Early king regs passed

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Alaska Board of Fisheries passed four proposals Monday in Anchorage dealing with early-run king salmon on the Kenai River as amended by record copy 158.

Record copy 158 was prepared by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to address concerns they had with the proposals brought before the board dealing with early-run king salmon regulations. These proposals were placed before the board by sport fishermen in an effort to promote fishing for kings on the river during the early run.

"The (Department of Fish and Game) was using the best available information when they made this counter proposal," said board member Howard Delo. "They've looked at the various abundance trends and factored that into (RC 158). I think they are using a conservative approach that is not as liberal as previously proposed."

The proposals that were passed deal only with early-run fishing and do not address the July run of kings on the Kenai River.

The first of the four proposals was 255, which increases size and bag limits for jack king salmon in the Kenai River. According to substitute language in RC 158, fishers would be allowed to catch kings between 20 and 28 inches during the early run in May and June without the catch having an effect on their yearly bag limit of two. Current regulations count any kings over 20 inches toward this bag limit.

Although the new regulation allows fishers to retain fish between 20 and 28 inches without penalty to the yearly bag limit, fish of that size do count toward the daily bag limit of one king over 20 inches. If a fish larger than 20 inches is caught and retained, the fisher must cease fishing for kings for the day.

"We hear from a lot of people that they throw that fish back because they can only catch two," said Tom Vania, regional management coordinator for the Department of Fish and Game. "You can take as many as you want, you just have to fish more days."

Proposals 256, 257 and 258 received no board action due to the action taken on proposal 255.

The second proposal addressed by RC 158 was 261, raising the slot limit for king salmon from 44 to 55 inches to 46 to 55 inches, meaning that no fish between 46 and 55 inches in length can be retained.

"The new proposed slot limit would expose about 28 percent of the five-ocean fish to harvest and about 73 percent of the four-ocean fish," said Robert Beglich, an area management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.

King salmon spend approximately two years in fresh water and up to five years in the ocean. Five-ocean fish are the oldest and typically the largest kings. Under former regulations, 12 percent of five-ocean kings were exposed to retention. According to Beglich, the new proposal increases the number of five-ocean kings available while still keeping them under protection.

The board took no action on proposals 262, 263 and 264 due to the action taken on 261.

Proposal 266 was also addressed in RC 158, allowing for the use of bait to catch king salmon during the early run by emergency order if escapement is expected to be within the optimum escapement goal for the Kenai River.

"I think this is what's needed to be able to attempt to harvest in the early run," said board member Jeremiah Campbell. "It would be nice to see some shift of effort from the July run to the early run to try to take some pressure off of the later run."

No action was taken on proposal 267 based on the action taken on 266.

The last proposal addressed in RC 158 was 268, which extends sanctuary closures an additional 17 days through July 31 and increases the area of the Killey River sanctuary by approximately 500 yards.

"It (provides) consistency throughout the river," Campbell said. "These are known spawning areas."

Proposal 269 received no action due to the action taken on 268.

In addition to proposals 255, 261, 266 and 268, the board passed:

* 225, increasing days to retain naturally-produced salmon in the Kasilof River by adding Thursdays;

* 226, increasing the bag limit for hatchery stock king salmon on the Kasilof from one per day to two per day;

* 231, prohibiting fishing from a boat on the Kasilof River upstream of the Sterling Highway bridge from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15;

* 265, prohibiting anglers from processing a king salmon to the extent that the total length of the fish cannot be determined;

* 281, increasing the bag limit for coho salmon in the Kenai River from two per day to three per day beginning Sept. 1 and lasting for the remainder of the season;

* 282, extending the season for coho salmon 16 inches or longer through November on the lower Kenai River mainstream and Skilak Lake;

* 146, amending the Northern District King Salmon Management Plan to remove the three-period limit and allow king salmon fishing to occur each Monday from May 25 to June 24;

* 140, clarifying that achieving the lower end of the sockeye salmon escapement goal in the Yentna River will take priority over any of the Kenai River sockeye salmon escapement goals; and

* 141, extending the Department of Fish and Game's gear restrictions during the Northern District sockeye season to Aug. 6 rather than closing the fishery if the Yentna escapement is lagging but expected to meet the escapement goal.

The board will complete decisions on remaining proposals at today's meeting.

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

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