Commercial fishermen want shot at Cook Inlet pinks

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- Commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet have asked the Board of Fisheries to reopen fishing for a bumper run of pink salmon. The request comes after a disastrous year for fishermen trying to net red salmon in the inlet.

''It's a shame we had a bad year and we can't harvest an abundant stock,'' said Kenai fisherman Steve Tvenstrup, who is on the board of United Cook Inlet Drift Association. The group has asked the board to reopen the season on Monday.

''Let us go fishing. I could be fishing silvers, humpies (pinks), and dogs (chums) right now and not have to come in here and beg for money,'' said Homer drift skipper Wes Humbyrd. ''We can't fish anything but sockeyes anymore. We used to make ends meet if at least we could fish something besides sockeyes later on.''

Jeff Fox, area biologist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries, said the drift season used to run through December, but about five years ago the Board of Fisheries set an Aug. 9 closure. Eastern inlet setnetters used to fish until Aug. 15. But last year, Gov. Tony Knowles asked the board to protect weak runs of silver salmon. It set an Aug. 7 closure.

''Pinks and silvers, we use to fish those clear into October,'' said Doug Blossom. ''How many pinks have we got out there? Five, six million? ... We could fish on them. They're just going to waste, and I think it's criminal.''

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said that he and the drifnetters group asked the Department of Fish and Game to allow fishing for pinks, but the department said no, citing Board of Fisheries regulations.

Fish and Game commissioner Frank Rue advised commercial fishermen to petition the board, according to biologist Fox.

''If someone wants to write a petition and send it up the chain, they can be acting on it tomorrow,'' Fox said Friday.

Senate candidate Mike Szymanski, who works in fisheries, said UCIDA sent the petition Friday afternoon, asking for a Monday opening. He said he had talked to Fisheries Board chairman Dan Coffey, who seemed receptive.

''I explained to him that we have a choice of writing fish tickets or writing welfare tickets,'' Szymanski said.

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