Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2002

New fishing regs don't address current lack of enforcement

The new regulations for salmon enhancement on the Kenai Peninsula were a bit of a surprise to me. They sound plausible but they could be a snag if everything else down the pike doesn't line up.

For one, unless we have a vast improvement over the present fishing regulations enforcement system, the new regulations won't change a thing. Enforcement is the real issue and problem when it comes to over sport fishing pressure on existing salmon populations on the Kenai Peninsula. Unless the state plans to increase the number of enforcement officers dramatically in the field, the new regulations will fall on deaf ears.

Secondly, unless fines for fishing infractions are meaningful, many people just take the chance of getting caught. If caught, they know the minuscule fine is nothing and simply go back doing what they were before, the same day! Limits mean nothing to the fishing criminals, as long as the fines are nothing more than a slap on the hand. Alaska needs to get tough on all sport fishing violators consistently during the whole season, not just a couple of popular fishing weekends before any new regulations will effect the salmon populations in the future.

Thirdly, education of new regulations and previous regulations to nonreaders of fishing regulations needs to be addressed. I wish I had a nickel for every sport fisher I meet on the river that couldn't tell you diddly squat about the current fishing regulations, especially those that come here from out of town and take home as many salmon as they can carry out as though their lives depend on what they can catch in a day.

This is where good law enforcement on the river is very lacking. No signage is currently used in the most popular public access fishing areas around Kenai and Soldotna to point out any regulations most commonly broken, such as fish snagging, taking over your limit or fishing for every relative in your fishing party including the the smallest children. Signage would reduce many of the ignorant sport fishers abuses, and the cost is very small in comparison to the current loss of injured and illegally taken salmon.

Lastly, I believe that bank fishing should be outlawed on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. We need more access to the rivers to wade and fish, which will greatly improve the habitat for growing fish, trout and salmon fry feeding in the river along the banks. There is a desperate need to protect the banks, and stiff fines need to be implemented for walking and standing on the bank to fish, breaking down the grass and banks to access our fish in the rivers.

The new regs are great sounding, but we have once again missed the boat on important issues and improvements that can be implemented this year at minimal cost to the state of Alaska to enhance and improve our salmon populations of the future.

Mark Conway


Catch-and-release fishing nothing more than playing with one's food

It was a different experience for me to read Les Palmer's anti-elite article (Peninsula Clarion, Feb. 22 ).

However, Les, you can't fool me with the good guide-bad guide rhetoric. I've been around here too long. Joe Hanes is just looking out for himself by pushing for king retention. He knows that it is much harder to book people for just hook and release. After all, he proposed to hook and release those over 45 inches. To me that is playing with those fish. Where do you see the distinction, Les?

If he were truly concerned about the fish he would push for a complete closure until the stocks built back up. At least a five-year cycle. He would have to bite the bullet, but I don't see any guide saying that. Until they do, Les, you can't sing guide praises to me.

By the way, where is Tony Knowles when we need him? It was he, wasn't it, who said that the most important fish was the one on Alaska's dinner plate? How did old Bob "Hook and Release" Penney get to him? Oh, I forgot he already owns him. Of course, we all know Brett Huber is just a paid lackey.

But still I can remember being admonished as a youngster to "eat and quit playing with your food." I was so mad I said under my breath, "When I grow up I'll play with my food as much as I want to, and I'll get the Board of Fish to OK it."

But, of course, I did grow up.

Steve Vanek


Board of Fish actions take away harvest opportunities for residents

Having been involved with the regulatory process in the past, it always seemed to me that one way we judged most fish or game proposals was whether it created a biologically sound opportunity for residents to participate in the harvest of our commonly owned resources. This is a cornerstone of sustained yield management, providing our residents with access to harvest for consumption, our common resource.

Recent actions of the Board of Fish, creating a catch-and-release fishery for early run kings, denies resident anglers the opportunity for a biologically sound harvest and denies residents access to our commonly owned resources.

The board committed another grave error when it limited each guide on the Kasilof River to one float trip per day. What the regulation will create are more guides and more boats on the river. When the existing guide businesses accommodate multiple bookings for the same days, they will simply put more boats, with more guides, on the river. While this will be no great hardship for the guide businesses, it will negatively impact the resident anglers' opportunities for harvest of commonly owned resources.

If you want the opportunity to participate in our fisheries, it's time you appeal to the Board of Fish and the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It's time for resident anglers to take the kind of action necessary to ensure our rights to access to our commonly owned resources are not being supplanted by someone's wish to sell our lifestyle to the tourism industry.

Paul Zimmerman


New fish board policy's effect will be to deplete Kenai kings

Just a quick observation on the economics of the trophy kings:

The Kenai River is a classic example of a commons. Any first-year economics text will tell you that there is no economic incentive for individuals to stop "grazing their herds" on a commons; the obvious result is that the commons becomes overgrazed and then consequently abandoned. Generally speaking, continued stressing of one aspect of a commons --say trophy kings -- will deplete that aspect of the common's resources.

As far as I've heard, the reoccurring numbers for the trophy king run in the Kenai are suspect, and the damage catch and release will cause the run is not in dispute -- 5 to 10 percent will die, along with the catch-and-keep numbers. Why is the fish board implementing public policy that is arguably depleting this resource?

In all of the arguments we are hearing, one scary fact remains: There is no economic incentive for anything but "overgrazing" to occur in the Kenai, which includes everybody, from the locals to the guides to the Winnebago

crowd which actually brings pressure cookers and sets them up on the picnic tables next to their RVs.

If solid science aimed at maintaining the runs or even increasing them is not behind fish policy, then we are prioritizing wants that could ruin the king runs on the Kenai. Remember, the humpy run is just fine because of a lack of pressure.

I think I would rather see lawsuits from the PETA/Friends of the Earth crowd than see the trophy kings culled out of the Kenai.

Wilbur Nelson


North peninsula community center can wait; bike trails more important

I understand the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area group is putting forth a lot of effort, which is commendable, toward the development of a community center for the north Kenai Peninsula area.

I filled out a related questionnaire passed around on Election Day, received another questionnaire in the mail not too long ago and saw a stack of them at the post office in Nikiski last week asking for more public input about amenities for the proposed community center.

Although a community center is a nice idea, compared to the need for bike paths to make North Road safer for kids and adults alike, a center isn't a priority in my opinion. We already have the great pool area, a hockey rink, ski trails around the high school, the Economic Development District office space, the senior center and churches that provide places for gatherings. I feel these resources will surely tide us over while North Peninsula residents work toward what the public is consistently asking for: bike trails.

I read in the paper last fall that although bike trails weren't mentioned on the community questionnaire passed out near the polls on Election Day, it was the number one request of residents. If I recall correctly, I read also that the power to get trails developed doesn't lie with the community recreation organization, and that whatever entity does have the power can't get bike trails developed until about four or five years from now. In the life of a child, that is a very long time.

I would like to suggest that the recreation service area group use whatever influence it has to apply pressure to move up the schedule or possibly acquire some kind of responsibility sharing with the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the state of Alaska so that it can have a say in when and how bike trails are funded and developed.

Perhaps the organization can begin an effort to lobby private enterprise to sponsor portions of the project. Maybe the Economic Development District could work with the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area group and private enterprise to assist the community in finding federal and private-based grants that would make the project feasible more quickly. Facilitating ways to allow and encourage groups to work together to deal with property, maintenance and public-relations issues so we can have bike trails is, undeniably, a much better way to make the project happen.

Another community center can wait. The push for it distracts from the bike trails campaign and will spread thin funding that could go toward the effort to build trails. I just don't want to mourn another 16-year old kid hit by a car on the Spur Highway as he headed home from summer cannery work. We can find lots of places to play bingo, play basketball, have dances, wedding receptions and public meetings.

And once we have bike trails, we can work to improve existing resources or add new ones. Right now, however, nothing is more important than giving our young people a safe place for healthy activities like riding bikes.

Natalie Ringland


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