Set netters unjustly blamed for king salmon issues

When I arrived in Alaska in the mid 1960s, the salmon fishery on the east side of Cook Inlet was primarily a commercial fishery. There were some early “in river” sport king and silver fisheries but for the most part, set and drift gill net fisheries prevailed. On the east side of the inlet, the set net fishery had changed from fishing in late May to the later part of June to protect the early sockeye run for the Russian River. The set netters have not fished the early to mid June time period for approximately 50 years except for a set gillnet herring fishery that has a low incidental by-catch rate.

In the early 1970s, the marine and “in river” fisheries, unguided and guided, started to grow at a very high rate. Bag limits were generous and the guided fishery was essentially unregulated and unlimited. Responsible behavior was thrown out the window by the guides and the fisheries management during the last 40 years. Too many guides, high horsepower boats on the Kenai River, lack of protection of the large kings, and unlimited trips put a tremendous pressure on the fishery, eventually bringing poorer and poorer returns.

Where does the east side set net fisherman fit in this scenario? My point is that they are unjustly blamed for the collapse of the king salmon fishery. Taking this idea further to the second run, why is the longtime set net fishery bearing the brunt of the collapse of the second run, both economically and biologically?

By the way, the red salmon fishery seems to be doing well without the guided fishery’s input and lobbying?


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