On Friday the Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet for two weeks to discuss the Upper Cook Inlet fishing, and at the top of the agenda will be Kenai Kings.
Many fishermen feel it's time for a rule change when it comes to the management of the king salmon runs in Alaska. The board will discuss possible policy changes in management of Kenai king salmon, what Kenai River Sportfishing Association's Ricky Gease says is the top issue for the board.
"How do you best manage fisheries in this record time of low abundance for the commercial fisheries, the sports fisheries and the personal use fisheries?" Gease asked.
Fisheries experts say it’s a billion-dollar question. For many fishing groups involved, they say the answer needs to include fairness.
"What we're seeking is to have paired prescriptive step downs in both fisheries," Gease said.
He thinks both the in-river and setnet fisheries need to share the burden for any in-season restrictions.
"The issue with the setnet fishery is that currently it's an on off switch," Gease said. "Either the full fleet is fishing, or they're not."
Gease thinks once the restrictions require the in-river fishery to remove bait or change to catch and release, the setnet fishery should lose a net or two. But changing fishery regulations isn't always easy. Tracy Lingnau, a biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, says one of the main problems is sockeye fishermen accidentally netting kings.
"We're trying to harvest sockeye, and the best thing we can do is try to minimize the harvest of king salmon while harvesting the surplus of the sockeye salmon," Lingnau said.
Lingnau said the commercial fishermen went to a new strategy this past year one where they only fished during the surplus of sockeye salmon. He thinks this was successful in preventing the incidental catch of kings, but it will be up to the board to decide if those management efforts are the solution.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet from Jan. 31 to Feb. 13 at the Egan Center.