More personnel on the ground contributed to more personal-use and other fishing citations being handed out this summer.
The Kenai River personal-use dipnet fishery season runs July 10-31, while the dipnet season on the Kasilof River runs from June 25-Aug. 7, with a week-long window for the Kasilof River personal-use gillnet fishery from June 15-24.
From June 1-Aug. 15, Alaska Wildlife Troopers wrote 274 personal-use citations, said Lt. Paul McConnell, deputy commander at the Soldotna post for the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. This is a significant spike compared to last year, when authorities handed out around 74 personal-use citations, he said. These citations can be for things like failing to record one’s catch or not marking a fish once it’s caught.
Wildlife troopers also gave out 366 warnings this year to personal-use fishermen and contacted 3,579 of them, McConnell said.
While this year’s citation numbers are up from last year, the citations in 2015 were less than in 2014. Part of the reason for fluctuation in the number of citations in certain categories can be attributed to the number of troopers on the ground, he said.
“Last year, we only had three troopers assigned here in Soldotna,” McConnell said.
This year, there were five. The citation numbers given to the Clarion last year were also from a shorter time period — June 15 through July 31.
This summer, wildlife troopers also wrote 74 citations for commercial fishermen during the dipnet time period, and contacted about 1,300 of them, McConnell said. This is compared to about 50 commercial fishing citations in 2015. They issued 183 citations to sport fishermen and contacted about 5,600 of them, compared to around 285 citations last year, he said.
The citations are limited to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and don’t include other possible dipnet-related citations that may have been written by Alaska State Troopers not specifically assigned to cover the dipnet, McConnell said.
Still, people involved with the personal-use fisheries seem to behave themselves and follow rules for the most part, he said.
“I think it went pretty well,” McConnell said. “Most of the people we check are in compliance, just by the numbers.”
Dipnet-related citations were also handed out at a local level, said Kenai Police Chief Dave Ross. Temporary Enforcement Officers the department hires in the summer to help work the dipnet fishery in addition to the general increase in calls wrote 122 dipnet-related citations.
“That was mostly for parking (violations), paid parking (violations) and parking in prohibited areas,” Ross said.
The department also got four reports of capsized boats this summer and two reports of boat collisions, he said.
In all, Kenai police got 102 calls for service related to the dipnet fishery, he said. Those calls ranged from 911 misdials and reports of traffic congestion and accidents to reports of theft, stuck vehicles, drugs and assault. The department also received a few complaints about fireworks, Ross said.
A higher number of calls for service is not uncommon in July, Ross said, because of the combination of the busier summer season and the dipnet fishery on the Kenai.
“Any time … that many people come together, there’s obviously going to be some number of calls,” he said.
Overall, Ross said it was not an abnormal year for the police department, and the presence of the temporary officers to handle the smaller dipnet-related issues is always a great help.
“I would say it went smoothly,” he said. “I think the city is pretty good at getting it organized and it improves each year.”
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