Fish board considers sockeye season change

Two-strokes restricted in Kenai dipnet fishery

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

After more than six hours of deliberation and decision-making at Saturday's meeting, the Alaska Board of Fisheries called it quits for the day in order to take more time to review proposals dealing with commercial fishing seasons.

Proposal 83, which would extend the end of the late-run sockeye season to from Aug. 10 to Aug. 15, set off confusion amongst board members, who tabled discussion of the proposal until this morning.

Extending the sockeye season five days would allow for two additional periods of commercial fishing in 2008 and one additional period in 2009 and 2010.

Many commercial fishermen, including Roland Maw, executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, have come together in support of standardizing seasons and to push to replace hard caps with catch per unit efforts, which vary the number of fish that can be caught based on the size of the run. These fishers would like to see proposal 83 passed to increase their catch of sockeye salmon and to provide a greater opportuntiy to harvest pink salmon.

On the other side of the issue are sport fishers, who would like to see as many coho salmon as possible getting up the river. Regulations to shorten the commercial sockeye season were put in place as part of a coho management plan, according to the proposal, submitted by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association.

Although most fishermen would like to see the proposal resolved, Maw and others see it as a sign that board members want to make the most educated decision possible.

After proposal 83 was tabled, the board went on to deny another fishing season proposal, number 87, submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, which sought to clarify the transition between sockeye and coho management.

Discussion began on proposal 98, a measure to restrict drift gillnet use in Cook Inlet's upper subdistrict, but was also tabled until this morning.

The board passed nine proposals on Saturday, including:

* Proposal 221, prohibiting personal-use dipnetting on the lower Kenai River from boats that do not have four-stroke or direct fuel-injected two-stroke motors in order to reduce hydrocarbons in the water;

* Proposal 238, closing the Kenai River Drainage Area from the outlet of Skilak Lake to the Upper Killey River to all fishing between May 2 and June 10. Proposals 239, 240 and 240 were similar in nature and no board action was taken on those items;

* Proposal 246, prohibiting fishing from an anchored vessel in the swan sanctuary area of Skilak Lake and the Kenai River between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31;

* Proposal 248, increasing the daily bag limit for Dolly Varden in Cooper Lake from two to five fish;

* Proposal 249, decreasing the bag limit for lake trout in Hidden Lake from two to one;

* Proposal 250, allowing for the use of up to five lines to fish northern pike through the ice in Arc Lake and Scout Lake;

* Proposal 251, allowing for the use of up to five lines to fish northern pike through the ice in Stormy Lake; and

* Proposal 74, prohibiting the use of spotter aircraft in the Upper Cook Inlet. Proposal 75 was similar in nature and no board action was taken.

Today, the board is expected to complete decisions dealing with Cook Inlet commercial fishing and Northern Cook Inlet sport salmon fisheries, and begin the decision making process for proposals dealing with Kenai and Kasilof salmon sport fisheries.

Hannahlee Allers can be reached at hannahlee.allers@peninsulaclarion.com.



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