The so called attempt to save the Kenai River king salmon on the backs of the eastside setnetters is the biggest boondoggle I've ever witnessed in my lifetime by the so called experts employed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I was born here in Alaska in 1949, have spent almost all of my 63 years on the Kenai Peninsula involved in commercial fishing at some level from a very young age from drifting the Inlet with my Dad to running my own setnet site at Humpy Point, beginning in the 1950s through the present.
The kings were fished commercially at one time and always came back in good numbers, even when the fish traps were in operation up until they were outlawed in 1959. The kings always came back in good numbers, all the years eastside setnetters fished the kings always came back.
So what has changed? How about the large number of kings caught as bycatch on the high seas, how about the overfishing, ruining of fish habitat rearing areas by the Kenai River guides. The Kenai River Guides are not sport fishermen like they would like you to believe,they are commercial fishermen using a different style of gear, except they don't have to catch fish to get paid. They sell you a seat on their boat and a chance to catch a fish. Commercial setnetters do not get paid if they have no fish to sell. The problem with the small return of kings must be corrected where it occurs not solely on the backs of the eastside setnetters. I submit to you, if the rear end is going out in your car you don't fix it by installing a new fanbelt.
The commercial fishermen as a group have the most important reason of all to want to conserve in order to save the fish, so they can fish in the future. We are not much different then ranchers and are not so greedy for a big season to jepordize the future runs. Most Cook Inlet drifters and setnetters have been in the fishery for generations and are good stewards of the resource. Kenai River guiding is a relatively new fishery and populated with a high percentage of out-of-staters we are here for a short time to exploit the fishery and once this fishery is destroyed like it is in Washington, Oregon and California, they will move on the the rivers not so easily reached.
The Kenai River kings do not belong to the Kenai River guides any more than they belong to any resident of the State of Alaska. The presevation of the Kenai River king salmon must be shared equally and as fairly as possible, for without those kings there will be no Kenai River guides needed. I have fished the same locations for over 50 years and am quite close to the mouth of the Kasilof River and fish only running line nets and have averaged less than 5 kings a year, an amount I am legal to catch sportfishing most years. I have not and never will be a threat to the species.
Let's do our best to save the Kenai River kings but let's not put all the burden on one group of fishermen who are not the true problem and let's not jepordize a completely different red salmon run in the meantime.
Respectfully submitted and comitted to longtime return of all species to the inlet -- even the Humpies, after all, I fish at Humpy Point and have since the late 1950s. I am a working man who works to pay for his love of a lifestyle of commercial fishing. My grandfather who was born in Ninilchik in the 1890s, my dad who was born in Ninilchik in 1923, myself, my two sons and my 19-year-old grandson have all had the opportunity to fish Cook Inlet and look forward to many more years.