Brian Simonson tries to legally catch a red salmon on the Russian River in June 2005. An Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory Committee has endorsed a proposal that would allow anglers to keep red salmon that have been snagged, a practice that is not now allowed.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Dwight Kramer says there are one too many scarred riverbanks and fish to justify a regulation that prevents anglers from keeping sockeye salmon that have been snagged, a term that refers to fish that have been hooked somewhere other than in the mouth.
Fishing regulations that prohibit anglers from keeping snagged sockeye force anglers to fish longer to reach their bag limits, exacerbating crowding issues along riverbanks and, consequently, accelerate erosion problems, Kramer said at an Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting on Monday.
“If people have to sit there for several hours sorting through a dozen fish in order to keep three ... it is both an erosion problem and a problem with crowding,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
In response, Kramer has proposed the regulation be loosened to allow fishermen to keep snagged fish, a change he says would reduce crowding, erosion and the number of fish anglers puncture with hooks to reach their bag limit of legitimately caught fish.
The advisory committee raised questions over whether the proposal would encourage people to use snagging techniques, despite the proposal’s prohibition on intentional snagging.
In the end, the committee supported the proposal, with most members agreeing that it could reduce the number of fish that are injured.
Committee member Joe Hardy said ending the regulation that prohibits anglers from keeping snagged fish would also relieve some of the regulatory burden fish and wildlife enforcement officers carry.
“It’ll give enforcement the chance to get out there and do something that needs to be done,” he said.
Lifting the regulation could also reduce the number of angler injuries on riverbanks, Kramer said.
When an angler realizes they have foul-hooked a sockeye, they typically tighten the drag on their fishing line and try to pull the hook loose from the fish, rather than try to reel it in, he said.
This creates a hazard because when the hook pulls loose, the hook lead and line snap backward into the air and can strike an angler, he said.
“When that hook releases that lead and the line come back with a lot of velocity,” he said. “And they can hurt other anglers.”
If people could keep snagged fish they would be more likely to try to reel the fish in, rather than pull the hook free, he said.
“So I think that would alleviate a lot of injuries to the fishermen,” he said.
Kramer’s proposal would only lift snagging regulations on sockeye salmon, but would apply to the entire state.
When a member of the committee asked why he wrote the proposal for the entire state instead of limiting his proposal to a narrower region, such as the Kenai Peninsula, Kramer said his proposal is statewide because statewide sockeye don’t feed.
In the proposal Kramer wrote that sockeye do not feed once they have entered fresh water and are primarily caught after they have been either snagged or hooked by a line that has been drawn through their mouth.
Patrice Kohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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