several years supporting this proposed delisting I don’t remember seeing before. Now my memory isn’t what it used to be, but I don’t remember the “glowing” levels of escapement being reported at the time they supposedly occurred.

Fish and Game says the delisting will not result in increased commercial interception of returning Susitna-Yentna stocks because the delisting will not alter the way the commercial fishery will be managed. Time will tell whether that happens or not.

The second item involves the department’s proposed change in the basic management structure of the Susitna River king salmon returns. One of the Palmer biologists made about a 20-minute presentation explaining the concept changes and why the department thinks this new approach will provide a better management strategy. To be honest, most of the graphs and numbers cited were over my head – I’ve never been good with statistics.

However, the take-away from this for me was that the “new” approach incorporates virtually all the data sets the department has collected over the years being used in the models they have to predict future runs. Rather than basing all their work on one or two data sets, as was the case with the current management scheme, now probably a dozen additional sets of data are being incorporated to “fine tune” their efforts.

I’m one of those that much prefers a “real world,” hard data approach to management rather than basing everything on a statistical model of what should or could be. The reality is that managing a salmon return requires a model since it is impossible to get every piece of information through hands-on observations or counts. Since modeling is the only real alternative, let’s use the best model possible. Again, time will tell if this new approach is a positive improvement over the existing system.

My third and final takeaway involves a comment Dave Rutz, the Director of the Sport Fish Division, made toward the end of the meeting. He said that a strong run of jack king salmon was observed this past season. A jack king salmon is a one-ocean male fish which returned to spawn in its natal stream.

In a statement of cautious optimism, Dave said that, historically, when a strong run of jacks has occurred, that has meant good returns of fish over the next three years. If that correlation holds, then things might be looking up for king runs in the Valley! We can only hope.

If you’re planning to apply for a drawing permit hunt, you only have until this coming Monday to submit your application online. I finally turned in my application after chasing some information on the Delta bison hunt situation.

I drew a Delta bison permit for a cow in 2007. At that time, so-called trespass fees ranged for $0 to $350, depending on whether you harvested an animal from that piece of private property. I was interested in applying this year until I found out trespass fees have jumped to between $500 to $1000 currently. If you decide to try applying for the Copper River bison hunt, the brochure says that hunt has a trespass fee of $1500. That’s too rich for my fixed income situation!

I did apply for my usual antlerless moose hunt preferences and I also applied for the Nelchina caribou hunt again. My mountain hunting days are over, and I don’t have a major interest in harvesting a brown bear. The cost of accessing many of the other hunts is beyond my means, and with my mobility situation, I apply for hunts easily accessible or close to home.

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