Angler harvest cut for Kenai River sockeye

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Board of Fisheries slashed Kenai River sockeye salmon quotas for sport anglers Wednesday and gave commercial driftnetters some hope of expanded fishing opportunities.

Board members, ending a two week session on upper Cook Inlet finfish, voted to decrease the daily sport fish bag limit of late run Kenai sockeye salmon from six to three fish. Also approved was a proposal to reduce hours for the personal use fishery before July 20, unless the sockeye run forecast tops two million fish.

The board approved as well a driftnet sockeye fishery in an expanded area of the Kenai in late July if the late-run sockeye return exceeds three million fish and silver salmon stocks are sufficient.

Overall, drift net fishermen made minor gains, offset by minor setbacks, said James Brady, state regional commercial fisheries supervisor.

''They gained a little bit on runs larger than three million and less than four million fish, and lost a little for runs over four million,'' he said. And the cut in the number of sockeye that may be harvested by anglers might increase, depending on stock abundance, he said.

The board also approved an experimental pink salmon drift fishery for upper Cook Inlet, but rejected a similar setnet fishery.

Most driftnetters, like Larry Van Sky of Nikiski, said the board meeting brought little change to the drift fishery.

''This area of the state is one of the biggest balancing acts the board has to do,'' said Diane Cote, executive director of the seven-member panel. The board tried to do ''what was right for the fish,'' she said. On the Kenai River itself, the board ''made some decisions based on trying to protect some weaker stocks,'' she said.

''In some places, the board took away some (sport) harvest opportunity, but they did it to provide for sustained yield,'' said Barry Stratton, a state management biologist. ''In other places they increased opportunity.''

A Kasilof River sockeye management plan approved by the board ''gives the department clear direction on how to manage the fish,'' Stratton said.

Beginning July 8, the Kasilof will be managed as part of the general Kenai River late-run sockeye management plan, except when Kenai sockeye projections fall below two million fish. In that case, fisheries officials would limit fishing periods.

The Kasilof management plan calls for new restrictions on sport fisheries. Fishing from power boats was outlawed. Only drift boats will be allowed. Guides will be prohibited from fishing during king salmon excursions and only three of the five king salmon annual limit may be Kasilof kings.

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