Board set to look at lower inlet finfish

Posted: Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will tackle new sportfish guide requirements and more than 30 proposals affecting lower Cook Inlet sport and commercial finfish fisheries during their meeting Thursday through Saturday in Anchorage.

Of particular interest to lower Kenai Peninsula sportfishers, proposals to add an additional weekend to the Anchor River king salmon season and allow fishing for hatchery king salmon seven days per week on the Ninilchik River are on the agenda.

Other sportfishing proposals include closing all salt waters of Cook Inlet north of the Kenai River to sportfishing anytime and applying a slot limit for chinook salmon to all east-side inlet areas south of the mouth of the Kenai.

Under the slot limit proposal, king salmon measuring 44 inches or greater and less than 55 inches in length may not be retained from May 1 to June 24.

Nicky Szarzi, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Fish and Game supports adding an additional weekend onto the Anchor River king salmon season, but it should be the public's call when that should be.

"I'm hoping that the public will weigh in and tell the board what they want," Szarzi said.

On the commercial salmon side, a proposal to allow setnet gear equal time to pursue seine gear in Halibut Cove Subdistrict and another to change the opening date for the Southern District to June 1 will be discussed.

A request to increase the guideline harvest level (GHL) for Cook Inlet Pacific cod leads a list of groundfish proposals on the agenda.

Others include limiting cod vessel size to 58 feet or less, allow unbaited pots to remain in the water indefinitely after the pot closure, require full retention of all rockfish bycatch in directed groundfish and halibut fisheries and open a new directed longline fishery for spiny dogfish in the inlet.

The board also will look at new sportfish guide requirements.

Currently, freshwater and saltwater guides are required to register with Fish and Game, but only saltwater guides are required to report their catch information in these logbooks, and licenses are free.

Although many guides already have insurance, know first aid and have fishing licenses, none of these items are required by the state to obtain a guide license.

Guide licenses will cost $50 under the new regulations, while operator and operator-guide licenses will cost $100.

The bill, sponsored by Anchorage Rep. Cheryll Heinze and signed into law by Gov. Frank Murkowski in June, was drafted to establish these requirements and give Fish and Game more information as to where and how many fish are caught by sportfish guiding operations.

Ed Dersham, chair of the Board of Fish and a fishing guide out of Anchor Point, said in September the changes mostly will affect freshwater guides up north.

"From talking to department people, there really isn't any change for saltwater guides," he said. "It mostly affects the Kenai River guides, freshwater guides. Not much heartburn down here."

The majority of sportfish guides in the Homer area are saltwater guides, Dersham said.

"If we get more data from what the freshwater guides are doing, that's a good thing," he said.

According to their Web site, the Board of Fisheries' main role is to conserve and develop the fishery resources of the state. This involves setting seasons, bag limits, methods and means for the state's subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport and personal-use fisheries, and it also involves setting policy and direction for the management of the state's fishery resources.

The Board of Fisheries meets four to six times per year and uses the biological and socioeconomic information provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, public comment and guidance from the Alaska Department of Public Safety and Alaska Department of Law when creating regulations.

The entire list of proposals can be found at www.boards.adfg.state.ak.us/fishinfo/meetinfo/fcal.php.

The meeting will be held at the Coast International Inn on International Airport Road in Anchorage.

Public written and oral comments will be taken at the meeting. Written comments also can be mailed to: BOF comments, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Boards Support Section, P.O. Box 25526, Juneau, AK 99802-5526.

Board members can be reached at www.boards.adfg.state.ak.us/fishinfo/index.php.



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