BOF changes commercial drift fishing in Cook Inlet

Central District drift fishery management plan includes new area

On Monday, the Alaska Board of Fisheries approved several changes to the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan outlined in a proposal submitted by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish & Wildlife Commission.

After more than an hour of discussion, the board voted unanimously to adopt the new regulation that includes provisions establishing a 1 percent rule for the fishery in August and a new area to fish called the Anchor Point section.

The fishing season — which opens on the later date of either the third Monday in June or June 19 — will allow fishing from July 9–15 in the Expanded Kenai and Kasilof Sections and Area 1.

The expanded Kenai and Kasilof sections follow the shoreline on the east side of the Cook Inlet from the Ninilchik River to an area north of the Kenai River.

Area 1 encompasses most of the lower Cook Inlet with the northernmost boundary being a line south of the Kasilof River that bisects the Inlet to a spot near Polly Creek on the west side; the southern boundary bisects the Inlet from a line that starts at Anchor Point.

The new Anchor Point section starts just south of the Kasilof section, near Ninilchik and runs down the shoreline before terminating at near Anchor Point.  

During board deliberations, commercial area management biologist Pat Shields was asked what kind of sockeye salmon catch rates are observed for the drift fleet in the new area.

While the specific number was hard to pin down, Shields said, the ADFG test boat fishery starts in that area and it’s the station where the boat catches the least amount of sockeye.

“Speaking with drifters over the years, this is an area where we don’t fish a lot,” Shields said.

From July 16-July 31 at run strengths of fewer than 2.3 million sockeye salmon to the Kenai River, fishing during all regular 12-hour periods will be restricted to the expanded Kenai and Kasilof sections. Previously, fishing during just one of those periods was restricted to those sections.

During that same period, if the run strength is projected to be 2.3 million to 4.6 million sockeye to the Kenai River, fishing one of the fleet’s regular 12-hour fishing periods will be expanded to any or all of the Kenai, Kasilof and Anchor Point sections and Area 1. During the other weekly 12-hour regular period, fishing will not be allowed in Area 1.

At run strengths of greater than 4.6 million sockeye to the Kenai, just one of the regular 12-hour fishing periods during the week will be restricted to the expanded Kenai, Kasilof and Anchor Point sections.

Any additional fishing time given to the fleet will be allowed only in the expanded Kenai, Kasilof and new Anchor Point sections of the Inlet.

From Aug. 1-15, if the Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers determine that less than 1 percent of the season’s total sockeye harvest in the driftnet fishery has been taken in a period for two consecutive periods, the fishery will be closed.

The 2014 sockeye salmon forecast to the Kenai River is about 3.8 million.

Dyer Van Devere, Cook Inlet drift fisher, said the new Anchor Point section would be chaotic as the drift fleet would be competing with halibut fishers and private boats that put out into the inlet at the Anchor Point boat launch.

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