Anglers try their luck for sockeye salmon on the Kenai River near the Russian River confluence in this June 2016 photo on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Anglers try their luck for sockeye salmon on the Kenai River near the Russian River confluence in this June 2016 photo on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Fish and Game looks to simplify sportfishing regs

Sportfishing regulations in Alaska are complicated and sometimes confuse anglers, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking steps to make them clearer.

Anglers logged about 2 million fishing days in 2015, more than half of those in Southcentral, with over 562,000 days fished on the Kenai Peninsula’s freshwater drainages. The Kenai River itself, not counting tributaries, hosted more than 425,000 days of angler effort in 2015, according to Fish and Game’s statewide sportfishing harvest survey from that year.

The Kenai River is also subject to a multitude of interlocking regulations, particularly for salmon fishing. Sportfishing anglers have to refer to the annual summary of regulations Fish and Game publishes to check what types of gear are allowed on the sections of rivers they want to fish, and if those sections are open when they want to go out.

That’s a frustration anglers have expressed and Fish and Game is planning to fix, said Ryan Ragan, the program coordinator for the Division of Sportfish in a presentation to the Board of Fisheries during its Tuesday worksession.

Fish and Game wants to streamline regulations and make them easier to understand to help anglers follow the rules, he said. To that end, the department is working on standardizing the regulation summary booklets for the state’s various regions and revising some language to make it easier to understand.

“Complex regulations can keep people from feeling comfortable while fishing, or they can prevent people from fishing altogether,” he said. “They can lead to citations. They can also increase the number of inquiries to ADFG staff, oftentimes what we see in the info center is a series of the same sort of questions coming in … and it also leads people to seek answers from fellow anglers.”

He cited the example of restrictions on the Kenai River, particularly near the Russian River, where the gear types, bag limits and dates of openings vary. Some of the comments submitted to Fish and Game with statewide harvest survey responses show frustration with not understanding how the regulations work, Ragan said.

One of the solutions Fish and Game is considering is developing a mobile application to help deliver specific regulations on smartphones, though that’s still in the works, Ragan said. There’s no specific model Alaska can follow, though

“I think what we’re seeing is more and more people are wanting to get their regulations on smart devices rather than the traditional printed (booklets),” he said.

The Board of Fisheries determines the regulations set on different state fisheries based on data gathered and recommendations made by Fish and Game biologists. Though it’s Fish and Game’s purview to design the booklets, post signs and issue emergency orders with regulation changes in season, as the final voice on regulations, the Board of Fisheries is a part of the effort to simplify sportfishing rules, Ragan said.

The board members offered some suggestions at the work session, including adding more signage and support for making the regulations booklets easier to understand. Board member Reed Morisky said he could see the value in some kind of smartphone application that would allow people to see what the regulations are where they intend to fish, or if that stream is open. There are two sides of the coin to complex regulations, he said: protecting fish stocks in smaller stream systems from too much fishing pressure on one and providing opportunity for sportfishermen on the other.

“We’ve done such a good job of telling people what they can’t do when they read through the regulations that it can be very restrictive,” he said.

The Board of Fisheries is meeting from Tuesday through Thursday in Anchorage to consider agenda change requests, non-regulatory proposals and potential meeting dates and locations for the 2019–2020 cycle regulatory meetings. On Wednesday, the board also discussed communication about the Division of Sportfish and the Division of Commercial Fisheries’ budgets for the upcoming year, which will be included in Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget, usually released in mid-December.

One of the items the board members asked the Division of Sportfish to consider was a sonar project to count the king salmon returning to the Kasilof River. A popular sportfishing river, Fish and Game regularly stocks kings into the river and regulates harvest there but doesn’t have an ongoing sonar project for kings the way it does on the Kenai River.

Division of Sportfish Director Tom Brookover told the board that staff in the Soldotna tested some sonar equipment for a few days this summer in the Kasilof River and “the results were good,” but a new piece of equipment would be necessary to count kings accurately in the river. After that initial investment, which Brookover estimated at between $200,000 and $250,000, the project would cost somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 annually to run, he said.

“It appears doable for chinook, for kings over a certain length limit,” he said.

At the same time, Fish and Game is considering eliminating some king salmon research projects because funds available through the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative are expiring, Brookover said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Bradley Walters leads the pack up Angle Hill on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Summer races kick off at Tsalteshi

The annual Salmon Run Series 5K races start on July 6 and continue every Wednesday through Aug. 3

Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly mulls bond for new CES fire station

Replacement of the current station is estimated to cost $16.5 million

Buldozers sit outside of the former Kenai Bowling Alley on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Old Kenai bowling alley comes down

The business closed in 2015

Landslide debris surrounds part of Lowell Point Road on Friday, June 3, 2022, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly looks to mitigate future Lowell Point Road dangers

Assembly members approved legislation supporting agencies working to address the “repetitive hazards”

The Alaska Department of Health And Social Services building in Juneau has no visible signs indicating the department is splitting into two agencies as of Friday. Top officials at the department said many of the changes, both physical and in services, are likely weeks and in some cases months away. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Little sign of big change for DHSS

No commissioner at new department, other Department of Health and Social Services changes may take months

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Most Read