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AC weighs in on issues

Committe discusses snagging, habitat division move

Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2007

When it comes to red salmon, commercial fisherman Paul Shadura thinks allowing anglers to keep a fish accidentally snagged elsewhere than the mouth is a bad idea. Because of the difficulty in differentiating between intentional and non-intentional snagging, Shadura says allowing this to happen sets a dangerous precedent on the Kenai River and invites abuse.

Shadura and the other members of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee voted to oppose proposal 278, which would address chronic overescapement issues of the Kenai, Kasilof and Russian Rivers by allowing sport fishermen to keep a red salmon unintentionally hooked elsewhere than the mouth. According to the 2007-08 proposal book, changing the current regulation, which requires anglers to release a fish that wasn't hooked in the mouth, would reduce injury and damage to the fishermen and fish itself as well as relieve crowding in the fishery.

"I think it's a poor precedence to establish snagging on the Kenai River," Shadura told committee members at Tuesday's Advisory Committee meeting, adding that he didn't see the sport in hooking a fish in the eye and not releasing it. "Sport fishing should be sport fishing."

Red salmon sport fishing laws on the Russian River have been in place since 1964 when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game prohibited treble hooks on the Russian River and then went to fly-fishing only in 1965. Robert Begich, sport fishery biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, said snagging on the Russian River was prohibited in 1966 while snagging in the state as a whole was prohibited in 1975.

Committee vice chair Mike Crawford said he liked the proposal because it would get people off the river with their daily limit of six fish faster as well as reduce mortality rates from releases gone bad. But he also motioned to amend the proposal so that it would come into play after the angler caught his or her daily limit of fish as well as include hook size requirements.

"People don't know how to release a fish," he said. "What's the mortality rate for a fish dragged by the tail?"

Despite Crawford's argument and primarily because of a concern that this proposal would make it easier for nonresident anglers to accumulate enough fish to illegally sell their catch in the Lower 48, the committee also proposed amending the proposal.

"(It) promotes more people abusing (the fishery) even further," said committee member Dyer VanDevere. "It just allows people with (illegal) operations to can to beat the band. There's an ethics thing about it."

Also discussed at the meeting was Governor Sarah Palin's bid to move habitat permitting responsibilities from the Department of Natural Resources back to the Department of Fish and Game. Committee member Dave Atcheson encouraged the Advisory Committee to pen a letter supporting this move on the grounds that the Department of Fish and Game has more of an interest in protecting the fisheries than the Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to supporting the move, Atcheson also encouraged the committee to support removing the mixing zones put in place under former governor Frank Murkow-ski's administration. Mixing zones, he said, put pollution in salmon spawning streams and removing them makes it more difficult for mining companies, communities and sewage treatment facilities to get permits on them.

"It needs to be stated that we support something that will protect the fishery," Atcheson said, adding that DNR's primary interest is in permits rather than fishery protection. "DNR's purview is different than Fish and Game's."

Shadura was concerned that a letter would be premature as the issue involving mixing zones is separate from the division's move itself. He also said that resident species such as Dolly Varden and lake and rainbow trout also deserve the same protection from mixing zones as salmon spawning streams. Despite his sentiments, committee chairman Gary Dawkins and the majority of the members agreed that it wouldn't hurt to write a letter acknowledging support for the move. Atcheson said he would write it.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday when committee members will hear proposals on the guided fishery. Dawkins said the committee will cover proposals one through 28 and that the three guide members will be on hand to offer their stance on them.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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