It wasn't as scary as many predicted.
44 proposals out of 236 passed at the 2014 Board of Fisheries meeting. Overall, there was a slight emphasis on conservation with an eye on getting more salmon into the rivers of the Upper Cook Inlet. Because of this, many in the commercial fishing industry were not happy with the results. To me, this was a step in the right direction: long term viability for all user groups.
So, for readers of my blog, specific changes to the Kenai River sport fishery for 2014 are:
- increased the possession limit of sockeye from 3 to 6.
- Early Run slot limit for kings has been expanded to no retention between 42"-55".
- barbless hooks when the king fishery goes to catch and release.
- allow guided coho fishing from a guide boat on Labor Day.
On the commercial side of things, there were several changes that should help get more king salmon into the rivers. One particular rule that I like is if the late run of Kenai kings is projected to be less than 22,500, setnetters are to be restricted to either 2 deep nets or 3 shallow nets (normal fishing allows for 3 deep nets). It's been demonstrated that shallower nets catch less kings which will allow more kings to reach the river. If this change proves to be effective I could see the next Board of Fisheries adopting a proposal to make all setnets shallow regardless of the run projection.
Most days I listened to the live audio stream of the meeting. All I can say is my hat is off to the 7 members of the Board of Fish for a job well done. They endured a two week marathon of testimonials and discussions on some very complex issues. Did they get everything right? Probably not. But the beauty of this process is it can all be taken up again in three years.