Board of Fisheries coming to Soldotna

As reported by the Clarion last week, the Board of Fisheries will be holding their annual fall workshop in Soldotna on Oct. 18 -20, at the Soldotna Sports Complex. What makes this workshop different is that the Board has agreed to take public testimony on Upper Cook Inlet (UCI) proposals that they will be considering during the full UCI meeting to be held in Anchorage in February. The public testimony portion of the meeting will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 18 starting with sign ups at 8:30 a.m. and testimony starting at 11:00 a.m.

This is a great opportunity for private, mom and pop anglers to have a chance to voice their opinions on Kenai area fishing regulations and issues. Our local private angler user group has been largely eliminated from participating in these meeting because of travel and expenses associated with the meetings being held in Anchorage for nearly the last 20 years. The Anchorage meetings are dominated by the sheer numbers of Kenai area guides and commercial fishermen that have a financial iron in the fire and can write off their travel expenses. Private folks are only interested in the well-being of the resources and their opportunity to access the fisheries for food or enjoyment.

This year over 80 percent of the proposals to be considered at the UCI meeting are relative to the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers and immediate offshore waters. It just doesn’t make sense not to have regular UCI meetings down here on a rotating basis with the Anchorage/Mat-Su area. This is where the action is and around 90 percent of the attendees of an Anchorage meeting are from the Kenai area.

For me, these are the areas I think are most important to address in planning for future demand on our Kenai River King salmon fisheries;

— The 2020 UCI Board of Fisheries meeting should be held in the Kenai/Soldotna area.

— We need to set aside more spawning area protection in order to insure our best chance at guaranteeing future sustainability. I thought it was a conservation failure this year when ADF&G opened king fishing, with bait and for any size all the way to Skilak Lake after July 15 when many of the fish in the middle river are entering spawning and staging events. This management philosophy has to change because increased demand will destroy our fishery over time.

— We also have to do more to protect our biggest and best breeders. Many king salmon studies have emphasized the importance of larger, older fish for stock reproduction and sustainability. In our fishery we target the largest fish to satisfy the tourism industry or for bragging rights. This has to stop if we are to get our large kings back in the famous Kenai River. There is a proposal to release all fish over 42 inches in length. I support that proposal because it would protect over 50 percent of our 4-year-old females and all of our 5-year-old fish while still allowing for an adequate opportunity to harvest good sized fish.

I hope we have a good turn out at the meeting. Please come and voice your concerns.