Dennis Zimmermann, a Yukon fisheries advocate and consultant presented to a impressive turnout of anglers and fisheries stakeholders in October. Dennis partnered with Keepemwet Fishing to share a wide range of catch and release science, tips and discussion. The overarching message of Keepemwet catch and release principles and education was warmly received.
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What do dinosaurs and king salmon have in common? More than you might think. 66 million years ago an asteroid hit the Gulf of Mexico. The subsequent climatic changes eliminated all of the large-bodied dinosaurs. Today, the only remaining direct descendants are birds, though more distant relatives like snakes, lizards, and crocs are present. Regardless, bird or reptile, notice anything? They are all much smaller than the dinosaurs. During childhood I was awestruck by the concept of dinosaurs, but thanks to a damn meteor I never got to see one. Instead, I made do with illustrations and plastic toys. So, what does this have to do with kings? Parallels. The gal in the photo is around 40lbs, large for this day and age. But she’s small fry compared to the 70-100lb fish that once roamed the ocean. Why are those big specimens, the dinosaurs of the salmon-world, now so rare? Because in order to get huge, a fish has to live a long time – six to seven years. To do that a king must make 4-6 laps around the Alaskan Gyre without being caught by a troller or gill net. It is simply too difficult for many fish to make that many laps without being killed. As a result, maximum age and size has decreased. For example, in the Pacific North West 5-year olds are as common now as 7-year olds were in the 40s and 50s. The decrease in age helps explain why our fish are now so small, and has likely reduced their fitness. From an evolutionary standpoint, large size is the king’s calling card, just like abundance is for pinks and diversity is for steelhead. Larger kings carry more eggs, can dig deeper redds to avoid scour, and have more fat to help them make long freshwater migrations. Kings need to be large to be productive, without question. The saddest part is that some kid in 100 years may be fishing for 15” kings, thinking they are large. He will only have photographs and videos to remind him of what once was, just as I had to live vicariously through a toy T-rex. We are the meteor. The kings are the dinosaurs. Something has to change.