I stopped by the ATT Sports Center on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway to listen to the public testimony about the Upper Cook Inlet salmon issues.
It appears that the salmon in our rivers are being hurt by the commercial harvests of red salmon bound for the Kenai River. I am an ex-commercial fisherman so I understand the desire and need for the Board of Fisheries to concentrate their management on those high valued red salmon stocks.
BUT…I can’t understand why they manage the commercial harvest they way that they do. Its just nuts!
Currently, the drift salmon fishing fleet can fish across the whole inlet from the Forelands by Nikiski just above Kenai to Anchor Point toward Homer. Here is a map of Cook Inlet for reference. They are after the red salmon that are mostly going into the Kenai River.
The problem is, they are catching fish bound for a lot of other rivers as well. Some of these fish are heading for Jim Creek, Fish Creek, the Yentna River, and lots of other creeks and rivers that flow into Cook Inlet. The poor fish run a guantlet past all the nets to get to the Upper Inlet. These are silver salmon, king salmon, chum salmon, red salmon, and even some pinks. Most of those fish are just extra baggage to the commercial fisherman.
The better job they do managing the Kenai fishery, the worse it gets for all the other fisheries. The Department of Fish and Game is doing a great job managing the Kenai fishery and they should continue to do that. But that means the commercial drift fleet gets more time to fish and catches more fish going to other rivers and streams. All the other fish are sacrificed to the Kenai Red Salmon.
The really galling thing is that there is an easy fix…and I don’t understand why they don’t do it. In Bristol Bay all the fisheries are specific to the river. Here is a map of Bristol Bay showing the district boundaries for the different fisheries. Click on it to expand.
It would be easy to do in Cook Inlet. All you need to do is make some district boundaries like they have in Bristol Bay. Then you can easily manage the specific fishery.
Not only does it make for better management, it will produce more fish for ALL the rivers, not just for the Kenai.
And it makes the commercial fishery a LOT more fun. Anyone who has fished the North Line at Egegik knows that.