Two proposals on their way to the Alaska Board of Fish were up for discussion at a local meeting last week.
The proposals are aimed at protecting Chilkat king salmon. Adult kings are returning to the Chilkat River in alarmingly low numbers. Chinook returns are an issue throughout Southeast.
The Upper Lynn Canal Fish and Game Advisory Committee deliberated whether to support two Chilkat-specific regulation ideas.
One would shut down subsistence fishing in the Chilkat Inlet and river during much of the summer. Inlet fishing would be closed through July 15 and river fishing from July 15 to Aug. 1.
Fisheries managers imposed the most conservative subsistence restrictions in recent memory this past summer. But Fish and Game didn’t completely close subsistence fishing between 19 Mile and the Wells Bridge. This proposal would.
“That’s the area I want to shut down because that’s the bottleneck of the river,” said Will Prisciandaro, who brought the proposal forward. “It makes no sense that we keep open the narrowest part of the river, other than 7 mile, where every king salmon goes by.”
“That’s where Klukwan is,” another committee member replied.
“I don’t really care,” Prisciandaro said.
Even though subsistence fishermen aren’t targeting kings, they might pick up the vulnerable fish as bycatch.
The board debated the merits of limiting subsistence versus commercial fishing.
Some committee members said the proposal is too restrictive of subsistence fishing near Klukwan.
Another argument against the proposal is that it would take away Fish and Game’s flexibility in managing the area.
“I’m reluctant to tie the hands of the managers,” said Derek Poinsette. “With something that once it goes on the books, nobody has any control over it.”
Most of the committee members agreed with him. Only Prisciandaro and Ryan Cook voted to support the proposal.
The second Board of Fish proposal was less controversial. It would restrict subsistence net mesh sizes in the Chilkat Inlet and river before Aug. 1. Net openings would be limited to a maximum of five and three-eighths inches. The limit is intended to protect adult king salmon from getting caught in nets that are targeting sockeye or other, usually smaller, fish.
The committee unanimously voted to support the measure.
Their input will be included with those proposals when the Board of Fish meets in Sitka beginning Jan. 11.