GIVING FISH A CHANCE
When it comes to the king salmon runs in Upper Cook Inlet, hope just hasn’t been a viable management strategy over the past four years.
Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang wasted no time addressing the ailing runs. Instead of waiting until commercial fishermen already had their nets in the water in summer, the department has announced in January that commercial and sport fishing for kings in upper Cook Inlet is off the table this year.
It’s bad news for commercial fishers and also for sports fishers, guides, and related tourism. But at least they can plan. Last year, commercial nets were in the water when dip netting was shut down on the Kenai. And few fish made it up into the rivers to spawn.
This year, management appears to be about putting the health of the fish runs first and rebuilding.
Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage will be closed for kings from May 1 through July 13. The prized salmon may not be targeted and accidentally caught kings must be kept in the water and released immediately.
The closure also has limits on sport fishing gear, which will be limited to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure when fishing in Units 1-6 of the Susitna River drainage in waters normally open to king salmon fishing.
Sport fishing for other species will be allowed seven days per week from 6 am to 11 pm. This includes the waters within Unit 2 that are normally closed on certain days during the king salmon season.
For a complete description of these waters, anglers should refer to pages 20-37 in the 2019 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.
“ADF&G staff understands the frustrations and tremendous impact closing this fishery down has on anglers, local businesses, and guides. Nonetheless, ADF&G has a duty to protect, maintain, and improve our sport fisheries, and even with these restrictions, we will likely not meet our escapement goals,” said Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey.
An additional sport fishing emergency order closes king salmon fishing and implements tackle restrictions in all waters of the Little Susitna River from its mouth upstream to the Parks Highway Bridge.
Commercial fishing for king salmon in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet will also be closed for the 2019 season (May 27, and June 3, 10, 17, and 24).