After fifty years in the salmon fishery I recall after season trips to the Little Su, Alexander and Montana creeks where my wife and I took eighty- and ninety-pound kings from the water for smoking and canning. A few years later we began to hear whining from the Cook Inlet user groups who have been trying to cut each others’ throats in any rag that would print their said stories. Fortunately the Alaska Constitution has barred most claims, while at the same time every politician from D.C. to Juneau they have lobbied has turned a not too deaf ear to the multi-million dollar national sport-fish lobby who have millions of dollars with which to buy politicians’ votes with, and will continue to do so until the fifty percent of the Inlet’s set and drift fisherman who have been collectively, sitting on their duffs for decades waiting for the price on their permits to get up to where they can sell them for enough to get back their investments in today’s dollars.
A word from the wise, “it aint’ gonna happen.”
Whether we like it or not, compromise is the panacea of politics. If the inlet fishermen ever hope to salvage any semblance of a once great, red fishery they must now come together in a meeting of the minds if you will, with the national sport-fishery lobby who not only have the money but, a reason to buy out fifty percent of the fishing permits at current, market prices, thereby allowing half of present permit holders some cushion as they enter the golden years. The others will enjoy increased harvest levels allowing them to retain their livelihoods.
Then sportfishing folks local and national, along with the state’s personal use and subsistence people together will put money into the local economy. If this kind of movement is not consummated in a very timely fashion the local packing companies will pack up and move, their property ceded to the state. And commercial fishing periods eventually reduced to a zero, profit margin level causing fishermen to donate their remaining hulks, to a future museum located somewhere in Captain Cook Park where future sportfishing families will be allowed to view what the red salmon fishery looked like at one time in this part of Alaska. It is far too late for Inlet fishermen to blame someone else for their problems with many solutions staring the in the face. Now is the time to act.