A sign welcoming visitors to the Alaska Board of Fisheries Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting is seen here at the William A. Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska on Feb. 11, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign welcoming visitors to the Alaska Board of Fisheries Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting is seen here at the William A. Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska on Feb. 11, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Trends: Shifting tides

A look at the regulatory changes for the Upper Cook Inlet Fisheries

Commercial, sport and personal-use anglers looking to fish on the Kenai Peninsula or anywhere else in the Upper Cook Inlet this summer should take note of some of the changes in rules and regulations that have been implemented for the first time this year by Alaska’s Board of Fisheries.

From Feb. 9 to Feb. 17 of this year, Alaska’s Board of Fisheries met in Anchorage to discuss proposed regulatory changes for all of the finfish fisheries in the Upper Cook Inlet. Prior to the meetings, over 200 proposals were submitted to the board from members of the public.

Over the course of their meetings in Anchorage, the Board voted to adopt 32 of these proposals, and in addition followed a recommendation from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to de-list the sockeye salmon in the Susitna River as a stock of concern. What follows is a summary of each proposal that was adopted by the Board during February’s meetings and the user groups that will be affected by the changes.

Proposal 88

This proposal amended the Kenai River Late-Run Sockeye Salmon Management Plan to increase in-river goal ranges by a set amount. In-river goals reflect the number of salmon that are allowed to make it past the sonar site at Mile 19 of the Kenai River, located just downstream from the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.

For late runs of less than 2.3 million sockeye, the in-river goal range has increased from 900,000-1.1 million to 1 million-1.2 million fish.

For late runs of between 2.3 million and 4.6 million sockeye, the new in-river range is 1.1 million-1.4 million fish.

For late runs of more than 4.6 million sockeye, the new in-river range is 1.2 million-1.6 million fish.

The late-run projection for Kenai River sockeye salmon this year is about 2.2 million fish. Proposal 88 was introduced by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and passed by a vote of 6-1 on Feb. 11.

Proposal 133

This proposal amends the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan to include additional mandatory area restrictions for regular fishing periods. Proposal 133 eliminates the option for fishery managers to, between July 16 and July 31, expand one 12-hour fishing period from Drift Gill Net Area 1 to be district-wide in years when Kenai River sockeye salmon runs are greater than 2.3 million fish.

The proposal also adds mandatory restrictions to drift gill netting from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15, limiting regular Monday and Thursday fishing periods to the following areas: Expanded Kenai Section, Expanded Kasilof Section, Anchor Point Section and Drift Gill Net Area 1.

Finally, the proposal specifies that all fishing time between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 outside of the regular fishing periods is limited to the following areas: Expanded Kenai Section, Expanded Kasilof Section and Anchor Point Section. The proposal was introduced by the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission and passed by a vote of 6-1 on Feb. 11.

Proposal 124

This proposal coincides with proposal 133 and amends the language in the preamble of the Central District Drift Gill Net Fishery Management Plan to clarify that the management plan is meant to “provide all users a reasonable opportunity to harvest these salmon stocks over the entire run.”

The proposal was introduced by the Alaska Outdoor Council and passed with subsitute language by a vote of 4-3 on Feb. 11.

Proposal 192

This proposal amends the “one-percent rule” in the Upper Subdistrict set gillnet fishery to apply starting on July 31 instead of Aug. 7. The one-percent rule states that the Department of Fish and Game can end the fishing season early by emergency order if it is determined by the department that less than one percent of the season’s total sockeye harvest has been taken for two consecutive fishing periods in the Kenai and East Forelands Sections, or for two separate periods in the Kasilof Section. Proposal 192 allows for ADF&G to potentially issue that emergency order earlier in the season. The proposal was introduced by the Kenai River Professional Guide Association and passed by a vote of 4-3 on Feb. 12.

Proposal 178

This proposal permanently closes drift gill netting in the Upper Subdistrict within 1 mile of mean high tide north of the Kenai River and within one and a half miles of mean high tide south of the Kenai River. This proposal was introduced by Ken Coleman and passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 11.

Proposal 242

This proposal allows two additional fishing days per week in the Upper Yentna River subsistence salmon fishery. Subsistence fishing in the mainstream of the Yentna River will be now be open Monday through Friday from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m., June 1 to June 30 and July 15 to Aug. 7. The proposal was introduced by the Mt. Yenlo Fish and Game Advisory Committee and passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 13.

Proposal 243

This proposal allows the harvest of other salmon in place of king salmon in the Tyonek Subdistrict subsistence fishery. The annual possession limits for holders of a Tyonek Subdistrict subsistence salmon fishing permit have been modified to allow for 95 salmon and an additional 10 salmon per dependent, with a maximum of 70 king salmon. The proposal was introduced by the Tyonek Fish and Game Advisory Committee and passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 13.

Proposal 234

This proposal creates a personal use salmon dip net fishery in an area of the Susitna River. From July 10 through July 31, dip netting will be allowed from a boat or from shore between the ADF&G regulatory marker located 1 mile downstream from Susitna Station and the Bell Island/Alexander Creek cutoff. King salmon retention is prohibited, but Northern pike retention is required. The proposal was introduced by the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 5-2 on Feb. 13.

Proposal 241

This proposal establishes provisions for the personal use of aquatic plants in the Anchorage-Matsu-Kenai Nonsubsistence Area. The proposal allows for the harvesting by hand of aquatic plants for personal use without a permit between Jan. 1 and April 30, and again from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, with a daily limit of 10 gallons per person.. The proposal was introduced by Eliza Eller and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 13.

Proposal 104

This proposal sets an optimal escapement goal for the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan while also amending the paired restrictions for the commercial and sport fisheries. The optimal escapement goal for late-run Kenai River King Salmon is set at 15,000-30,000 fish, and in order to achieve that goal the ADF&G Commissioner may prohibit the use of bait and the retention of king salmon 34 inches in length or greater in the Kenai River sport fishery. The paired restrictions mean that if the sport fishery in limited in this way, the commercial fishery is restricted to 36 hours of operation per week with a required 36-hour continuous closure. The proposal also limits the number and length of set gillnets that are allowed when other restrictions are in place.

This proposal was introduced by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and adopted with subsitute language by a vote of 5-2 on Feb. 14.

Proposal 217

This proposal creates a Management Plan for the Deshka River King Salmon Fishery by establishing seasons, bag and possession limits and other special provisions for harvesting king salmon. The proposal was introduced by the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 15.

Proposal 199

This proposal amends the Northern District King Salmon Management Plan to modify paired restrictions for the sport and commercial fisheries. This proposal was introduced by the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 118

This proposal amends the Kasilof River Salmon Management Plan to establish an optimal escapement goal range of 140,000-370,000 fish. The proposal was introduced by Jeff Beaudoin and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 185

This proposal changes the opening of the Kasilof Section set gillnet fishery to start on June 20 rather than June 25, provided that there is an estimated 20,000 sockeye salmon in the Kasilof River. The proposal was introduced by Joseph Person and passed by a vote of 6-1 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 175

This proposal allows for commercial fishing with set gillnets in the North Kalifornsky Beach area starting on July 1. The proposal was introduced by Gary Hollier and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 5-2 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 204

This proposal amends the Northern District Salmon Management Plan to specify that the management of chum, pink and sockeye salmon stocks includes the prioritization of in-river users as well as commercial and sport fisheries. The proposal was introduced by Kristine Ogonowski and passed by a vote of 4-3 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 202

This proposal amends the Northern District King Salmon Management Plan to allow operation of one set gillnet per permit. The proposal was introduced by the Northern District Set Netters Association of Cook Inlet and passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 198

This proposal amends waypoint descriptions and provides coordinates for several landmark names in the Upper Cook Inlet. The proposal was introduced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 197

This proposal provides waypoint locations for landmark names and modifies certain waypoint locations in Chinitna Bay. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 209

This proposal amends the waypoint location for Light Point on Kalgin Island. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 140

This proposal allows for dual-permit vessels in the Chinitna Bay subdistrict to have 200 fathoms of gear on board, but no more than 150 fathoms of gear is allowed when fishing. The proposal was introduced by Dan Anderson and adopted with substitute language by a vote of 6-1 on Feb. 16.

Proposal 160

This proposal allows for guided sport fishing vessels on the Kenai River to transport more than five people per vessel in July. The proposal was introduced by Mel Erickson and passed by a vote of 5-0 on Feb. 17. Board member John Jensen was excused from the vote, and Board member Gerad Godfrey was absent.

Proposal 155

This proposal allows for sport fishing guides the sport fish from the banks of the Kasilof River as long as a client is present. The proposal was introduced by Raymond Davis and passed by a vote of 6-0 on Feb. 17. Board member Jensen was excused from the vote.

Proposal 144

This proposal aligns the spring sport fishing dates for Bishop and Bench creeks. For both areas, sport fishing is now allowed from June 11-April 30. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and passed by a vote of 6-0 on Feb. 17. Board member Jensen was excused from the vote.

Proposal 143

This proposal clarifies the fishing season for king salmon less than 20 inches in length on the Kasilof River. The fishing season for king salmon of this size is the same as king salmon 20 inches in length or greater, Jan. 1 to June 30 upstream of the Sterling Highway Bridge and Jan. 1 to July 31 downstream of the bridge. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and was adopted with a vote of 6-0 on Feb. 17. Board member Jensen was excused from the vote.

Proposal 232

This proposal closes the south fork of Big River to sportfishing, specifically in the area between the ADF&G regulatory marker located at the first island to about 3/4 mile upstream from the confluence at Otter Lake. The proposal was introduced by Danny Brewer and passed by a vote of 7-0.

Proposal 229

This proposal extends the hours of the Ship Creek youth fishery to be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the third Saturday in June. The proposal was introduced by Dustin Douglas Slinker and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 17.

Proposal 227

This proposal opens the sport fishery in the Fish Creek drainage for additional days, making the area open to sport fishing every Saturday and Sunday from June 15-July 14. The proposal was introduced by the Matanuska Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 17.

Proposal 213

This proposal allows anglers to use up to five lines when ice fishing for Northern Pike in the Susitna River Drainage and Knik Arm Drainage Areas. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 17.

Proposal 222

This proposal allows for fishing for other resident species in Unit 2 of the Susitna River Drainage Area on days that are closed to king salmon fishing. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and passed by a vote of 6-1 on Feb. 17.

Proposal 233

This proposal allows for anglers to fish for species other than salmon in upper Threemile Creek and the Threemile Lake outlet. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and passed by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 17.

Proposal 214

This proposal prohibits the live release of northern pike in the Anchorage Bowl and Knik River drainages. The proposal was introduced by ADF&G and was adopted with substitute language by a vote of 7-0 on Feb. 17.

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