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Further restrictions issued for set gillnetters in Cook Inlet

Posted: June 27, 2012 - 1:57pm

For the second day of the season the Kasilof section of the set gillnet fishery will be closed to fishing Thursday.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced a closure of set gillnetting in the North District of Upper Cook Inlet Wednesday as the department continues to cope with poor numbers of early-run king salmon and a below-average return of sockeye in the Kasilof river.
The closure of the regular 48 hour-per-week fishing period for the setnet fishery in June is abnormal for ADF&G.
"It's unusual in that typically we're on the other side," Pat Shields, area management biologist said. "We're allowed to fish as many as 48 additional hours per week; usually we're using all of the 48 hours and wishing we had more because more often than not the Kasilof River sockeye escapement has us at a point where we can see that we're already behind."
As of Monday, 28,404 sockeye had been counted in the Kasilof river according to ADF&G, which is well below the 10-year-average of 62,000 fish in the same period; despite there having been no commercial harvest of Kasilof River sockeye salmon stock this year.
This is the second year sockeye in the Kasilof have been measured using a DIDSON and last year by June 25, there were more than 66,000 sockeye counted in the Kasilof.
The escapement goal is between 160,000 to 390,000 fish.
"If you look at the last 10 years and look at the average escapement; we're less than half of average," Shields said. "It's too early in the year to project what the final would be. The current escapement right now would suggest that we would make the range but we would be at the bottom end."
However, with 90 percent of the run yet to come, Shields said it was too soon to make projections on what the final escapement of sockeye into the Kasilof would be.
While the Kasilof river set gillnet fishery is managed for sockeye escapement, the restriction on the Kasilof also takes into account the low number of king salmon stock in the Cook Inlet.
"When you have a mixed stock fishery you will sacrifice the harvest of the strong stock, the dominant stock numerically, to make sure you're achieving the minimum goal of the weaker stock numerically is kings," Shield said.
In the Upper Cook Inlet on the Deshka River weir counts alongside angler and staff reports show a weaker than anticipated run of king salmon according to the emergency order.
The sustainable escapement goal for king salmon in the Deshka is between 13,000 and 28,000 fish. By Monday 8,501 kings were estimated to have passed the Deshka River weir and the final escapement projection falls below 13,000.
ADF&G has been coping with weak escapements into the Susitna River drainage for several years.

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