Fisheries board delays imposing Kenai catch-and-release rule

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state Board of Fisheries has voted to delay imposing a controversial Kenai River catch-and-release rule.

The board voted 4-3 Friday in a special meeting.

Board Vice Chairman Dan Coffey sought a one-year hiatus on the rule prohibiting anglers from keeping any early-run king salmon shorter than 55 inches between June 11 and June 30.

That rule attracted attention, and a lot of complaints, because it takes the unusual step of mandating catch-and-release in a fishery that biologists say has room for anglers to keep and eat their catch. Meat anglers have been incensed since the board made its decision in February.

Coffey of Anchorage said he sought the delay to give those people more time to weigh in on the idea.

But other board members said the public had a chance to speak up during the 14-day Fish Board meeting in Anchorage.

''The people, I think, who are doing the mewing and bellowing now should have been involved in the process then,'' said John White of Bethel.

The Fish Board did not rescind the catch-and-release rule. It just delayed the effective date. It will meet again June 16 to vote on what that effective date will be.

This year's regulations won't become law until June 19 at the earliest because state lawyers haven't been able to compete a review of February's rule changes.

Some Fish Board members cited the ongoing confusion over Kenai River sportfishing rules as yet another reason to delay the late-June catch-and-release regulation.

The board also decided Friday to leave another contentious king salmon sportfishing regulation in place. The regulation restricts anglers to five kings a year caught in the saltwater around Seward, Homer and Kodiak. The old rule allowed people to catch two kings a day during the winter.

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