Outdoors with John Perkovich

Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Few things have bothered me more about fishing in Alaska since I moved here nearly 12 years ago like the latest incident I experienced on Watson Lake earlier this month. I have been fishing this lake for several years, as it is usually the first lake on the Kenai Peninsula each fall to have ice on it. I have ice fished all my life and it ranks as one of my all time favorite pastimes. I have accumulated several thousand dollars worth of gear that is used exclusively for ice fishing. Unlike some hobbies we may have, one of the things I really like about ice fishing is that hopefully when you go home you have a meal of fresh fish to eat. Ever since I have been here in Alaska the daily limit on Watson Lake has been 5 rainbows so I had no reason to assume it would be different, the sign at the boat landing even said 5 fish per day limit. When we got up that morning the temperature was -12 so we loaded 2 fishing shacks in the pick-up with our gear and drove to the lake. We set up both shacks about 30 yards apart and my fishing crew consisted of my two sons Bradley and Travis and my brother Jim who is in the process of moving here from Minnesota. We had 16 fish on the ice when the Fish & Game wardens showed up and informed us that the limit was changed from 5 fish to 2 fish per day despite what it said on the sign. On the two days I fished Watson Lake this year I never saw another person on the lake or any other holes to indicate other fishermen had even been on the lake this year. The wardens were very polite and very professional but did not know the reason why the new regulations had lowered the daily fish limit to a measly 2 fish. We were not cited because the sign still says 5 fish per day even though the new fishing regulations say 2 fish. I want to make one thing perfectly clear, I am not upset with the wardens for simply doing their job but plenty upset over the new regulations. One of the things that interested me about moving to Alaska in the first place was the chance to put plenty of food in the freezer by hunting or fishing. But when the state that has the most water and the most fish of any state in the United States lowers its daily limit to 2 fish per day it becomes a very sad day for all of us. Allow me to explain why; consider my non-resident brother who paid $20 for a one day non-resident fishing license. His two fish cost him $10 a piece. Consider the fact that the average weight of the filets we took home was 5.6 ounces each that pushed the cost of his two fish to $14.29 per lb. That is just the cost of the fish for buying the license that does not include any other money spent to buy gear, bait or other equipment. If you were to buy everything I provided for that fishing trip for just one person to go fishing for just one day that would push the cost of that one trip to $1,447.65. That includes buying the ice auger, bunny boots, ice cleats, bait, one fishing shack, gas to drive there, jacket, and insulated pants, gloves, ice dipper, propane stove, propane bottle and propane, and one jig! That would also push the cost per fish to $723.83 per fish, or a little over $1,000.00 per LB. In my home we eat a lot of fish that are caught in the winter by ice fishing in lakes all over Alaska. But when we are restricted to 2 fish per day it makes eating fish very difficult. My two fish would only allow the nine people who eat at our table 2.4 ounces of fish if we divided it equally. If I went fishing 5 days in a row to accumulate enough fish for one meal the fish caught on the first day would no longer be fresh. I suppose we could draw straws or pick and choose which kids got to eat fish and those who did not. But should we even have to be in this predicament here in Alaska? Shouldn't we be able to catch and keep enough fish per day to eat without having to ration fish? Unless you obtain a proxy permit you are not allowed to catch all or part of another persons daily limit. If we are not allowed to catch another person’s fish are we allowed to eat fish caught by another person? Imagine hearing a knock at the door and the following message shouted at you and your family by the fish cops "Children stand up and move away from the table, put down your forks and drop that filet!" "We have reason to believe you were in school today and did not go fishing so put down the fish!" Ok, I know by now many of you are starting to think Gee ol' Perkovich has finally went off the deep end, all those days he has spent working on the North Slope and sitting out on the ice has everything all froze up. Well my friends, lets look at this a different way. Ice fishing is one of my favorite hobbies I have spent many days fishing all day on the ice. Generally on a two fish limit I could have my two fish caught in about 30 minutes. So what do I do with the rest of my time? Can I go to another Lake and catch my limit for that lake too? I think not. If another Lake has a 5 fish limit, am I entitled to catch 3 more there and still be legal? If I camp out on the ice like I have done numerous times before am I allowed a two-day limit? If I catch two fish and eat them, can I catch two more if I am still hungry? Imagine if watching football is your hobby or bowling or golfing. You plan on watching football either at the football field or on TV and after one quarter you get the following message; you’re over your viewing limit, find something else to do. You plan on playing nine holes of golf but after two holes, the golf course officials ride up and say sorry you’re over your limit you must go back home. You see the two fish limit handicaps a person like me in several ways. I never have been a big fan of catch and release especially trout because they have a really high mortality rate. I read some place that they estimate it to be as high as 30%. I have always felt God gave us these fish for our use and we should be allowed to use them. I have never received a ticket here in Alaska from Fish & Game and have bought very little fish since moving here. I simply do not understand why in a state bigger than any other and one with the most lakes & fish, it is so difficult to be able to take home a meal of fish for you and your family to eat. I would write more but I have just been informed that I am over my limit on this computer too, since the fishing limit is now 2 fish instead of 5 we have more people wanting to use the computer. See you next week!

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