At the request of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Monday amended the fisheries management plans for the Kasilof and Kenai rivers by adopting emergency regulations that allow greater flexibility in managing the commercial fisheries currently harvesting the large sockeye returns on those rivers.
Limitations on sport and personal-use fisheries also have been relaxed, though under provisions of the existing Kasilof Salmon Management Plan and the Kenai River Late-Run Sockeye Management Plan.
In a press release Thursday, the department said that based on the numbers of fish entering the Kasilof and Kenai rivers, Fish and Game managers may reduce the mandatory closures to just 12 hours for setnets and driftnets in the Kasilof, Kenai and East Forelands sections. They also may allow up to 12 additional hours of fishing per week for driftnets in portions of the Central District.
"It was our local manager recommendations in terms of what was needed," board chair Doug Mecum said Thursday.
The effort to catch sockeyes includes a risk of intercepting coho salmon headed toward the rivers. There is a window at this time, during which they don't expect to catch many cohos, he said.
"The board is also looking at the fact that the king run is real good," Mecum said.
The emergency regulations are effective through July 31, he said.
According to the department, the board approved the regulations because the Kasilof River already had exceeded its escapement goal with one-third of the sockeye run still to come. The department noted this year's "very large" escapement in the Kenai River.
"The board expressed the desire to allow no more than 18 hours of commercial fishing in one day unless circumstances warrant additional time, such as significantly exceeding the upper end of the escapement goal ranges," the press release said. "The local area manager will use the added flexibility as needed to harvest fish in an orderly manner and to control escapements."
Sport and personal-use fishers also got more time at the water.
The Kasilof River sockeye salmon sportfish bag and possession limits have been increased, and the personal-use fishery area and periods also have been liberalized.
The Kenai River sockeye salmon sportfish bag and possession limits also have been modified. Those changes actually took effect over the past week.
Mecum said those modifications were not the result of the emergency changes to the management plans but were within the purview of the fisheries managers under the existing plan.
For details regarding the increased bag limits, contact the Department of Fish and Game.
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