Order restricts driftnet fishing

Most of inlet closed to commercial salmon fishers today

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2000

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued an emergency order that closes most of Cook Inlet to commercial driftnet salmon fishing.

The use of drift gillnets during today's 12-hour opening is restricted to the Kenai and Kasilof sections of the upper subdistrict, also known as the corridor. The period runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Jeff Fox, area management biologist for Fish and Game, said this kind of closure is written into the regulations, which are made by the board of fisheries, and occurs yearly. The emergency order does not apply to setnetters.

The corridor, Fox said, is between two- to four-miles wide and 40-miles long and extends from the Colliers Dock in Nikiski, to one mile north of the Ninilchik River.

The restriction is used to increase escapement of red salmon to the north end of Cook Inlet.

"This is basically to usher northern bound Susitna River fish," Fox said.

Fish and Game has had problems with the Susitna River escapement in previous years, he said.

The total number of red salmon that have made it up the Yentna River, a tributary of the Susitna, as of Saturday is only 1,740.

Kenai River escapement as of the same date stands at 22,618, while the Kasilof has seen 99,704 reds return.

Though Kenai and the East Foreland subdistricts were closed Thursday. Fox said the total catch was 90,000 red salmon, with driftnetters taking 70,000 and setnetters taking the rest.

Bob Merchant, president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association and a driftnetter himself, is affected by Sunday's order and said today would have probably been a good day for fishing outside the corridor.

"The Kasilof run is coming in pretty good, but it is pretty scratchy in the corridor," he said.

Merchant also said Thursday's run was not great.

"Well," he said, "it could have been better."

Merchant said the price per pound for sockeye is 85 cents, which was higher than the last period on July 3.

"As long as that trend continues, we should be at the price we want in a week or two," he said. "We are hoping for over a dollar."

Rob Williams, president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association, said fish prices are 80 cents per pound for setnetters.

"Nobody is very happy with that price at all," he said.

He also said Thursday's catch had dropped off from the opening on July 3.

But with the Bristol Bay run tapering off, fishers are looking for the price of red salmon to rise, Williams said.

"We are really hoping the price is going to go up very soon," he said.

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