A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Board of fisheries OKs dipnets for Cook Inlet commercial fisheries

Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission also has to approve before dipnets are used

Commercial fishers who operate in Cook Inlet may be allowed to harvest sockeye salmon using dipnets as soon as this summer, after unanimous action by the State Board of Fisheries added the gear type to fishing regulation.

The move by the board came as part of their Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting and followed other action that implemented new restrictions on commercial fisheries. Interest in exploring new gear types for the commercial fisheries to avoid harvesting king salmon was repeatedly expressed by the board and by members of the State Department of Fish and Game.

“Thinking outside of the box is the way of the future on this one,” said board member Mike Wood during the meeting. “Whatever it takes to be able to allow there to be some selective harvest with no termination of kings on that beach, I’m all for it — any creativity that can happen there.”

A proposal allowing the use of dipnets is the only action the board approved during the meeting, but they also expressed interest in continuing a department study that explores the use of shallower set gillnets, as well as new exploration for the use of reef nets and beach seines.

“We are very interested in looking for different mechanisms whereby the setnet fishery can operate in a manner that harvests sockeye but reduces the king salmon intercept,” said Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang.

The proposal approved by the board, amended from a submission by Chris Little, is included as part of the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon stock of concern action plan passed by the board earlier in the meeting, and would be removed from regulation if the stock were delisted as a stock of management concern.

Before dipnets can see use in Cook Inlet commercial fisheries, the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission will also need to approve the action and include the gear type in commercial fishing permits. The board said this move will “get the ball rolling.” No timeline was defined for such an approval.

The proposal passed says that from June 20 to July 31, commercial set gillnet permit holders in Cook Inlet can use dipnets as an alternative gear type. Openings “may” occur outside of the specified openings described in the action plan — which require a projection of more than 14,250 large king salmon — via an emergency order by the department. No more than three 12-hour openings will be allowed each week.

There was board discussion about whether that number of openings would be too low — but the board agreed on that number based on concerns over the unquantified impact of such a radical change in methodology within the fishery.

While fishing with dipnets, up to four nets can be used per permit holder. Those nets must be operated by that holder or by licensed crew members. Fishing can occur from a vessel or from shore sites leased for commercial operation. The board noted that those fishing don’t necessarily need to be the lease holder of the site they’re fishing on.

The original proposal included a restriction on the length of vessels used for commercial dipnetting, but the substituted language used by the board dropped that consideration.

Board member Märit Carlson-Van Dort noted that the language in the proposal that was ultimately passed prohibits retention of king and silver salmon. The broader action plan requires that commercially harvested king salmon be turned over to processors for sampling by the department. Because the proposal prohibits retention, it would be at odds with that policy and could result in unreported mortality, she said.

An edit intended to allow the possibility for commercial dipnetters to release healthy king salmon while still reporting mortality in line with the action plan will be included as a “technical fix,” Forrest Bowers from the Division of Commercial Fisheries said.

Gary Hollier, who’s fished the east side setnet fishery for decades, told the board he’s “not real crazy” about the idea of fishing with dipnets rather than traditional setnets. But, with the conditions of the action plan, he doesn’t expect to otherwise see any opportunity to harvest, and said his family is ready to go “all in.”

Gene Sandone, who fishes in the Matanuska-Susitna region, said he’s seen dipnets successfully implemented in the Yukon River. When the opportunity was first opened roughly 10 years ago, he said that only two people were out — but now people fish with the dipnets “every day.”

“It was very poor in comparison to a gill net, but it gave those people the opportunity to fish and to make some money,” he said.

For more information about the Board of Fisheries, including proposals, reports and audio from the Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting, visit adfg.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
King salmon fishing closed on Kasilof starting Monday

The emergency order is being issued to protect returning king salmon, citing weak returns

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna’s city council appropriates funds for FY 2025 capital projects

Improvements are described for streets, police facility, Soldotna Creek Park and Soldotna Community Memorial Park

Gina Plank processes sockeye salmon caught on the first day of Kenai River dipnetting with her table set up on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River open for dipnetting

As of Tuesday, a total of 226,000 sockeye had been counted in the Kenai River’s late run

Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly won’t pursue further discussion on tabled bed tax resolution

Members say they’re going to work on a new version of the idea this winter

Gov. Mike Dunleavy pictured with members of the House majority after signing the fiscal year 2025 budget bills, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Anchorage, Alaska. From left to right: Reps. Stanley Wright, Tom McKay, Thomas Baker, Craig Johnson, Kevin McCabe, Julie Coulombe and Laddie Shaw. (Photo provided by Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy signs capital budget with $3.7M in state funding for Kenai Peninsula, vetoes $3.3M

Roughly $90 million in federal funding also allocated to Kenai Peninsula

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna man arrested Friday after 30-minute police chase

The man had an outstanding warrant for felony probation violation

Most Read