Fishing violations were higher than normal last weekend as dipnetters and red salmon flooded the rivers. Alaska State Troopers recorded more than 60 personal-use violations on their Web site, but wildlife enforcement says the number is higher.
"As the fish hit the river, (dipnetting) was packed," said Glenn Godfrey, a lieutenant with Alaska Wildlife Troopers. "Lots of dippers usually lead to lots of problems."
Godfrey estimated the number of personal-use fisheries violations to be between 75 and 100 over the weekend. Commercial fisheries violations, which are not recorded on the State Troopers Web site, reached 20, Godfrey said.
"We just hit it hard this year," Godfrey said, "and it's been real effective."
Wildlife troopers received between 40 and 100 complaints by peninsula residents over the weekend, but Godfrey said personal-use violations dominated this weekend.
"If they see something that's not right, they call, and rightly so," Godfrey said. "Peninsula residents are good about calling in and reporting, and good about knowing the regulations. They're very protective of the river, which is good for us."
While a few out-of-state people were caught dipnetting, the majority of violations have involved dipnetters not recording their catch, marking their fish or fishing in closed waters.
"It's a pretty high violation rate for that fishery," Godfrey said. "That being said, there are people who do everything perfect. We check people who do it right and we check people who mess up quite a bit."
For personal-use fishermen, failure to mark a fish results in an $85 fine, while failure to record a catch could cost $110. Godfrey said fishing in closed waters results in a court appearance with a possible $3,000 fine.
"We divert and try to respond as much as we can from stuff happening on the river to stuff happening on the mouth and in the inlet," Godfrey said. "It's putting out fires as fast as we can in addition to trying to get out there and doing random patrols all over the place."
Usually the local wildlife troopers don't have enough man power to deal with the large number of violations, Godfrey said. But additional personnel, a patrol boat from Kodiak and a helicopter from Anchorage filled the need nicely.
"I don't think we've used (the helicopter) in the commercial fisheries before," Godfrey said, "and it's been fantastic."
Godfrey said one way fishermen, especially personal-use fishermen, can keep from facing a fine is if they read the regulations.
"It's kind of like our mantra," Godfrey said. "It's so easy, page 18 of the regulation book, it's super simple."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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