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Myths surround fishery

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2001

There are many myths surrounding the commercial salmon fishery in Cook Inlet. Here are a few, debunked by Alaska Department of Fish and Game management biologist Jeff Fox.

Myth: The "good old days" of commercial fishing are long gone.

Fact: "A 2 million sockeye harvest 20, 30 years ago was never heard of," Fox said.

He said runs today are in the top 30 percent in the last 100 years.

"You hear all the 'good old days' stories. Well, the good old days are still happening here," he said.

Myth: There is a "curtain of death" 1,000 miles long catching every salmon in Cook Inlet during a commercial fishing period.

Fact: "A lot of people think the drift fleet stops every fish," Fox said. "They might get 30 percent out there on any given day. And setnets are not even that effective."

There are 742 setnet and 585 driftnet permits throughout the entire inlet, including lower Cook Inlet. If every single one fished at the same time, there would be about 88 miles of setnet and about 100 miles of drift gear in the inlet. The inlet is close to 200 miles long and about 30 miles wide.

"That's a lot of water," Fox said.

Myth: Red salmon returning to the Kenai River flow steadily.

Fact: The fish don't come every day, they pulse on and off.

"They're like a water faucet. If they're not in the river, sport fishermen look for a reason," Fox said. "It's easy to blame commercial fishermen.

"If there is a big pulse, we do try to take a lot out, because we are managing for escapement goals."

Myth: Commercial drift and setnetters fish right up to the mouth of the Kenai river.

Fact: "The Kenai River has one of the widest closed water areas in the state," Fox said. "Two to three miles up and down are closed to fishing."

Myth: Commercial fisheries managers take blind stabs in the dark while making management decisions.

Fact: "Whatever we do, we do for a reason," Fox said. "We have a lot more information than the general public."

Myth: Invasive populations of pike are eating red salmon fry and fingerlings.

Fact: Based on their preferred habitat, pike are more likely to damage silver salmon stocks than red salmon.



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