In a flurry of emergency orders and news releases Thursday the Alaska Deparment of Fish and Game announced efforts to conserve king salmon by putting restrictions on personal-use fishing and inriver anglers — triggering restrictions for commercial fishers in the east side setnet fishery.
Managers justified the restrictions with the explanation that Cook Inlet king salmon have continued to return in low numbers in recent years.
The Kenai River has had below-average run strength since 2009, according to a Fish and Game media release.
On the Kenai River the late-run king salmon fishery, which opens Tuesday, will start with a prohibition on the use of bait in any sportfishery.
A February emergency order also closed a section of the river from Skilak Lake down to a Fish and Game regulatory marker about 300 yards downstream of the mouth of Slikok Creek.
Managers have estimated that 19,700 Kenai River king salmon will make a run on the river this year, which is less than half of the average total run from 1986-2013. The low numbers of fish forecasted to return and the number of fish that are harvested could jeopardize attaining one of the river’s escapement goals for king salmon, according to a Fish and Game media release.
While area management biologists have restricted Kenai River king salmon anglers to no-bait fishing in previous years, this year’s decision to limit the fishery to no-bait triggered management actions in the Kenai River personal-use and commercial fisheries in the Cook Inlet — a result of the February 2014 Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting.
— In the set gillnet fishery on the east side of Cook Inlet, regular commercial fishing periods will no longer be in effect and the commercial fishery will be allowed no more than 36 hours of fishing per week with a mandatory 36-hour closure beginning between 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday. With the regularly scheduled periods on Mondays and Thursdays no longer in effect in the set gillnet fishery, all fishing time will be announced via emergency order beginning Tuesday, according to the Fish and Game media release.
— People participating in the personal-use dipnet fishery, which opens on July 10 at the mouth of the Kenai River, will not be allowed to keep king salmon caught in their nets.
Fish and Game also restricted sportfishing on the Kasilof River to single-hook, no-bait fishing beginning Tuesday. The river has been restricted to single-hook no-bait fishing since February and anglers have not been allowed to keep naturally-produced king salmon, in addition to a reduction in the bag-limit for hatchery produced king salmon. While restrictions on the late-run king salmon sport fishery on the Kasilof River were issued to combat the potential for increased pressure on the river due to restrictions on the Kenai River, according to a Fish and Game emergency order, they are also designed to boost escapement numbers for naturally-produced Kasilof River late-run king salmon which have also seen a drop in numbers.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.