Advisory group struggles with Kenai king limits

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2003

KENAI (AP) -- The Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game advisory committee will meet Monday to consider just what recommendations it will make to the Alaska Board of Fisheries regarding management of early-run Kenai River king salmon.

The committee spent five hours Thursday wrestling with the contentious subject but members agreed only that management of the run should largely return to the way things were before the Board of Fisheries added new limits last winter.

The board in February mandated catch and release for all kings measuring from 40 to 54 inches in length in the months of May and June. That decision was vehemently opposed by local fishermen, and the board in May delayed imposition of the rule until this year.

The committee voted to recommend the Board of Fisheries allow single hook, no-bait fishing on the Kenai from Jan. 1 through June 30; an option to ''step-down'' the fishery to retention of kings measuring 55 inches or more if escapement goals are not being met adequately; limiting anglers to one king from the Kenai through June 30; limiting guided anglers to the hours of 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. in May and June; and the option to close the fishery entirely if minimum escapement goals are not met.

But members of the committee said more provisions were needed and further discussion was warranted before sending anything to the fish board. A special meeting was set for Monday at 6 p.m. to discuss the issue further.

The provision to limit guided anglers met some opposition. Committee member Joe Haynes, who supported the other committee recommendations, said there was no need to limit guide hours in May and June. Crowding due to guides in the early season is simply not a problem, he said.

But committee vice chairman Porter Pollard said he favored the guide limit because he felt nonresidents were taking a disproportionate amount of fish and fishing time on the river.

The committee voted 7-4 to recommend the guided angler limitations.

Although several recommendations did pass, the committee still has yet to formalize them and forward them to the Board of Fish. That means those recommendations won't officially be made until after Monday's meeting. It is open to the public.

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