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Old 07-15-2006, 06:09 AM   #1
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An Inconvenient Truth

RUSSIAN RIVER -- The red salmon came again this June in a gray-backed wave of life that at times nearly obscured the rocky, rubble bottom of this stream.

No one could have imagined such a bounty nearly 40 years ago when the groundwork was being laid for the revitalization of the popular Kenai Peninsula fishery. The river then supported a healthy salmon fishery, but it was nothing compared to what it is today.

Red salmon used to return each summer by the thousands or tens of thousands. Now, between the early run just finishing and the late run just beginning, they come by the hundreds of thousands.

There are so many, in fact, that fishery managers sometimes question the ability of anglers to catch enough. Already this year, the early run of fish has exceeded what biologists peg as the maximum spawning goal by some 20,000 fish. This has become the norm.

"They have had this supposed over-escapement (of spawners) on the Russian for the last 10 years,'' said Jan Konigsberg, a fisheries biologist in Anchorage. "Theoretically, something should be dipping but it's not."

Surplus salmon on the spawning beds might have reduced the ratio of returning fish per spawner to something less than ideal in recent years, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Tom Vania, but there is no indication that returns two or three times larger than biologists desire have done any harm.
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