Cod season: fish sizes, quota both smaller

The Cook Inlet state-waters cod season is progressing as usual, albeit with a smaller quota and smaller fish.

The 2016 total Pacific cod state-waters quota for the Cook Inlet management area is 4.1 million pounds, with 85 percent of the quota, or 3.5 million pounds, going to pot boats, and 15 percent, or 611,000 pounds going to jig.

This represents a reduction of about 1 million pounds from the 2015 quota.

The state-waters pot fishery opened Feb. 2, and as of Monday 10 vessels less than 58 feet participating in the fishery have caught close to 966,411 pounds.

Last year the state-waters fishery opened Feb. 17, but the smaller quota probably had an impact on that.

Vessels larger than 58 feet are allowed up to 25 percent of the pot boat quota, but information about their catch is confidential because there are fewer than three vessels fishing.

Last year vessels larger than 58 feet did not catch their 25 percent limit, which would have triggered a closure.

The lack of vessels larger than 58 feet working on the pot boat quota is likely due to the huge bairdi Tanner crab quota in the Bering Sea, 8.4 million pounds this season, which has drawn boats away from the Bering Sea cod fishery. At least two Bering Sea-sized boats that have previously fished the Cook Inlet cod season have been lured away from both the Cook Inlet and Bering Sea cod fishery to the more lucrative Tanner crab fishery. 

Also, last season pot fishing was open throughout the year, either in a state-waters or parallel state-federal waters fishery.

Area management biologist Janet Rumble said she expects the jig fishery will be closing soon in federal waters, beyond 3 miles, moving those boats into state waters.

Currently, the parallel fishery for fishing cod with longline is open in the Cook Inlet management area. 

There has been some talk in the fleet about small cod leading to depressed prices in Homer markets, with dock prices at 33 cents.

Rumble said that fish sizes have ranged from 5.2 pounds per fish in Kachemak Bay to 5.8 pounds per fish in the North Gulf Coast, which she expects to go up later in the spring during spawning season.

Weather has also played a role, with fishermen seeing as much as 10 days at a time of being tied up.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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