Lower Cook Inlet fisheries proposals focus on king harvest regs

Proposals submitted to the Alaska Board of Fisheries for review and consideration in the upcoming winter meetings were published at the end of September and are available for public comment now. There are 43 proposals in the Lower Cook Inlet Proposal Index, a subportion of the 2023-2024 Proposal Book.

Many of the proposals relate to modifications for king salmon fishing in both fresh and saltwater.

“The sport saltwater king fishery in this region has been restricted by preseason and in-season emergency order actions for 12 of the past 15 years, and so the department has a proposal to take what we’ve been doing by emergency order and get it more fully incorporated into the larger management plan,” said Mike Booz, Lower Cook Inlet sport fish manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Additionally, there are proposals from both the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee to both reduce the guideline harvest limit for winter saltwater sport king salmon and to reduce the personal bag and possession limit. The winter fishery includes the entire inlet from Sept. 1 to the end of March. The guideline harvest limit is the total number of fish the department sets for available harvest. Harvest has exceed that in nine of the past 12 years, according to Booz.

“For the freshwater king fishery in the local streams, the Anchor, Deep Creek, Ninilchik, the department has also submitted a proposal to take what we’ve been doing through preseason and in-season emergency orders over the past 15 years and putting them into a management plan that’s a little more restricted,” Booz said.

The issue both agencies cite to address in their proposals is that the current guideline harvest in fishery has exceeded 4,500 chinook salmon every year since 2015. The Homer committee states, “with the current status of Chinook salmon in the North Pacific we believe the responsible action is to create regulations to stay within its harvest guidelines.”

For Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay sport fishing, there are five proposals with an interest in reducing sport rockfish harvest.

A proposal submitted by the Homer Fish and Game Advisory provides the citation that harvest in this fishery “has increased from an average of 26,654 total in 2006-13 to an unsustainable 50,484 in 2019-2021. Sampling harvest by ADFG has shown data that nearly 75% of harvested rockfish in (lower Cook Inlet) are juvenile fish. This indicates current harvest levels may not be sustainable for the resource.”

Other sponsors of proposals to reduce sport rockfish were submitted from the Homer Charter Association, the Alaska Charter Association and Garrett Lambert with D&G Charters in Homer.

There are 10 submitted proposals regarding commercial salmon harvest in various lagoons in Kachemak Bay and Kamishak Bay. Several of these focus more on the policy and cost recovery features of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association.

The Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee sponsored the final commercial proposal in the index to amend the Cook Inlet Salmon Enhancement Allocation plan by reducing hatchery production to 25% of production in the year 2000. The issue the agency cites to address with this proposal is “an over-production of hatchery pink salmon that threatens wild Alaska stocks.”

The agency concludes their submission stating, “the purpose of this proposal is strictly conservation, to hold the hatcheries to their 2000 promise. The Board should require substantial reduction in production so the wild fish don’t have to compete, as noted by hundreds of science papers, with hatchery fish for food.”

Other proposals in the packet are more specific regulatory measures. Proposal 29, for example, suggests a special provision to harvest methods and means, such as prohibiting in the flowing waters of Deep Creek, Anchor River, Stariski Creek, Ninilchik River and Kasilof River the use of helicopters to transport anglers or sport-caught fish.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will hold a public meeting on Oct. 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center to review the 2023 sport fishing season and discuss some of the proposals and the process that they go through leading up to the Board of Fish regulatory meeting.

The Lower Cook Inlet Proposal Index is available online through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website: www.adfg.alaska.gov.

Comments can be submitted to the Board of Fisheries online, by fax or email.