Spending the day submerged waist deep in the water has been a tradition since the personal-use dipnet fishery was established at the mouth of the Kenai River in 1981.
During the early years of the fishery, there were restricted seasons due to low sockeye salmon escapement estimates. However, during a number of years prior to 1996, the average harvest was approximately 25,000 fish per year, mostly sockeye. In March of 1996, the Alaska Board of Fisheries amended the Cook Inlet Personal Use Salmon Manage-ment Plan, liberalizing it and establishing a regular personal-use season.
The personal-use dipnet season is currently slated to open today through July 31, the fisheries requires a personal-use fishery permit and is limited to Alaska residents only.
In the past four years, about 15,000 permits have been issued during each year. The average harvest for this timeframe has exceeded 110,000 salmon annually. Because of this success, the personal-use fishery also has become known as a busy and, often times, congested fishery.
Indeed, as more and more Alaska residents become involved in the fishery, there are increasing concerns about littering, trespassing, illegal fishing, sanitation, bank erosion and illegal parking.
Two of the more common fishing violations involve failure to immediately record harvested fish and failure to remove both lobes of the tail fin. The word immediately means before concealing the salmon from plain view or transporting the salmon from the fish site. Take a minute before leaving the fishing spot and make sure the fish tails are clipped and the harvest numbers are recorded on the proper permit.
The city of Kenai, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Sport Fish Division and the Alaska Department of Public Safety's Fish and Wildlife Protection Division have joined together to address problems such as littering and other concerns.
Fish and Game has provided the city with specially built Dumpsters to handle fish carcasses, a covered bulletin board to post fishery information and regulatory signs as well as fencing to control trespass on the north bluff area.
Fish and Wildlife protection has worked closely with the Kenai Police Department to increase the presence of enforcement officers during the fishery in order to reduce littering, parking and fishing violations. These joint efforts will continue through this year. The city of Kenai also will provide Dumpsters and portable toilets at the sites.
The U.S. Coast Guard will be on the Kenai River enforcing recreational boating safety regulations during the dipnet fishery. These regulations include required boating safety equipment and proper personal flotation device usage. All boaters are reminded that state law requires all children under age 13 to wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on the deck of a boat with a cabin. Boat registration requirements also will be enforced.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary will offer boaters free courtesy marine examinations Saturday and Sunday at the boat launch ramp in Kenai.
Regulations governing the dipnet fishery are in the Cook Inlet Sport Fishing Regulation Summary for 2000. The fishery is open to Alaska residents only and a permit is required. Permits are available at any Fish and Game office or at numerous Kenai Peninsula license vendors.
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