Current weather

  • Overcast, light rain
  • 54°
    Overcast, light rain
  • Comment

Voices of the Peninsula: Drift fisherman cynical of fish board proceedings

Posted: February 18, 2014 - 9:05pm

The Board of Fisheries has been meeting in Anchorage recently with their focus on Upper Cook Inlet fisheries management. I was there for most of it, as I have been for nearly 40 years.

Remember long ago when the Marlboro man advertised the benefits of smoking? Many of you are too young for this one, but at one time in the recent past smoking was advertised as being good for you. Clearly this idea has been disproven by science. Tying this to Cook Inlet fisheries, it was once thought that if you put the fleet way over on the edge of the Inlet in the corridor, we would catch fewer fish bound for the Northern district. Guess what: genetic science has disproven this long held assumption. Did the Board of Fish members believe the data generated by their own department? In a word, no. The BOF thinks it is just fine to keep on smoking, ... er, “corridorizing” the fleet.

The Kenai River Sporfishing Association for months has been running a splashy, expensive campaign to “Save our Kenai Kings.” An objective takeaway from the meeting: they really want to “Save our Kenai River Guides,” not kings. The BOF had numerous opportunities to take meaningful action to “Save our Kenai Kings,” but declined. No meaningful sanctuaries. No extra drift only days. No reduction in horsepower of the big sleds. KRSA fought hard to make certain that none of these possible remedies were taken seriously. The Kenai king is now one BOF meeting closer to extinction. And KRSA claims to be a 501c3 nonprofit organization that focuses on conservation, not politics. Right. They appear to be happy enough to continue killing the river for short term gain; catching them until they are gone.

A few highlights:

■ The sports fishing industry wrote the new commercial fishing management plans, ignoring new science that has become available. In a commercial fishery that supplies 5 percent of the global production of wild sockeye and $200 million to our economy, the sport fish lobby wrote the commercial fisheries plan. Seriously!

■ Two members of the board (Johnstone and Kluberton) dominated all discussion, and were clearly in control. The other 5 members were rarely heard, and often seemed steamrolled.

■ The board, despite dozens of submissions of scientific data, totally ignored all the implications. For instance, a recently released Kenai River turbidity study that irrefutably illustrates a connection between motorboat traffic and dangerously poor in-river water quality was totally ignored. Quite clear that the underlying motive is to save the guides rather than save the Kenai king!

■ The facts prove that plenty of fish currently make their way through the commercial fishery to Northern District streams. The drift fleet harvests only about 5 percent of the silvers headed up that way. Ninety-five percent of a million silvers is clearly not enough for this insatiable appetite!

■ A huge user group has been rejected entirely in this process: people that buy fish from commercial fishermen. Not everyone is a combat fisherman!

■ The Board restricted set netters. Even less fishing time, linkeage to in-river closures, incentives to reduce gear by cutting it down and making it shallower. No science to back up these actions.

■ The Board continues to manage the fleet in various “boxes” and “corridors” despite new science that disproves the concept that this will reduce harvest of Northern District sockeye. Adaptive in-season management would be far more effective. Prescriptive areas defy real time salmon movements.

■ The Board is convinced that tens of thousands of “extra” fish will find their way to Mat Valley streams due to corridor restrictions. If this doesn’t work, as we told them it would not, we will get the blame anyway. Science doesn’t matter, only political perception matters.

■ ADF&G staff, when asked, admitted that overescapment of salmon into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers would be detrimental to future runs. The department has allowed for sockeye overescapement in the Kenai 8 of the past 11 years. The risk to future stocks and lost harvest opportunities to fishermen and the Kenai Borough economy had no impact on the discussion. The overwhelming, clear, singleminded goals: “Get the Silvers home regardless of cost” and “keep KRSA and the guides happy regardless of adverse habitat impacts to the Kenai River.”

Managing a $200 million plus fishery to the weakest link makes no sense. Yes, let’s be sure that adequate fish return to streams and rivers. But the obvious eagerness of the Board to manage the entire fishery to the benefit of “300,000 folks in the valley with a fishing pole in one hand” (and a vote in the other) at the expense of jobs and the economy on the Kenai Peninsula represents more than swagger and grab. It is simply morally and ethically wrong.

Frank Mullen lives in Homer. He has been a sport and commercial fisherman all his life, a businessman, and served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for three terms.

  • Comment

Comments (11) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
kingsize 02/19/14 - 01:43 pm
Unbridled Look into a Commercial Fishermans Mind.

Mr. Mullen, you seem very upset. I guess it is because the BOF represents all of the People of Alaska and not just commercial fishermen. Sorry you feel you deserve, or believe that you should come first, before the People of Alaska. So I will try and respond to some of your wild accusations in this forum.

First would you please show me the link for the data to the claim you made above; "it was once thought that if you put the fleet way over on the edge of the Inlet in the corridor, we would catch fewer fish bound for the Northern district. Guess what: genetic science has disproven this long held assumption. Did the Board of Fish members believe the data generated by their own department?" Please show me that data Mr. Mullen, the genetic science and who developed it, I can't seem to find it in my research.

I won't waste my time responding to the over used slamming of the KRSA or the KRPGA by a commercial fisherman. Heard it all before and like the majority of Alaska Residents it makes me/them shut off to your opinion. It just sounds like you want to get rid of any competition for any fish. Trying to pit the guides against the sport fishing public. Same old, Same old. It won't work, hasn't worked for a while now. The PEOPLE OF ALASKA are much more knowledgeable now in that regard. They do reject that idea of a group that commands the sole use of all the fisheries these days. And the thought process that ALASKA RESIDENTS should buy their fish from commercial fishers.

Let's deal with the "Highlights";

1. I don't believe the statement that the, "sports fishing industry wrote the new commercial fishing management plans", most of the plan was not rewritten as you say. Commercial Proposals were for the most part wild and extreme in what they wrote in them. Some of the Personal Use proposals I saw from commercial fishing entities were just to much over the top. Please remember, these fish belong to ALL THE RESIDENTS OF THE STATE OF ALASKA!!! Not just you.

2. "Two members of the board (Johnstone and Kluberton) dominated all discussion, and were clearly in control. The other 5 members were rarely heard, and often seemed steamrolled. " What a laugh, I felt the entire board was very engaged and used very good thought process on about 85% of all the proposals, I was there too buddy. ADF&G had input on every single proposal so why not get on their case? Guess you don't want to "bite the hand that feeds you"? Well that is exactly what you are doing when it comes to those "votes" by the RESIDENTS OF ALASKA!!

3. " The board, despite dozens of submissions of scientific data, totally ignored all the implications". Come on, as I mentioned some of the proposals were so out of line that it was a joke on behalf of the commercial entities that submitted them. You mentioned "turbidity", well the data has proven that rain, wind, freezing and thawing, flooding, tidal movement, snow, even hot sunshine on glaciers provides more turbidity than the movement of any number of boats upon a river. The Drift boat idea,, been submitted to every BOF meeting for 20yrs. Not one time has it been given any real creditability, it will just not work for many reasons. That is why it has never passed the any Board.

4. " Ninety-five percent of a million silvers is clearly not enough for this insatiable appetite! ." In this statement you clearly are bashing the PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA again. That has never worked and it won't work now. You are alienating the vast majority of the people with this statement about Silvers in upper cook inlet streams and that will come back to bite you in a way you will not like. As to your statement, guess that is why escapements of only 1year out of the last 6yrs has been met.

5. " A huge user group has been rejected entirely in this process: people that buy fish from commercial fishermen." I guess the PEOPLE OF ALASKA, like me who has resided here 40yrs, must be made to purchase our fish, which belongs to all the RESIDENTS OF ALASKA, from you. Get a grip Sir, I will never ever buy anything I can go get myself, period. I guess I need to buy my gold from you and my clams and Moose and caribou and what's next, air?

6. "The Board restricted set netters. Even less fishing time, linked to in-river closures, incentives to reduce gear by cutting it down and making it shallower. No science to back up these actions. " I love this one, let the sport fishermen and Personal Use fishermen carry the burden of bringing back the Kings to the Kenai River. Yeah that makes total sense!!?? And the part about reduces gear with no science..... Well maybe you should contact Vince Webster and ask him about the result of the 1998/1999 Bristol Bay test of 29mesh nets ADF&G supported which found that most of the Kings swam below them which had a direct affect on the Nush and the Naknek rivers, among others. They got nice runs of Kings now. 14yrs ago when it was brought to the board of fish, Cook Inlet set netters lobbied hard and got it thrown out then. Wonder what it might have done if it had been given a chance in Cook Inlet way back then. Oh, and I did not see much restrictions put on set netters, they even got you, a drifter, moved out to 1200ft from shore at times of EO's issued for them and to kill pinks in August, (like they want Pinks right? Wrong they want a piece of the Silvers). That little ruling by the BOF will likely kill more than the allotted 2,500 Silvers commercial limit that are Kenai bound.

7. "manage the fleet in various “boxes” and “corridors” despite new science ", You keep mentioning this new science. I cannot find it nor the authors of it. Wonder if it was just another commercial entities' new science thingy. Please provide this new science data and it's authors so that I can bring myself up to speed on it and see if it really is new, is correct, is it authored by NOAA or a legitimate research foundation.??

8. The part about the fish getting up to the valley's streams and rivers, I got no idea if it will or not. If the management plan the BOF has adopted does not work, maybe we need to shut down the Drift Fleet in Cook Inlet like the set netters and sports fishermen have been shut down to protect the Kings? Sound good to you? After all we all want the fish to come back to their respective spawn areas and waters so that the RESIDENTS OF ALASKA can utilize them for food. Without paying you for them!

9. Love this one; "ADF&G staff, when asked, admitted that overescapment of salmon into the Kenai and Kasilof", "department has allowed for sockeye over escapement in the Kenai 8 of the past 11 years. " Well now, 8 out of 11yrs,,,guess it has had no impact on returning Reds, each of the last few years has been record returns. Personally I don't believe in over escapement nor do I believe in the numbers the commercial fishermen run Red counter at mile 18 is correct too. No way has there ever really been 100,000 Reds in one day come up the Kenai River, let alone over 200,000 in a single day, again in my opinion. Here is why I believe that, in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef, they closed all commercial fishing activity in Cook Inlet. On the day they had the highest Red count in 1989, (92,000), I was fishing the Kenai River and saw fish jumping out of the water on both banks from the King counter all the way up to the bridge where my property was when I quit fishing for the day. I counted over 100 reds that had jumped onto the bank. The next day I came down to my boat and found 18 reds in it, (moored on the bank). I have never seen a run like that since, ever! Back in past years, when they counted over 25,000 Reds in a day, everyone was catching them from the bank. Now they get a count of 75,000 and it is hard to get three from the bank, the counts are inflated. They even opened up Hidden Lake Creek to ALASKA RESIDENTS to dip their reds in 1989. The lines were 2hrs long for 2 weeks. It took an average of 45 seconds for a family of 4 to get their 24 fish. So you ask me why would the commercial guys counting the reds at mile 18 falsify their counts high??? Follow me here, the more reds they count, the more EO's are issued and the more time commercial fishermen get to fish to prevent "over escapement" which is a fantasy word catch phase. You have yourself proved my position, that there is no such thing as over escapement because it has been going on for over a decade with no dire results to the Red fishery. Which begs the blog about how could there be over escapement on a fish species run that is stocked and ranched? I will get into that at another time, but many people know about it now,( just go up to Hidden Lake the first 2 weeks of August and see what ADF&G is doing there)!

10. In your final highlight; "But the obvious eagerness of the Board to manage the entire fishery to the benefit of “300,000 folks in the valley with a fishing pole in one hand” (and a vote in the other) at the expense of jobs and the economy on the Kenai Peninsula represents more than swagger and grab. It is simply morally and ethically wrong. " Better move that number up another hundred thousand to be in the ball park. And the only "grab" is by you guys, commercial fishermen. Let's use the common sense we got here, how does one guy or even 10 guys with one rod and one reel with one hook catch as many as one boat with one net? Been here 40yrs and it still does not add up. Your simply wrong and I will go so far as to say Morally Wrong. You work a few months to take every winter off and live a good life on the backs of all the PEOPLE OF ALASKA by utilizing our resource. Do it while you can because take a look at this little scientific data out of the Northwest;

Seems that after the closure of the commercial fisheries in Washington State their King Salmon and Silver Salmon runs have gone sky high. In 2013 they had a run of 1.6 million Kings return to just one river,,,wow. And the forecast for 2014 is close to 1 million Kings to come back to that same river. And a run of 1.2 million Silvers are expected to come back too. Don't see no over escapement there do we!! Amazing.

In closing I want to thank the BOF for a hard job well done. I was impressed by the quick wittedness, the knowledge and the willingness to conserve our fisheries resources that I observed by all the board members. It takes a lot of time, effort and trouble for them to try and be as fair as they can be and still manage our fisheries for maximum sustained yield for the PEOPLE OF ALASKA, just like the CONSTITUTION OF ALASKA mandates. Of course I did not get all the things I wanted in their deliberations or rulings, but who did? And I am not going to spend my time crying or whining about it. I am just going to go with the flow and make the best of it as I can. I suggest you do too. Mr. Mullen, all your statements, which I am sure you believe, do, is alienate you from the rest of the RESIDENTS OF ALASKA that don't have that permit you have. Remember, the STATE OF ALASKA gave you that permit and they can take it whenever they want or are mandated to by a vote of the people you continue to alienate. and bash. Word to the wise, don't kick the fire, you might get burned. But you do what you want to, I just hope I get to catch another Kenai King Salmon for my dinner table. Everyone enjoy our wonderful Alaska and the snow fall today. God Bless.

5akman 02/19/14 - 01:49 pm
Kingsize: "alienate you from

Kingsize: "alienate you from the rest of the RESIDENTS OF ALASKA that don't have that permit you have. Remember, the STATE OF ALASKA gave you that permit"

Yes, the state was smart enough to see, way back in the early 70's, that fishery effort had to be controlled. They did so by issuing permits to those who had participated in the fishery. To buy that "free permit" as you say, now cost right around $80,000. If you are envious of commercial fisherman, why don't you buy a permit and be quiet? And for that matter, how come the guides aren't smart enough to see that they too could benefit from a limited number of in-river commercial fishing permits?

Our permits don't give us the right to catch every fish in the inlet, just like having a dip net permit shouldn't guarantee you unlimited access to the resource. Reading where "dippers" were upset that it took an ENTIRE morning to get their 35+ fish is insane. Oh, and how about enforcing the dip net fishery? Everyone can vouch for the blantant rules breaking with "out of staters" and overlimit fisherman etc. I know I have personally called the troopers when I've seen violations happening in the Kenai river mouth and it has not been of concern to law enforcement! As a comm fisherman, this blantant overlooking of the law while I sit on the shore watching the fish go by is a huge double standard! Maybe we wouldn't be so fired up if we felt the playing field was fair.....

AK4LIFE 02/19/14 - 05:39 pm

There are so many things wrong with what kingsize said I don't even know where to begin. I truly hope he doesn't think he represents the Alaska resident. By what he has said & the way in which he said it, he is clearly a guide. Just by his very last statement about hoping to catch a king for his dinner table, shows how much he truly doesn't care about the kings at all. Just cares about what he can take & how much of it he can take before its gone. I never heard anywhere Frank say he wanted all the fish for himself. I don't think I've ever heard a commercial fisherman say such a thing. The ones I've talked to have no problem sharing the fish, its when the reasoning for the actions taken aren't based on data, science, habitat, adf&g & fair allocation that makes them cringe. If KingSize had attended the meetings he could have walked to the back table & gotten the genetic study like everyone else did. No research required, just get up out of your seat, turn around, walk back & get it. He might also re-read the turbidity study that was also generated. Also, the only reason Frank said 300,000 folks in the valley is because that's the number that was drilled into everyone's head over & over by the chair. When he repeatedly implied that the growing population of the mat-su valley takes importance over the vast number of generational family's that have taken part in this fishery for many decades. I'm not just talking commercially, so don't get weird. It was clear that many of the board members felt that way & one sounded like broken records when opposing any restrictions for habitat. For example when board member Morisky opposed the barbless hook on the Kenai because something along the lines of, it wouldn't be fair allocation to a user group of residents to further restrict them the opportunity to get fish for there family. At lease one of the other board members corrected him by saying something like, that doesn't apply, its catch & release. I can't count how many times he said something like that, but to say that in reference to a restriction in a catch & release circumstance just proves what frank was trying to say. Know one should be trying to fill there freezer in a catch & release fishery.
You are clearly frustrated, when someone contradicts what you are trying to put out there for people to believe & by all the time you wasted in your comments you also have way to much time on your hands. I think Walmart might be hiring if you need a job.

Raoulduke 02/19/14 - 07:47 pm
The Kings Conserved

You want to see the return of the Kings in Abundance? Then NOW is the time for ALL fishing groups to STOP fishing for KINGS period.Every comment by any fishing group has been nothing more than an exercise of FINGER POINTING. "I want mine,and I don't care if you get yours". Great attitude for a foundation of Conserving the KING fishery.Collectively ALL fishing groups should be ashamed.We are talking about the KING fishery that is closely going the way of the Atlantic Salmon,or Cod. Bicker if you must,but do something worthwhile for the survival of the KING fishery. A little sacrifice now is better than NEVER to worry about catching another KING again.

im4fisheries 02/19/14 - 10:22 pm
Who are the residents of Alaska??????????

How many times did "KINGSIZE" say that the resource belonged to the Residents of Alaska??? I AM a resident of Alaska yet I have no voice. I have paid and paid and paid for the right to commercially fish Inlet waters. Back in 1959 when Alaska became a state the resource was given to people of Alaska and broke up the monopoly the lower 48 fish giants had on our fish. The fish traps were outlawed and the resource given to the people of Alaska for economic development. With the newly formed ADF&G who's single purpose was to manage for sustainability we all suffered to bring back the runs the trap men had ruined. By the 70 the Inlet was getting over run with week on week off fishers who flooded the state as the oil industry brought on a new flock of people.... anyone who had a boat and a net could fish until 1972 when limited entry began. The 80's brought in some very good years, the fish were being managed and the Inlet saw it's first "Million" returning sockeye and Kings were strong. Vince discovered how to "sport" fish the kings and another industry was born... So lets go back to the original "Residents of Alaska" comment that was so pointed in Mr. Kingsized rant. The Kenai river is now so over run with people that are NOT from here that its actually sickening! Spend a day, week, or month at the Kenai airport and count the number of boxes being taken out of Alaska by non-Alaskan. Count the number of boxes of fish that the dipnetters are sending to all the "relatives" in the lower meant for THEIR own Alaskan dinner plates..... count the number of guides who don't call Alaska home but live elsewhere... We have forgotten our history and we are now repeating it by allowing the lower 48 folks to not only rape the Kenai river but call the shots.... I am a Resident of Alaska and the fish has been taken away from me. I am an East side Set Netter who has worked many year in this industry and pay all my licenses, permits, and fee for the right to fish Cook You made Commercial Fishing sound like the bad guy and that we don't belong in Alaska or that we are not RESIDENTS. Shame on you Mr. Kingsize... by the virtue of your name I can tell that you only have Kings to live for and nothing else. Our sockeye run is being ruined by your narrow view of "Kings only" The Kenai is being ruined by uncontrolled access to the river that feeds us all. I will end by asking why can't Kings be enhanced? Why can't we go to a lottery system for the in river kings? Why can't we control the number of people on the river as they do on the Colorado river? and Why do we say in years of "Low abundance"... an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

leewaytooo 02/20/14 - 02:48 am
obviously the COMMERICAL

obviously the COMMERICAL guides in the river did not listen

to their parents..........they continue to play with their food..

catch and release is playing with their food......

it is a crime all parents know to be true.....stop it...

bare hands is the only fair challenge with

catch and release.... less catching and less need to release.

pengy 02/20/14 - 07:43 am
BOF Chair........"looking

BOF Chair........"looking over 33 years of commercial sockeye harvest numbers, the last 3 years harvest have been significantly higher and you want more?"

The truth hurts sometimes.

nikiskikaren 02/20/14 - 08:32 am
Ahh yes, Pengy

Ahh yes, Pengy. Karl Johnstone is your man all right!
He's also very concerned about keeping up the value of your property on the Kenai River. He publicly states this at very BOF meeting concerning the river. He evidently has been thinking this way for so long he no longer even realizes how wrong it is. How sad. His job on the BOF has nothing to do with real estate. He really needs to go.

AK4LIFE 02/20/14 - 08:47 am

Good point to bring up pengy! A great example of how one sided & uneducated the chair was & proves the point mr. Mullen was trying to make. He took a small portion of data & exploited it without talking about or pointing out any of the facts & science why the harvest has been higher. If you know anything at all about fish & everything that plays into run size & timing you wouldn't have taken that comment seriously. And I haven't heard of a single commercial fisherman say they want more. They just want a small fraction back that was taken from them. Im sick of people pointing fingers & putting false facts out there for there own agenda, much like the chair. The only people I've hear say they want more is mat-su. The truth only hurts when it's a lie!!

pengy 02/20/14 - 06:49 pm
AK4LIFE, So, what the chair


So, what the chair said was a "false fact' about the 33 year harvest?

AK4LIFE 02/21/14 - 09:12 am

Yah yah, I stated that wrong. So proud of yourself for catching that. What he said was false, out of 33 years 1987, 1988 & 1992 are all significantly higher than the last 3years. 1989 prob. Would of been a good year if not for Exxon. Plus they never asked for more, like I said previously.

JDBishop5 02/22/14 - 01:08 am
Let's see if an analogy will help.

Suppose we were trying to maintain a controlled population of healthy human beings. (Admittedly, given the state of the world, a far fetched idea, but humor me.)

We have two choices, we can control the population by waiting until adults are out in the street, let a calculated number go into the houses to reproduce, and capture the rest.


we can stage a daylight to dark wild party, including explosives, steel hooks, and plows tearing up the floor in the bedrooms, and overturning cradles in nurseries, where the next generation is lovingly produced.

Which 'system' is the most likely to succeed?

Why have we 'decided' that the second option is best for Salmon?

leewaytooo 02/22/14 - 05:40 am
so, IF the adfg sonar results

so, IF the adfg sonar results are correct.....

2013 late run kings escapement 17,028,

supposedly 87% of all kings make it into the river


12.998% being caught in the inlet,
8.27% being caught in river

inlet caught equals 2,544
river caught equals 1,619
difference equals 925

the total amount of late run kings would be 19,572

the total red escapement is given as 1,358,781
plus inlet harvest of 2,746,000
total 4,101,781

add the king total of 19,572
equals 4,121,353

the percentage of late king run to red run is .00474%


what percentage of the late king run would the COMMERCIAL
in river guides consider to be their share?

it would seem that they would prefer they be given
more consideration in order to play with EVERYONE'S food...

in considering the numbers it would make sense to

support the setnetters and drift fisherpeople... as the

value of their efforts to everyone's economic well being, far

exceed what is produced by the COMMERCIAL guides and

their playing with everyone's food.

doesn't make sense to punish the group that is producing
more for the sake of the group that wants more from
less at the expense of the everyone.

how many of those COMMERCIAL guides think
communism is the answer??? not one is my guess.

and yet that is what they want. take from the one's that
produce more, to benefit the few that produce less.

Back to Top


Please Note: You may have disabled JavaScript and/or CSS. Although this news content will be accessible, certain functionality is unavailable.

Skip to News

« back

next »

  • title
  • title
  • title
My Gallery


  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback