As the big fishing seasons wind down around the state, various user groups have submitted their proposals for rule changes for the Board of Fish to consider during its winter meetings.
Nearly 400 proposals were submitted statewide, and upper and lower Cook Inlet fisheries were some of the most popular targets for new ideas. In the realm of salmon fisheries, it’s not much of a surprise that many proposals call for better tracking of the numbers.
With king salmon numbers the way they’ve been the past few years, keeping everyone in the water for an equal shot at harvest has been a challenge. Several proposals seek to address that challenge.
Proposal 190, submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, calls for a new management plan for the Kenai and Kasilof River early run king fishery. They want a comprehensive revision of the plan that would stabilize the fisheries in low run years.
That sounds pretty good on paper, but when sport and commercial fishermen got together earlier this year in the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force looking for the same kinds of revisions, ADF&G Sportfish Director Charlie Swanton explained why that’s something of a white whale. The timing of the early and late runs is changing, and biologists are still trying to figure out why.
“The problem with some of that stuff is that it may line up one year and then the next year it falls apart,” he said.
A proposal submitted by some local setnetters also seeks to address some of the shortcomings of reporting numbers, calling for more reports, and using technology like smart phone apps to get them. Sport groups also want the Board to raise escapement goals, to 20,000-40,000 fish, up from the current 15,000 to 30,000.
Municipalities also submitted some proposals. Citing safety concerns, the City of Soldotna has proposed to prohibit sport fishing within the Centennial Campground boat launch lagoon. The City says in its proposal that anglers fishing from there are doing so in a manner that endangers both themselves and boaters launching or leaving the lagoon, with at least one instance of a fisher casting from a boat launch and being backed over by a boater attempting get his boat in the water.
The City of Kenai has a proposal of its own, calling for more drift only days. It wants to add Thursdays as a day when no motors are allowed, citing high turbidity on the river, which can adversely affect salmon and other wildlife.
Sport and commercial interests dominate the proposals, but at least one speaks for personal use fishing. Cover your
ears eyes if you’re not a fan of dipnetting on the Kenai:
The South Central Alaska Dipnetters Association wants to see the personal use fishery expanded into August in years when runs hit 4.6 million fish or more, and the bag limit increased to 35 fish.
The Board of Fish will take up these and many more proposals when it begins meetings in October. Those meetings will continue through March of next year.