Reel News from the World of Fisheries, August 7, 2018



Troopers Seize 16 tons of illegally caught salmon in Lower Cook Inlet commercial fisheries

Alaska State Troopers seize more than 16 tons of illegally caught salmon by a handful of vessels south of Homer. The commercial fishing seine vessels were working cooperatively to drive salmon out of area closed to salmon fishing into an area open for commercial fishing, after which the fish were illegally harvested. Troopers cited four people in court: Eric Winslow, Paul Roth, Robert Roth and Mark Roth.  The Roths operate cost recovery boats for Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA), serve on the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association board of directors as Inlet Wide Commercial Fishermen Representatives, and sit in one seat of the six member Cook Inlet Regional Planning Team for Hatchery Planning. Captain Rex Leath of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers noted that troopers receive complaints of this type of targeted commercial fishing – nicknamed “creek robbing’ – often, unfortunately.

By the numbers, salmon accounting in Cook Inlet

Craig Medred has a news analysis of Salmon Accounting regarding the sockeye salmon returns to Cook Inlet. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) sockeye salmon for Upper Cook Inlet came in much lower than forecast, causing disruptions in all fisheries. He notes that while economics are often touted as being central to decision-making for allocation fish between user groups, ADFG actually does not have a single economist on staff. Surprising, or not?

City of Kenai finds itself on the short end of the dip net

Not surprisingly, the City of Kenai looked back at the 2018 personal use dipnet fishery season at their council meeting on August 1 and found that the dipnet fishery was ‘significantly’ down from previous years.  Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander stated that the gross revenues from the dipnet fishery for the year was $375,000, compared to a gross revenue of $547,000 the year prior. The dipnet fishery was closed two days early this year due to conservation issues with Kenai River sockeye salmon.

Now that the Kenai kings and reds are closed, where else to go fishing

If you are still in need of sockeye salmon in Cook Inlet, ADFG increased the Kasilof River sockeye salmon bag limit to six per day and 12 in possession. The Kasilof River dipnet fishery closes Tuesday, August 7.

ADFG raises the coho salmon bag and possession limits to 3 per day on the Little Susitna River, and the sockeye salmon bag and possession limits to 6 & 12 on Fish Creek, starting August 8.

Andy Couch of the Mat-Su has a good column on the abundance, availability and flavor among reasons for popularity of coho salmon. With the Cook Inlet central district drift gillnet fleet largely on the sidelines the past few weeks due to conservation restrictions for Kenai River sockeye salmon, August has the potential to be a very good year for coho fishing by anglers. Reports are that coho are thick on the west side of Cook Inlet and good numbers are entering the Kenai and the Mat-Su.

Reel News at the National Level: Modern Fish Act and updates to the Billfish Conservation Act

At the national level, the Modern Fish Act was included in H.R. 200 “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting action by the full Senate. Mike Leonard of the American Sportfishing Association has a great article in Sport Fishing Magazine on hope provided by this Congressional legislation that puts appropriate recreational fishing management tools in federal marine fisheries management.

Leonard writes: The Modern Fish Act, which was included in H.R. 200, includes a variety of management and data collection improvements aimed at narrowing the gap between what the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires and how well fisheries data can meet those requirements. The bill will allow for alternative management approaches to the way annual catch limits have been implemented that are better suited to the nature of recreational fishing and available data, while still preventing overfishing.These approaches are already being explored in fisheries like summer flounder in the Mid-Atlantic and red snapper in the South Atlantic, and the bill will clarify that they are allowed under federal law. The Modern Fish Act also aims to improve fisheries data to better meet the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act by facilitating the development and use of new, innovative angler harvest surveys that can supplement and improve existing surveys.

The goal of the Modern Fish Act is to address the significant gap that currently exists between the rigidity of management targets and the lack of quality data to meet them, by working the issue from both ends. It will provide fisheries managers with the tools needed to manage recreational fishing in a way that better aligns with what anglers are experiencing on the water, while also bringing angler harvest data into the 21st century.

The 2017 Kenai River Classic Roundtable touched on the needed reforms embodied in the Modern Fish Act. To write a letter to your U.S. Senator, check out the KRSA advocacy page on this issue.

An important piece of federal legislation was signed by President Trump on August 2, an update to the Billfish Conservation Act  that closes a loophole in the protection of Marlin, Sailfish and Spearfish.