22 Mar 2020 Upper Cook Inlet Alaska Board of Fisheries Meeting yielded several important victories for sportfishing Inlet Wide.
The triannual Board of Fisheries meeting for upper Cook Inlet took place in early February in Anchorage and the seven member board, many selected by newly elected governor Mike Dunleavy, voted in favor of several proposals that shifted fish away from commercial fisheries and into the rivers. As the economic value of the fish has evolved in the past several decades, sport fish and personal use are finally being recognized as collectively more valuable in South-Central Alaska than what they are worth dead in the gill nets. Let’s hope these changes help to make meaningful change in the abundance of salmon returning to the river and in turn provide all us more opportunity with a rod and reel. Moreover, and most importantly, this should result in more fish on the spawning beds and thus more fish for the future.
Here are some of the most notable changes that the Board took during this unprecedented meeting:
* Amend the Kenai River Late-Run Sockeye Salmon Management Plan to increase inriver goal ranges.
Translation: More sockeye and thus more kings in the river, less set net fishing time until goals are achieved.
* Amend the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan with additional mandatory area restrictions to regular fishing periods.
Translation: Drift Gill net fleet is now restricted to the Kenai and Kasilof sections, no more Inlet wide openers. This will result in more fish making it to the Suisitna Valley fisheries and most importantly for us, no more commercial fishing at the mouth of Big River or the Kustatan = considerably more silvers returning to both of these systems.
* Amend the one percent rule in the Upper Subdistrict set gillnet fishery to apply starting July 31 instead of August 7.
Translation: This means beginning July 31, once a particular ratio of silvers salmon are counted vs. sockeye in the commercial east side set net fishery, the fishery will close. This means the front end of our early run of Kenai Silver salmon will not be cut off by set nets before making it to the river resulting in more consistent silver fishing in August.
* Adopt an optimal escapement goal and amend the paired restrictions in the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management
Translation: This will result in more late run Kenai River king salmon making it to the spawning beds and in years of low abundance where the inriver fishery is restricted or closed, the commercial fisheries will see a dramatic decrease in time and even closures to help share in the burden of conservation.
* Allow transport of more than five persons per vessel used for guided sport fishing on the Kenai River in July.
Translation: This will allow us to once again transport five people in our guide boats for sockeye fishing.