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Anchor River king fishery liberalized

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anglers fishing for king salmon on the Anchor River will be able to come away with more fish next season. Because more fish than previously thought are swimming up the river, the Alaska Board of Fisheries decided to increase the annual catch limit of kings and extend the saltwater fishery to within one mile on either side of the mouth.

Carol Kerkvliet, a fisheries biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game out of Homer, said the board's decision was a result of nine proposals brought forth by the public to liberalize the king salmon freshwater and saltwater fishery for Anchor River. Since 1996, anglers have only been allowed two king salmon a season from both Anchor River and Deep Creek, but next year, fishermen will be able to keep five king salmon from the Anchor River and two from Deep Creek.

"Last year they could keep one (fish) from the Anchor and one from Deep Creek," she said. "Now they can keep five from the Anchor River as an annual limit."

The fish board also opened the Anchor River to king salmon fishing on the Wednesdays following the five weekend openings on the river, providing additional opportunity for anglers.

These proposals are based upon fish escapement data accumulated by Fish and Game's new sonar weir project on the Anchor River. Kerkvliet said before the project began in 2003, escapement counts of king salmon on the Anchor River were indexed by aerial survey counts. After the sonar weir went in, biologists discovered that the escapement rate was higher than previously indicated.

"The sonar weir project had come into place because aerial index counts indicated that there was a decline in Anchor River king salmon," Kerkvliet said. "It was listed as a stock of management concern in 2001 and so the department initiated that project to give us more accurate information."

Before the sonar weir was installed, biologists had to compare aerial index counts with statewide harvest surveys in order to determine historic escapement goals for Anchor River, Kerkvliet said. By combining the aerial index, statewide harvest survey and numbers provided by the weir, biologists projected that historic escapement goals were higher than previously thought, high enough to support an increased harvest.

Even though the Board of Fish increased the harvest of king salmon, Kerkvliet said the liberalization of the fishery is a cautious one. This will allow biologists to learn more about the productivity of spawning king salmon and their progeny on the Anchor River.

"As we accumulate counts for an entire age class of fish and their offspring, that's when we'll be able to assess the effects of this liberalization and define the productivity of Anchor River king salmon stocks," Kerkvliet said.

Gary Dawkins, chairman of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee, said local anglers would not only get to catch more fish, but would have more time to catch more fish. Even though Anchor River is closer to Homer, Dawkins said committee members are always interested with what's going on at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula.

"Weekends are always tough (there are) more tourists," he said. "(There is) a lot more opportunity, they really liberalized that fishery big time."

Dawkins said sportfishery biologist Robert Begich, who works in the Soldotna Fish and Game office, brought the data from the weir project to an advisory committee meeting in October.

"They have biological data to back it up," Dawkins said. "If they have the biological data we'll definitely vote for it."

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



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