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BOF tackles surplus sockeye

Board of Fish meetings continue in Anchorage

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

Proposal 83 remained the hot issue at Sunday's meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Anchorage.

Board members passed the proposal by a 5-1 vote with one board member, Larry Edfelt, excused due to illness.

The goal of proposal 83 is to address the surplus of sockeye salmon seen in recent years by extending the commercial season from Aug. 10 to Aug. 15. Runs are expected to be one or two days late, but in 2006, the sockeye run was nine days late.

"It is a pattern that's developed," said board member Mel Morris. "We're getting later runs and a big percentage of the fish are coming through late."

Drift netters currently have four periods during that week to fish for pink salmon, a fish with less economic value than other salmon types, in a designated area of the Central District. The proposal replaced these four periods with two periods of fishing throughout the entire district in 2008 and one period in 2009 and 2010.

"My overarching concern is trying to get the over escapements down and this would give the (Department of Fish and Game) a couple more tools ... to try to keep the over escapement in check," said board member John Jensen.

Sport fishers tend to disagree with the board ruling, believing that the additional days that commercial fishers are allowed to spend in the entire inlet will effect coho salmon populations in the northern district, which includes the Susitna River, as well on the west side of the central district, which includes the Kasilof and Kenai rivers.

The west side has a major economic draw due to sport fishermen who fly to that side of the inlet to catch coho salmon in those streams.

"We should be very careful about what we do to impact the coho populations," said Howard Delo, the only board member to vote 'no' on the proposal.

In addition to 83, the board passed eight proposals on Sunday, including:

* Proposal 98, restricts drift gillnet use in the Cook Inlet's upper subdistrict;

* Proposal 102, allowing the use of single-strand gillnet gear in place of multi-strand gear;

* Proposal 107, allowing up to 200 fathoms of drift gillnet gear and allowing joint ventures;

* Proposal 331, closing Alexander Creek to king salmon fishing;

* Proposal 348, extending the waters open to king fishing near Eklutna Tailrace with some substitute language;

* Proposal 350, establishing a spawning closure and decreasing the bag limit for burbot in Big Lake from five to two per day;

* Proposal 354, allowing up to five lines when ice fishing for northern pike in Northern Cook Inlet; and

* Proposal 358, opening a personal use salmon fishery in the Beluga area.

The board is expected to complete decisions on proposals dealing with Kenai and Kasilof salmon sport fisheries as well as those that concern Northern District salmon management plans.

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



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