Comm fish myths


kenai river view

On a Saturday when the Kenai River should have been awash in sockeye salmon and flooded with dipnetters, there weren’t many of either/Kenai city webcam

KENAI – As sockeye salmon trickled into the 49th state’s most fought-over river on Friday, video showed Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten meeting with angry commercial fishermen to try to appease them as to the reasons behind a fishing closure in Cook Inlet.


The only thing obvious from the meeting was that commercial fishermen harbor many misconceptions about Inlet fisheries. (See the five biggest myths below.)

When Cotten explained that the decision to close was “not a political decision. That’s a conservation decision,” he was shouted down by the fisherman who’d earlier asked about the politics behind the closure.

“Answer that question!” the man demanded to the cheers of the crowd packing the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association headquarters.

The answer was simple really. With so few sockeye entering the Kenai and offshore-test-fishery (OTF) numbers low, fishery managers had no choice but to shackle efficient, fish-killing operations until there was some sign of more sockeye in the Inlet.

In-river, the Friday sonar count of 16,043 sonar was the lowest in a decade for the July 27 date. And the total in-river count of 399,253 was the second lowest for sonar counts of fish that stretch back to 1979.

The only year lower was ’79 when sonar counting began and the estimate of fish escaping into the river was still being fine tuned. The sonar that year counted 388,215 sockeye by July 27 on the way to totaling a disastrous return of 412,719.

Scientists have concluded that at least 700,000 spawners are needed to adequately seed the river and the optimum level is above that. Even with closure of the Kenai sport fishery – which takes place upstream from the sonar – ’79 fell about 300,000 short of spawning needs.

The next lowest cumulative count for July 27 came in 1984 when only 443,900 sockeye – approximately 11 percent more than this year – made it in-river by Sept.27. That season again ended up being another biological disaster with a total, end-of-season return of only 481,470.

As commercial fishermen pointed out to Cotten and the governor, there have been years when the Kenai sockeye return skewed late and spawning goals were met despite weak early returns. Such was the case in 1991 and again in 1998, but even in the worst of those years – 1991 – the number of fish in-river by July 27 was 33 percent bigger than this year. 

The summer of 2018 is looking like a disaster, but there is one bright light. The best OTF number of the season in the Inlet came on Friday, offering some hope that more sockeye are still on their way toward the river, which could use days of big returns – 50,000 fish or more – to put a dent in the sockeye deficit at this point.

None of which is likely to calm commercial fishermen agitated by a bummer year and wrapped up in their own mythology of what is wrong. Here are their five biggest myths:

#1 – Science is the solution

“Scientific management” will solve the Inlet’s problems, commercial fishermen believe. It can’t, and it won’t.

The fishery is already managed with pretty good science, and better science won’t help much because the big issues in the Inlet don’t involve biology. They involve sociology and economics and there are no scientific formulas for resolving socio-economic issues.

Things might be different if the Inlet fishery existed solely to benefit the commercial fishing industry, but it doesn’t. The fishery is also called upon to provide fish for individual Alaskans (the “food security” in subsistence and personal-use fisheries) and fuel tourism, a key component in the Alaska economy of the 21st Century and one of the few components with real, short-term growth possibilities.

The commercial fishery is already overgrown. There are more commercial fishermen at work than the resource can support. The 451 drift gillnet permit holders who fished last year grossed an average of $15,711, according to the Alaska Commercial Fishery Entry Commission.  Only 59 fishermen made the high-liner group averaging $56,378 for the season, and the averages for 2017 were better than for the two previous years.

The story was worse for setnetters who averaged $9,162 in 2017 and $7,257 in 2016, according to CFEC numbers. Aside from 80 true professionals who average more than $57,000, most of the setnetters, like most of the drifters, have been forced by economic evolution into the role of hobbyists who demand fish that would otherwise help boost the more valuable tourism industry.

Commercial fishermen can, however, be thankful that scientific management carried them this far. The average commercial sockeye harvest in the Inlet from 1960 to 1975 was but 980,000 sockeye per year. From 1969 through 1975, it actually dropped to an annual average of 685,000, just above the 671,000 catch to date for this year. 

The 20-year average for the ’60s and ’70s combined was 1.2 million a year. Ever better state management and a warming environment boosted the catch to more than 3 million per year since with the peak coming at 4.4 million per year in the 1980s.

More than 80 percent of the increase went to commercial fishermen while the subsistence, personal-use and sport fishermen in Alaska who voted in limited entry to help out commercial fishermen got less than 20 percent. 

#2 – We were here first

Johnnie-come-lately dipnetters on Kenai beaches are destroying the fishery, commercial fishermen believe.

As one put it to the governor and Cotten, “I think that dipnet fishery is unlimited and unsustainable.”

Neither is true. The fishery is limited by a short, July 10 to July 31 season, and a limit of 25 fish per permit holder.  More than that, however, it is restricted by the limited stretches of river on which dipnetting is allowed.

Only so many dipnetters can dance on the sands of a little beach. Geographic and gear limitations make the fishery among the state’s most easily sustainable. At the end of the day, the dipnet fishery is limited by being an inefficient, intercept fishery that only catches significant numbers of fish when sockeye are flooding the river.

Dipnet harvests peaked in 2011 at 538,000 sockeye when just over 27,000 Alaska residents participated.  The catch that year was about 10 percent of the commercial harvest by about 1,000 commercial fishermen

A lot of dipnetters rushed to get in on the action when word got out that a huge number of sockeye were returning to the Kenai.

“The sockeye salmon harvest from the Upper Subdistrict set gillnet fishery on July 16, (2011) was more than 450,000 fish, which turned out to be a single day harvest record for this fishery,” Fish and Game later reported.

When news of a run of this magnitude leaked out, people who barely knew how to spell “dipnet,” found one and headed south from Anchorage to get in on the bounty. A significant number of them gave up on the dipnetting in subsequent years as they found out it can be a lot of work.

With 22,000 people fishing last year, the harvest was less than 300,000 fish, a season total 125,000 below that single, 12-hour commercial opening in 2011 and the equivalent of a couple good, 12-hour openings in the commercial fishery in normal conditions. This year’s harvest is expected to be even smaller, significantly smaller.

And commercial fishermen, not dipnetters, are the Johnnie-come-latelies.

The Dena’ina Athabascans fishing the Inlet when the first whites arrived used “weirs and v-shaped traps made of logs, basket traps of alders, drag nets of spruce root lines, spears, and (yes) dip nets,” Fish and Game’s James Fall wrote in a history of Inlet fishing.

The latter were sometimes used from platforms of poles called “tanik’edi” that were constructed over the inlet’s mud flats,” Fall writes. Weirs, log traps, basket traps, drag nets and spears were eventually outlawed, and even the dipnets disappeared for a time.

Gillnets, a modern version of an in-river dragnet, were for a time allowed for personal-use harvest of fish, but they were eliminated in the early 1950s at which time, Fall writes, “freshwater, snagging (with rod-and-real) became the primary harvest method for those living along the river….By 1973, snagging any part of the fish was made illegal. This rule greatly reduced the local meat fishermen’s ability to harvest fish for home use.”

The snagging ban was driven by uppity sport fishermen who didn’t think snagging “ethical.” Commercial fishermen, who’d driven the elimination of all the other personal-use fisheries, did not complain. They would soon be claiming themselves the first fishermen to have caught salmon in the Inlet.

#3 – Our fish

That so-called Alaska “limited entry permits” mean commercial fishermen are entitled to more fish than anyone else, many commercial fishermen believe.

It is a misconception.

Alaskans established limited entry – a cap on the number of fishermen allowed to participate in various Alaska fisheries – by amending the state Constitution in 1972 with salmon runs across the state seriously depressed.

The Constitution at that time made it clear that “no exclusive right or special privilege of fishery shall be created or authorized in the natural waters of the State.”

The amendment did not change that provision. It simply added that “this section does not restrict the power of the State to limit entry into any fishery for purposes of resource conservation, to prevent economic distress among fishermen and those dependent upon them for a livelihood and to promote the efficient development of aquaculture in the State.”

A limited entry permit wasn’t created as a right; it was added as privilege that could be granted by the state or taken away, much like a driver’s license. The permit entitles the holder to catch and sell fish, but it doesn’t entitle him or her to a single fish – no matter what some commercial fishermen might believe.

When the law was enacted, the state had too many fishermen chasing too few fish with the end result being that none of those fishermen could make enough money to truly make commercial fishing pay.

Cook Inlet is today where it was then. There are too many fishermen chasing too few fish to make the commercial fishery profitable for all of them. The dipnetters are only a scapegoat. The 297,049 sockeye they caught last year amounted to but 17 percent of the commercial harvest. 

Eliminating the dipnet fishery could conceivably have boosted the commercial fishing gross by $3,000 per fisherman, putting the average for setnetters at $12,162 and for drift netters at $18,711.

That’s not a living wage. That’s just the conversion of food in the freezers of thousands of Alaskans dipnet hobbyists to cash in the pockets of hundreds of drift and setnet hobbyists.

#4 – Too many fish

When commercial fishermen aren’t in a panic about dipnetters pirating fish, they are upset about what is called “over-escapement,” the arrival of too many fish on the spawning grounds.

One would think that if over-escapement is as big a problem as commercial fishermen like to believe it, they’d want dipnetters – who fish downstream from the in-river sonar counter – to catch a lot more fish to prevent over-escapement, but that’s a logic puzzle for another day.

The over-escapement debate is more easily resolved. There is actual science to settle this in the form of the Riker, Markov, Beverton-Holt and other stock models. You can read up on these and more in “A Fishery Managers Guidebook.”

Basically, all the formulas do the same thing. They provide an estimate for the number  of salmon in a stream that produces the best return per spawner or the highest salmon yield. The two aren’t always the same.

Because of the vagaries of math, you can get a best-return per spawner rate at a number below maximum yield, not to mention that maximum yield also carries a wide range of variation. Fishery managers, it might be noted, are these days warning against maximum sustained yield (MSY), the holy grail of Kenai commercial fishermen, for these and other reasons.

“The conventional objective of maximizing biological yields or economic returns often ignores the larger question of the ecological and social costs of maximization,” the manual notes. “A broader view of fishery objectives recognizes that a sustainable fishery exists only in the context of an ecosystem that supports it. Given that the social and ecological aspects of the fishery system make up one integrated whole, the manager has to keep in mind the overall health of this integrated social–ecological system,” notes the Manager’s Guidebook.

The state of Alaska’s 2005 escapement goal review for the also Kenai warned that establishing the scientifically best number for Kenai escapement is probably impossible because of all the concern about over-escapement.

“The lack of observations at high escapement levels means quite literally that both of these stock-recruit models are largely conjecture and fail to provide scientifically credible support for definition of a biological escapement goal for the
Kenai River stock of sockeye salmon,” state scientists wrote. 

Why are there a lack of observations at high escapement levels?

Because Cook Inlet commercial fishermen go nuts at the idea that a huge number of sockeye – anything upward of 1 to 1.3 million – will be allowed to escape their nets to make it into the river.

If commercial fishermen really wanted to settle the over-escapement debate and establish a scientifically credible MSY, they’d need to agree to stop fishing for a few years and plug the Kenai with sockeye to see what happens.

But even then the answer might not be clear. Biologists all agree there is a point at which escapement becomes a problem; it’s just a hard point to identify with precision.

#5 – Population growth

All those damn city folk are the problem, commercial fishermen believe.

And there is no doubt Alaska, and especially the state’s urban underbelly, has grown.

The Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the sprawling and still largely wild Matanuska- Susitna Borough to the north, is now home to an estimated 401,000 people. 

The Kenai Peninsula itself is over 58,000more than double the 1980 population and near 2 1/2 times the population at the time limited entry was enacted to fix the number of commercial fishermen.

About four out of every seven Alaskans now live in this region of the state. There is little denying this has led to increased competition for salmon, but it hasn’t increased nearly as much as the size of the resource has grown.

Personal-use and sport harvests of sockeye have grown by about 500,000 fish since limited entry. Commercial harvests have grown by about five times as much.

Commercial harvests historically at an average of 1.2 million per year in the 1960s and 1970s grew by 3.2 million sockeye to 4.4 million in the 1980s, shrunk back a little to 3.8 million total in the 1990s and 3 million in the 2000s.

The 2010s started off well with a harvest of more than 5 million but then began sputtering downward.

All told, that’s a benefit to the commercial fishery of more than 100 million sockeye since 1980. Sport and personal-use fishermen, the people who voted limited entry into place to help out commercial fishermen, split a far smaller increase, and most of that came years ago.

There is, at this time, no real indication of signficant increases due to population pressures on the resource. Society is changing. Fewer people fish. Personal-use permit numbers are down.

Alaska resident angler numbers appear to have plateaued. More tourists are coming north every year. Non-resident fishing license sales have long outnumbered those of residents, and the last time the non-resident fishing business was studied, individual harvests were small.

Still, commercial fishermen can work themselves into a frenzy about the number of fish boxes shipped south from Alaska by tourists. A large seafood box holds 35 pounds of salmon. The biggest harvests of sockeye by anglers on the Kenai River now push close to 500,000 fish.

If every one of those fish was caught by a tourist, and if they were all shipped south, 85,714 boxes would be required.

Commercial fishermen do not measure their catch by the box, but if they did, the industry would have needed 340,000 boxes for Cook Inlet sockeye alone last year based on the 12-million-pound catch, plus 216,000 boxes for pinks, 101,000 boxes for chums, 54,000 boxes for coho; and 5,000 boxes for Chinook.

All told, Cook Inlet’s total harvest of more than 25 million pounds of salmon would have required more than 718,000 boxes,. That’s somewhere around 400 miles of seafood boxes, or enough to stretch the length of the Seward Highway from Anchorage to Kenai and back again.

And though that is about 84 times the maximum possible tourist catch, which is in and of itself an unrealistic number, it’s fun to bash tourists.

47 replies »

  1. lots of numbers to consider and confuse…..what about the 10 million fish return in 1987 ? I never read that in this article. I remember that year , fish for everyone. One would think that the fish management would attempt to duplicate huge runs. Why keep the runs small?
    Maybe stock some big kings like back in the 50’s , get the monster kings back in the river. How about fertilizing Kenai Lake and Tustumena lake for some enormous salmon runs like Bristol Bay ?
    Much better results than fighting about it.

  2. Another “Myth” perpetuated by Medred and his ilk is that the commercial fishers “catch all the fish”, I have returned to the river mouth after a12 hour opening, that in reality was 8 hours or less, of fishing time(nets in the water) with less fish than the dipnetters, and that is with 600 feet of net in the water.
    The fact is, when there are fish running, everybody fishing catches fish. In slow years the commercial sport/ PU fishers continue to fish, while the majority of the commercial fleet waits and watches. It seems to me that the waiting for escapement numbers to increase should be shared equitably, across all user groups.

    • well, except if you’d been reading Mr. Granger, you’d know Medred (i don’t know about any ilk) has never perpetuated any idea that commercial fishermen “catch all the fish.” what you would find if you read is that what i have done is provide the data on what is caught. commercial fishermen usually catch most of the fish.

      and i, personally, don’t have a problem with that. it is, in my opinion, a good thing.

      so now, i have a question for you: what exactly would you consider “shared equitably numbers” in the situation we we have this year?

      in-river-wise the timing and numbers look a lot like 2006 when dipnetters caught fewer that 128,000 sockeye.

      in-river anglers actually did better that year. they got about 330,000 late-run sockeye.

      so figure a total harvest of 450,000 in 2006, but a lot of the in-river catch came after the fish arrived late on July 24.

      there were only 250,000 sockeye in-river before that. the in-river fishery is hugely density dependent. so one can figure at least two-thirds of the 2006 catch came after Aug. 1 when the in-river number swelled to over 1 million on the way to 2 million.

      given this, it’s safe to estimate the in-river catch this year, with the in-river fishery restricted to one-fish early and then closed, will come in at somewhere around 100,000 to 150,000. let’s say 150,000 for the sake of argument and give the PU fishery another 150,000. that’s 300,000 total.

      the commercial catch to date is 678,000. so there has been total catch of about 978,000 sockeye (though it will likely prove to be less than that once the dust settles) of which the commercial fishery has caught 69 percent, and the other two fisheries combined have caught 31 percent.

      so what do you think the breakdown should be? 80-20, maybe? 90-10?

      90-10 would have given you a catch of 880,000 this year. would that have made a big difference? or do you just want it all?

      if you got it all, that would have pushed the commercial catch to almost 1M. at $1.50 per pound and a 5-pound average, that’s about $7.5M for an average season gross of about $7,000 per permit holder.

      at 678,000 sockeye using the same numbers, you come in at an average gross of about $4,700. $7,000 – $4,600 = $2,400.

      so would you collapse the Kenai summer tourism business and deprive some average Alaskans of fish to make an extra $2,400?

  3. The following link is a video with sound of the recent meeting referred to in this article. It was held in the Cook Inlet Hatchery offices on the Kenai Peninsula. The meeting was between Gov Walker, Commissioner Cotten and a group of commercial fishers. I don’t believe that any sport or PU fishers were invited to attend. What is said by those in attendance is shocking. The hatred and falsehoods for the dip net fishery were on display for all present to hear. Fortunately someone recorded what was said and by whom so that now we can all understand how one sided our leaders are. What was said by the Governor and ADF&G Commissioner Cotten shows quite clearly their bias in favor of commercial fishing in the peninsula. If Walker gets re-elected, dip netting and angling on the Kenai will be restricted in huge ways. All to provide more fish to the commercial sector. And once again managing our fishery resource for the few instead of the many! Something has to change. Warning: you will come away very angry, sad, and embarrassed after listening to what was said.

    • Watched the whole video. Lots of free-association anger out there. They blame everyone else for their problems. If they get their way (and Cotten & Walker appear to be sympathetic): PU will disappear; they will drop the escapement in the Kenai to perhaps 300,000 fish upriver; they will be free to work on as many coho, chum & pink Inlet fish as they want to in August; and king escapement will be based on the whim of the commercial fleet.

      Granted that everyone is mad at everyone. In some worlds, that means you are working in the political sweet spot. Unfortunately, that is not this world, today, right now. If these clowns get their way, there won’t be any fish in the river or anywhere else in UCI. Cheers –

    • The “waiting for escapement numbers to increase should be shared equitably” if you’d been reading Mr. Medred … While this years management strategy allowed the commercial guides (commercial sport) and personal user groups to fish, in river, albeit restricted, along with the (commercial) beach, the halfmile, and the north K-beach ,(one tide), along with a couple restricted Drift openings. Most of the E.side setnetters watched and waited.
      You reported the collective harvest in the month of July, If the priority is to reach an in river BEG,in the Kenai river,
      all user groups should be watching and waiting, until that number is reached , then everybody gets an opportunity to fish a “normal” schedule.
      You say “The commercial fishery is already overgrown …There are more commercial fishermen at work than the resource can support.” The participation numbers related to commercial fishing have not changed much in the last 30 years, what has changed are the numbers related to sport, commercial sport, and personal use. And so we have the rancorous allocation nightmare that is upper Cook Inlet fishing. If the commercial fisheries went away as many would like, the system would most likely return to the natural order, and in years of big returns and probable over escapement, the carrying capacity of the systems would be exceeded and survival rates would drop, and returns would follow the natural sine curve of boom and crash.
      But go ahead and blither about your data, you do it well. its entertaining , and interesting, in some respects.

      • OK, A.D. how about we do some math here. the pre-season UCI forecast looked like this:

        Total Run 4.6 million
        Escapement 2.0 million
        UCI Commercial Harvest 1.9 million
        Other UCI Harvests 0.7 million

        so the way things started, 43 percent of the run was going to ensure we all have sockeye to catch in the future, 41 percent was going to the commercial harvest, and 15 percent was going to those other users.

        mid-season, primarily to help out the commercial harvest, ADF&G reduced the escapement allocation. we don’t know by how much exactly yet, but it looks like it will be down about .5 million. The commercial catch (rounding numbers here) was .7 million and the other user catch looks like it will come in (when the numbers are all done) at about .3 million.

        using these numbers, we can calculate a return of about 2.5 million. (1.5M E + .7M C + .3M O = 2.5M. )

        of that 60 percent went to escapement, 28 percent went to the commercial fishery; and 12 percent went to other users.

        escapement went down about 25 percent (1.5M/2.0M). commercial fishermen lost about 63 percent (.7M/1.9M) of their projected harvest. the other users lost about 57 percent (.3M/.7M) of their projected harvest. by that measure it would seem the burden of conservation was shared failry equally by the dipnetters and sports.

        but lets look at this head to head:

        before the season began, the forecast was for a relatively weak sockeye return (weak, but not the disaster we got) with a total harvest of 2.6 million (1.9M + .07M) of which commercial fishermen were to get 73 percent (1.9M/2.6M) and other users the remaining 27 percent.

        in the end, we appear to have had a harvest of about 1 million – .7 million commercial + .15 dipnet +.15 sport, although the latter numbers are still estimates and are likely to be too high. a 2006 dipnet season similar to this one with low, daily, in-river, for instances, resulted in a catch of less than .13M.

        given that the City of Kenai is reporting business was down about a third on the north beach where it’s fee to park program is, usually, the only city business generating a profit, and where daily catches were never great, it’s reasonable to assume something close to that 2006 number.

        so, with the best estimates we have, the commercial fishery got about 70 percent of the sockeye and the other fisheries about 30 percent. but since i rounded up to get that 70 percent. (actual commercial catch = 677,817) let’s error on side of the commercial fishery and put the split at 69-31..

        some folks at ADF&G expect the dipnet/sport harvest to come in below 300,000 given that both the sport and dipnet fisheries are extremely density dependent, ie. if the river is plugged with fish, they catch a lot. if there’s not many in the river, their catch plummets.

        there weren’t many sockeye in the river for most of the season, and there still aren’t. we might actually miss the minimum escapement.

        but let’s ignore this thing for the moment and go with that 69 percent commercial – 31 percent everybody else split, even if it’s possible the numbers shift a little more in favor of the commercial fishery when all the numbers are. they won’t, however, change the fundamental question or questions to be asked?

        what should be the percentage split be?

        is the present 70 commercial/30 other wrong? if so, what should the commercial percentage be? 80 percent? 90 percent?

        if it should be higher on the commercial side, who should give up the fish? the dipnet fishery or the the sport fishery which now, in large part, supports a thriving Sterling/Soldotna/Kenai tourism business?

        if the run is weak, as it was this year, should the entire burden of conservation be shifted to the dipnet and sport fisheries, ie. should dipnetters and anglers be, as you put it, required to “watch and wait” whenever the escapement counter lags behind the projected daily in-river return to meet escapement?

        Fish and Game data would indicate that would have taken them all out of the water on or about July 14 of this year, and kept them on the beach for the year. nobody knows what they’re catch was at that data, but it’s unlikely to have been more than 50,000. but since commercial fishermen seem to believe the dipnet/sport fishery is an efficient, fish-catching machine, even though its not, let’s double that and say they caught 100,000.

        in that scenario, 90 percent of the fish would have gone to the commercial sector and 10 percent to the other sectors, and your catch would have been 47 percent of the forecast (.9M/1.9M) instead of 37 percent of the forecast. at $1.50 per pound on average for an 5-pound sockeye on average, the commercial fleet would have made another $1.5 M.

        split 1,100 ways among permit holders, that’s $1,363 per permit holder.

        so here’s another question:

        since those sockeye are a big component of the tourism business on the Kenai which is now a big component of the economy as a whole, would you decimate that business for about the value of another Permanent Fund Dividend to put in your pocket?

        or, better question, if you were the one making the political decisions on salmon allocation, is that what you would do?

  4. With this horrible management there won’t be any fishery left in the kenai river, the dippers and sporties shooting themselves in the foot. Over escaping the river for 15 years straight obviously will decline the returns because the little smolt can’t survive with not enough food. Biologists tried explaining this but obviously politics overruled and looks like everyone’s on Bob Penney’s pay roll. (Need to hire P.I. to look into this corruption) And if the escapement is doing so bad why are dippers allowed to fish 17 hours a day everyday for 30 days straight? Wow, what a biased article. I guess 400 sport boats slaughtering fish right in the river is acceptable not to mention the thousands people on the shore. Polluting and abusing our precious river. Board of fisheries sides with sporties everytime ignoring biologists. Look at Bristol Bay, no politics, no dippers no non-informed gullible sporties shouting nonsense nonstop. Their biologist are doing there job and they’re getting historic returns for a few years straight. Looks like the agenda out here on the kenai is to eliminate commercial fisherman completely even if it means destroying the cook inlet runs. 3 million sockeye in the kenai river every year is not healthy because this river can’t sustain that. They start counting July 1st and stop counting when it’s way over escaped. Total politics and corruption. In cooper river if commercial fleet is not fishing nobody else is, its either everyone or no one. If we all worked together we’d all have great opportunities to harvest a lot of fish. They rudely call commercial fishermen “commies” when in reality they’re the real communists. Sad to see this fishery fishery dying off to political agendas.

    • 3 million sockeye in the Kenai River, really? here are the last 10 years: 1.3M, 1.4, 1.7, 1.5, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.3, 1.1, 0.9

      deduct the in-river harvest (it happens upstream from sonar) and you’re looking at actual escapements in the range of 1.2 to 0.7. the bios say the optimum is probably about 1.3M.

      so we’re actually slightly under-escaping the river.

      though you’re posting here as if you were a commercial fishermen, i have to wonder if you’re not just some troll trying to make commercial fishermen look stupid.

      • I’m I reading a Craig Medred comment correctly implying that UCI commercial fishermen need assistance is looking Dumb?

      • Wow…. medred lol you’re the guy who’s got the bicycle helmet strapped to your chin in your profile pic, go grab your crayons and color your padded walls in your room…..retard. Did I exaggerate about the 3 million fish? Yes maybe I did a little. In ’04, ’05, and ’06 the counts were all at the 2 million count mark or close, that’s not counting early season runs and the fish that went up the river after they stop counting. You really think it’s healthy when 250k fish go into the river in a day? Imagine them trying to spawn all at once. And if the optimal escapement is 1.3 million why is the average over the years so much higher? As for in-river harvests I highly doubt that anglers catch 1-2 hundred thousand reds each year. Sockeye are not known to be aggressive strikers towards lures unlike kings and cohos. They eat algae and plankton more. It seems like the dippers are not satisfied unless they’re getting 4-5 fish in their dip net on every short “dip.” If they’re not getting that much they’re screaming bloody murder at the “commies.” As for having the governor and Sam cotten in our pockets, are you guys serious? When did we get something in our favor? Either we’re completely shut down or restricted in pathetic little “sections” and boundaries even if the OTF indexes and escapements are good while there’s 400+ sport boats slaughtering fish in the river right in the gauntlet. (Counted that much one of the days this year with drone footage) 17 hours a day for 30 days straight, no restrictions except for the harvest limit. What about all the charters for hire taking dippers out? How is that legal? What do they file their income on their taxes under? Guides? Commercial fishermen? Do they have charter licenses? Do they check harvest papers and residency? Somehow all of this is overlooked with minimal enforcement. As for people saying commercial drifters are mostly guys out of state and don’t support local economies is a bunch of lies. A huge percentage are residents who live here year round many of them young families who invested a lot of money trying to get up on their feet but constantly get shot down by these sporties and dippers and their dirty politics. The interesting thing is we could all work together to come up with a good practical management plan for all of us but the greed and false facts don’t wanna allow that. Dunleavy got 2 generous donations for campaign funding recently, 1 from his brother who lives out of state, and 1 from Bob Penney, who happens to be a member of KSFA. The amount? $550,000. From 2 guys. Coruptous agendas are being executed….. but what do I know I’m just a stupid commercial UCI fisherman right? How do u people live yourselves?

      • now, i know this can’t be from a commercial fisherman. they’re not this badly misinformed.

        where to begin, given there are actual facts available here.

        first off, a 50 percent overage isn’t an exaggeration. it’s a lie, plain and simple.

        but yes, there were in-river returns around 2 million more than a decade ago. in-river harvests were also around 300,000. so the escapement was around 1.7. those escapements produced healthy returns in a range of 2.8 to 5.3M, which puts the average for those years in the upper tier for the long term average back to 1954.

        so what exactly is your point?

        the early season run is all counted because it all goes to the Russian River where there is a weir. the early run has actually been counted longer than the late-run. and there are very few sockeye going up the river after Aug. 20 so it really makes no difference as to whether the sonar is on or off.

        it makes even less difference how many of them enter the river in a single day. they disperse long before they get onto the spawning beds. they don’t actually try “to spawn all at once.” they’re like teenagers going to a very crowded club looking for a hook up. they spend some time milling around together before they pair up and sneak away from the group.

        the in-river count is higher than the optimal escapement because the sport fish come out of the in-river count. you are right that they don’t catch 100,000 to 200,000 reds. the number is 300,000 to 450,000 – – and commercial fishermen usually claim that is under-reported. so maybe they’re catching 500,000 or more some years.

        adult sockeye feed on sandlance, squid, young cod, various young decapods (primarily crab larva), euphausiids (krill), and more. to my knowledge there are no marine maturing sockeye known to be surviving on algae.

        sockeye are not usually aggressive strikers except when on spawning beds because they, like other salmon, do not eat in freshwater. coho are often unaggressive as well. that doesn’t mean they can’t be enticed into biting or snagged in the mouth, which is lot of what seems to go on in the Kenai.

        i’ve never witnessed a dipnetter catching 4 or 5 sockeye at once or heard of such a thing or met anyone who expected it. five big Kenai sockeye would probably be more than most of them could drag out of the water.

        “no restrictions except for the harvest limit” is a wonderful contradiction in terms. there would be no problem with the commercial fishery fishing with “no restrictions except for the harvest limit.” put in a BOF proposal for a harvest limit of 100 sockeye per day and you can fish every day, too.

        the issue here is with harvest impacts. they aren’t measured in fishing time. they’re measured in dead fish. i’m sure ADF&G would be happy to let you soak your net as long as you want in the Kenai pool. as long as it’s not catching anything, like most of those guided fishermen, it’s meaningless.

        Kenai guides are required to be licensed. they have to jump through a bunch of paperwork. why don’t you apply for a guide license, jump through the hoops, and you can get all those questions answered:

        as to how much enforcement is going on there, i don’t know, which would seem to indicate i know about as much about that as you know, which is nothing.

        most drifters do appear to be Alaska residents, but your case isn’t helped by the likes of Roland Maw. how many others there are like him, who knows. and if some young family truly invested in trying to get into the Cook Inlet commercial fishing business, i feel sorry for them the same way i’d feel sorry for some young family in Anchorage investing in getting into the movie rental business.

        some investments are obviously bad investments. you shouldn’t make them. i feel sorry for all the people who ignore reality and make bad investments.

        and now, please tell me when the OTF and the escapements were good this year? i know the escapements were never good. i never saw an OTF that was good either. but maybe i don’t know how to read it. good to me has always been triple digits. when did we hit that?

        OK, a 91 on July 17 with only four stations fished. that wasn’t bad. not great. not really all that good, but not bad. and the July 8 number of 69 on only two stations could have been pretty good. ADF&G let the drift fleet go on the 12th and you mopped up nearly all those fish which is why the escapement stayed so low.

        you asked, “when did we get something in our favor?” well, you got it there. another 155,000 fish in-river now would make that escapement number look a whole lot better instead of hoping the OTF of 108three days ago brings a slug of fish,, because the 31/10/23 run in the three days before that doesn’t much better than the 11/16 in the two days after.

        now, stop with the whining. suck it up and be a man. the problem here ain’t the dipnetters or the anglers or anyone else. you’re not fishing because the sockeye didn’t come back this year. it’s that simple. it happens. they’re fish. instead of demanding more fishing time you should be praying escapement is met so you don’t get another disaster on down the road.

        500,000 or 600,000 spawners at a return per spawner of 4 is a 2 to 2.4M return and we’re sort of right back in this same spot 5 years from now. but if some of the scientists are right about the competitive advantage of pinks at sea, we might be right back here again in the future anyway.

      • I’m talking about the last 15+ years and how horrible the management has been, even with huge returns and crazy indexes and crazy escapements we would always be restricted and closed down. And no matter what after Aug 15th we’re closed on the east side. Doesn’t matter how much fish there is we’re closed “per managment plan,” how does this make any sense? What if the run is late? If the inlet was managed properly, like bristol bay, we would get way bigger returns and everyone would be satisfied. But instead these pathetic liberals, like you, twist words, lie, manipulate, and corrupt the whole system in their own favor. Let’s flip the tables, put all commercial fisherman on board of fish make all new regulations and heavily restrict PU and sporties, and then say suck it man, be a man. Yeah….. every single cry baby libtard would be there crying and screaming. But if it’s commercial fisherman, just suck it up. Arguing with you is like arguing with a CNN reporter you twist the words, play dumb and refuse to look at it with an open mind, biased liberal journalists. As for all the residents, you’re really gonna compare them all to Roland Maw? I personally know many, many, many families that fish here and live here. Bad investment? UCIDA is fighting really hard for fair managment and there was hope but again we get the short end of the stick. And if PU and sport and commercial was closed this year escapement would be up there, but no. Oh, they did close it, ONE day earlier, what a joke. That was done in order to shut us down for the rest of the season cuz our restrictions were gonna be lifted after Aug 1st unless PU was closed via emergency order, so they closed it one day early. Again politics and corruption. So go ahead twist my words and pretend to be smart and knowledgeable.

      • Jonah: not to be unkind here, because i understand how irrational people can get when business is bad and people are worried about surviving. i grew up worrying about surviving. we lived largely a subsistence lifestyle before anyone put a word on it.

        but do you realize how goddamn stupid you look talking about how anyone should be fishing in the Inlet with an in-river count of 435,000 sockeye in the Kenai and an OTF of nine – yes, 9 – at the end of August? you should be thankful ADF&G has you on the beach instead of letting you motor around the Inlet burning up gas and losing money trying to find fish.

        and stupid applies doubly to anyone who even injects Bristol Bay into a discussion about Cook Inlet. get out a map. take a look at the huge lakes out west. sockeye rear in lakes. if you add up the size of all the sockeye rearing lakes on the Kenai Peninsula, the west side of the Inlet and in the Susitna drainage, they don’t amount to half the area of Iliamna Lake alone. and it’s just one of the big lakes in the Bay.

        now, i understand it offends you when other people are fishing, and you’re not. just at it offends dipnetters when you’re hauling in hundreds of fish per set, and they’re standing in the cold water not even getting a bump. but let’s not deal in our childish emotions here. let’s try using our brains.

        closing the sport and PU earlier, might have put another 100,000 fish in the river. maybe. both of those fisheries are hugely density dependent; if the run is weak, their catch rates fall sharply. their catch rates will not be very good this year. it would be shocking if they caught anything close to what the commercial fishery has already killed.

        be thankful your fishery got those 678,000 sockeye.

        the run is a disaster. it’s that simple.

        you didn’t get the short end of the stick. you actually got the long end. the sensible economic thing to do would have been to close the commercial fishery earlier and keep the other fisheries open because it was clear from the early OTF numbers there weren’t many sockeye, and there were never going to be enough fish to make the commercial fishery profitable this season.

        but there might have been enough to keep the sport fishery hopping which brings all those people to Soldotna and Kenai to spend their money in the businesses there.

        unlike you, i have no skin in this game, and that makes it easier to rationally look at the statewide economics. it’s pretty clear from those that more revenue flows into Alaska from people flying here to catch their own fish than from a few Alaskans catching fish and flying those Outside. i know you hate to hear that, but it’s an economic reality.

        i feel sorry for your circumstances. i hate to see people out of work who could be working. but mainly i feel sorry for you because you don’t seem to understand the situation sockeye are in this year in the Inlet or the economic realities of the modern world. we live in a time when you can make a lot more money off a pound of salmon by selling someone the opportunity to catch it than by killing it and shipping it south to enter a market now owned by fish farmers.

        those fish farmers are the marine equivalent of Tyson Foods. you’re some guy chasing chickens around in the yard hoping you can catch a few and sell them to some high-minded libtard you hope will pay you a little extra money for free-range poultry. most of them won’t. a chicken is a chicken.

        you shouldn’t be bashing libtards; you should be signing their praises. they are the demographic that contains most of the folk who might pay a little extra for a “wild” Alaska salmon. i’m far to conservative. i look at the price for wild fish and just think, “are you kidding me?”

        and lower 48 conservative are more likely to go for the Norwegian farmed fish because the fish are fresh, and they like how Norway understands business and created a big one out of nothing with aquaculture.

        now, and most of all, you should be thankful the commercial fishery has been restricted for the last 15 years as you should be thankful it was restricted for the previous 15. if it weren’t restricted, commercial fishermen would have fished themselves out of business long ago.

        the attitudes you reflect here are exactly what Commissioner of Fish and Game Andy Anderson warned against when he told his biologists back in the early days of Statehood that:

        “Gentlemen, the governor has instructed me to return the salmon runs to their former abundance regardless of the pain that is inflicted on the people. I’m charging each one of you to make sure every stream in your district is filled to the maximum spawning capability. Now, if you allow an over-escapement, depriving the fishermen of their livelihood, you can expect to be criticized. But on a personal level, gentlemen, I want you to understand that if you allow an under-escapement, you can expect to be fired.”

        i was glad to see Sam Cotten at least underline that old idea that the most important thing to do in a situation like this is get the spawners in the river.

    • I’m a little bit skeptical that 5,555 reds are caught each and everyday for 90 straight days above the counter on the Kenai.

  5. As somebody that has lived (in a previous life)before the mast for 23 yrs in the seattle halibut schooner fleet.Ive watched over the decades of the slow decline of sockeye fishery.
    I remember in ’87 on the schooner FV Eclipse after 6 months of straight blackcod/halibut fishing from a pirated trip full boat (76,000lb) delivered to sitka in january,to finishing up the aleutians,gulf openings in june or july.
    In fact in the summer or fall gulf opening we had 2 ADN reporters on board(schooners by there rolly nature are not for the timid).But I digress, after months at sea, fat wallets and tied up in Homer for a layup,i remember somebody at the dock offering $200 flat day rate to pick web.I dont remember what $/lb sockey went for in those days, but I’m sure it was decent.
    All the fisheries Im aware of pay a % of gross, regardless that barely paid my bar tab back in the day.So I declined naturally,fast forward 2 yrs and I think I had just gotten off the Bergen for some summer fun.My buddy who fishes on the south end of Kodiak needed a hand stacking seine web on his boat as his wife wanted a break for an opening or so.
    I remember sockey being $2/lb,made $2k for a week opening, to me it was chump change, but something to do, compared to what I was used to I thought seining was boring.
    Fast forward to the early mid 2k’s and the next to last time I was commercial fishing I was fishing with my bud again, this time set netting in Alitak Bay.
    I dont remember exactly $/lb but I would say 1.50-1.70,the Inlet of course was higher(I assume logistics).Was paid a princely % rate,on 75k lbs of sockey that we picked by ourselves, but wasn’t nearly enough to live on for the year.
    And thats what Inlet fisherman dont,heck maybe a lot of statewide salmon fisherman dont understand.Outside of a recent quality bonus for BB,the trend is down for price of salmon(copper river not withstanding, but its the Bay thats sets the trend).
    Craig,hats off to trying to connect the dots with basically the future of MOST salmon fisheries.Lets say for arguments sake that theres 10k salmon limited entry permits issued by the state.
    Thats maybe 9k boats,9k main engines,9k hydraulic systems, electrical,thousands of deckhands, tenders,maintanance on all this.
    And you think that couldn’t be replaced by salmon farming(onshore or off) or trap fishing?
    Upper Cook Inlet is a mess,and there really is no easy answer, just a lot of pain.Hook and Line fishing has its own problems/ups and downs, but for 20 yrs was a mostly steady rise.
    You cant say that about salmon,buckleupand put on your hardhats


  6. Craig, I am a second generation setnetter on the West side of Cook Inlet. Our annual take is right in the ballpark of your cited CFEC average setnet numbers. We sell all of our salmon to locals in our hometown of Talkeetna, who are all Alaskans who appreciate the resource and would rather buy from me directly as opposed to the time and money expense of joining the dipnet or angling crowd. Their appreciation is expressed sincerely and often. I’ll bet that they wouldn’t be too excited about this “hobbyist” giving up to boost tourism dollars.

  7. The fish belong to everyone and should be allocated for the best benefit to society. In Cook Inlet that is the sport fishery which produces 10 times as much value to the economy as commercial fishing does. We have over falf of the states population in Cook Inlet. By the numbers the comm. guys aren’t earning a decent living because there are to many of them and we are losing lots of tourist dollars because of the poor fishing i.e. no King Salmon etc. By statement the fish and game manage all of Cook Ilet in the month of July for the Kenai red run. They take many of the silvers and reds bound for nothern Cook Inlet thereby hurting those sport fisheries. If the comm boys would back shorter nets thereby allowing more king to pass and quit fishing as soon as they catch as many silver as reds this would help. But they want every fish. Take the permits back as they were issued for free, give them another permit in another part of the state, or buy them back for a fair price but make Cook Inlet a sport fishery. One other concept no one mentions is the psychology benefit to society of the hours people while away by fishing.

  8. Obviously Medred is anti commercial fisherman and always has been! The fish are the most important thing here not the tourist or those who take them fishing (guides) as they are also a type of commercial fisherman although many are no residents and hide under the disguise as sportsfishermen!

    • actually, Medred is pro-Alaska, Gary. he thinks the state should get the maximum value out of all its resources from oil to, yes, fish.

      sometimes in some places the money is in catching them in the commercial fishery; sometimes in some places the money is in using them to entice tourists.

      but, of course, the fish always come first. be nice if all commercial fishermen understood that.

    • There is a signifigant portion of the commercial fleet that is non-resident similar to the sport guides and their clients who are non-resident. My interpretation is that Alaska’s constitutional obligation puts sustainable yeild first, then local resident subsistence use, then resident personal use, then commercial & sport use…. the current management approach has effectively put commercial interests above all else. I can’t find a way to explain in river escapement goals not being met while commercial harvest is much larger this late in a season. Hind sight is 20/20 of course but it seems that the openers for set nets 7/21-7/23 and drift 7/23 should not have happened.

  9. Welcome to the Alaskan Socialist Republic of the “New World Order”…
    The only thing to stop Cotton and Walker from sending 100 percent of our commercial catch to China will be a big fat lawsuit for breech of state constitution.

    • Pardon me, but that is a rather idiotic statement. Once a fish is landed legally, what happens to it afterwards is moot. Let’s start with Billy Bob sending his Kenai dipping off to grand pappy in Boobingia, GA, after processing: there is nothing WRONG with that as long as Bill has conformed to the law. Is that ‘right’, though? Please tell me what’s the dif if Trident sends their (lower value) salmon to China to add value? Trident Salmon Burgers, yum! I buy them at COSTCO, an American company. You are so far off the rez with your comment. If you have any awareness at all about the commercial salmon market you wouldn’t make such a silly statement. Rubbish, I say.

      • Well Monk,
        It would be a true “free market” if Alaskans could buy Salmon for same price as China , say 1.99 a pound for Reds…I would quit driving across the state and paying for the services which allow me to net a few fish for the family.
        But with WTO trade laws in place, China gets 1/3 of catch, there are closures in all my local creeks and I am forced to pay 9.99 a pound at the market.
        This is bullshit!

  10. Now, if Walker and Cotten would have been in front of the Kenai National Dipnetters Assoc. they would have been yelled at, too but for different reasons.

    As James M. has pointed out, it appears that SOMEONE set fire to the cops. Maybe they read one of Medred’s previous essays. Let’s call it – myth #6.

    If one really wants to see egregious misuse of a dip fishery, wander into China Poot some July.

  11. Hi Greg, I can tell you how the sport fishing industry, at least on the Kenai, is playing out on the central coast of California, which for reference purposes is very conservative.
    My wife’s cousin, a catholic priest turned 80 and there was a big party at the church. I was talking with my best friend from high school who is a deacon at the church when this guy interrupted. The 50’s something guy is running for re-election to the city council and wanted my friends endorsement, which he politely decline.
    The conversation quickly turned to Alaska, and this fellow said he was headed to Alaska, to visit a friend who lives in Soldotna, and is a fishing guide on the Kenai, and that they were going to do some salmon fishing. I didn’t mean to play the spoiler, but I told the fellow that the fishing isn’t going well and that he might have better success out of Homer and Seward.
    The fellow said his friend has been in Alaska 9 years a knew what he was talking about. I casually mentioned I was going on 39 years and somewhat acquainted with the salmon fisheries in south central Alaska. He said no, this is the Kenai River. And that’s how that conversation ended, but I think he was bummed at not scoring the very popular deacons endorsement.
    So is there really restrictions at the moment, as he’s up there as I write this, I haven’t checked, and are the two sides feuding again, and if this is true why would a sport guide shoot their industry in the foot?

  12. One thing you forgot to mention. The 1979 escapement may have only been 412,000 but it returned in 1983 5,000,000 harvest. The same was true of the 1984 escapement of just 481,000 had a return of 6,000,000 harvest. And if I remember right our largest salmon run ever in 1987 was from an escapement of 600,000. Your really good at twisting numbers around to suit your point of view.

    • actually, Jim, you remember wrong. “The highest estimate of recruits
      (about 9.5 million sockeye salmon) from any escapement in the entire data set of 31 brood year recruits came from the 1987 escapement of about 1.3 million fish.”

      furthermore, if you actually go read the research that has been done instead of trusting your memory (memory is hugely selective and unreliable), you will also find this:

      “The classic Ricker and brood-interaction main effects term only models had
      similar MSY escapement levels (about 1.3 million), whereas the autoregressive Ricker had a
      very high MSY escapement level (6.3 million).”

      what would happen with a 6.3M escapement is unknown, because we’ve never gotten that close. the study concluded that “the escapement level expected to produce
      maximum sustained yield is about 1.3 million fish (Table 4). Harvestable surplus expected with
      a range of escapements from 500,000-800,000 is considerably less according to a typical Ricker
      approach to analysis.”

      a 1.3M escapement would be about 1.7M fish past the sonar to account for the in-river harvest. we’re not going to come anywhere close to that. the hope is for that 700,000 minimum after harvest.

      700,000 would be right down there in the “harvestable surplus…considerably less” zone. but we could get luck without of the box ocean survival – say the 16-to-1 return of ’82. that’s a big gamble, however, give that the data set indicates we’re five times more likely to get a return of under 4 to 1 than over 12 to 1.

      in fact, we’re far more likely to get a return of under 4 to 1 than over 8 to 1. so the reasonable thing to do would be to work somewhere within that range except that ocean survival has been trending downward in recent years.

      so maybe we should figure on a rate of 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 coming back on this to be safe.

      4 X 700,000 = 2.8M 5 X 700,000 = 3.5M

      figure 1.3M in-river to provide an actual spawning escapement of 1M after a sport harvest of 300,000 or so, and you’re looking at a commercial harvest of 1.5 to 2.2M off the return. that’s better than this year, of course, and in the range of 2017.

      i don’t remember anyone being particularly happy with that harvest, but if that’s what you want…

  13. Why isn’t there a hatchery on the lower Kenai to supplement the wild population? I know there is one over by Moose Pass. Do they stock Kenai Lake?

    • basically because hatcheries cost money and can’t begin to produce at the level the Kenai can naturally. there are hatchery fish added to the Kenai system at Hidden Lake. the project has been failing the last few years while the Russian Lakes, a natural system, have been producing bounties.

      hatcheries have been called a fool’s bargain by a some scientists, but hatcheries are good for creating new fisheries where there are no fisheries or only marginal ones. what they then do to natural systems is a big question.

      there’s a study out now saying that when the number of hatchery fish produced in Prince William Sound goes up, the number of sockeye salmon making it back to the Copper River goes down. and there are reasons to wonder if the poor show of sockeye in Cook Inlet these days isn’t also linked to those PWS hatchery fish.

      • Craig,
        I am not an advocate for more hatcheries, but I will argue that the state has no problem in “Subsidizing” them at 10 Million a pop….plus free land, federal grants and STATE small business and rural development loans as well.
        “Fisheries Enhancement Revolving Loan Fund – 119 loans with $62,486,200 in outstanding principal balance for an average loan of $525,100. The five-year average of the ex-vessel value of hatchery-reared salmon to commercial harvesters is $131 million.”
        The problem is with a total of $156 Million “Invested” in the current fish ranching paradigm and ALL those commies with debt to the state…..
        There is little to NO incentive to fund personal use and sport fishery “enhancement…
        Hence we have the 25 to 2 ratio on comm fish hatchery to sport?

      • Craig,
        Your mantra, is starting to sound like a broken record:
        Blame it on the hatcheries, pink salmon, comm fish loans, Walker, Cotten etc.
        You think Mike D. will do any better? He will give the oil companies anything they want, not saying there is much left anyway.
        The State of Alaska, through its legislators and the public, over the 4 decades, have spent all that oil money on useless projects, pork and other crap. Now, we are spending the last of our reserves, our credit rating has decreased and there are no quick fixes or new sources of revenue on the horizon.
        Quit the whining, it does not help.

      • “useless projects, pork and other crap?” where did that money for hatcheries and comm. fish loans come from?

        i have nothing against loans for any small businesses, though they should be structured so as to encourage the recipients to stay in Alaska. and i’m not sure the hatcheries are to blame for what is now happening to Chinook, coho and sockeye salmon. but there is enough evidence there that any reasonable man would be wanting a thorough investigation.

        it might well be the EVOS study was right and hatchery production in PWS should be limited to production of 30M or fewer humpies per year to protect Copper River red salmon stocks.

        Walker and Cotten? they’re politicians. i like them both. but i don’t think i’ve ever met a pol i didn’t like. being personable is their stock in trade. but you can’t trust them; they’re always maneuvering toward whatever position will get them the most votes. and you certainly can’t count on them to lead very often because they’re always maneuvering toward whatever position will get them the most votes.

        Walker would appear to have locked down the commercial fish vote, and those are reliable voters. they’ve got skin in the game. i wonder how many who would never qualify for the PFD maintain their voter registration here for that very reason.

        they are one-issue voters who will show up at the polls with their wives, kids and any friends they can lasso in tow. limited entry created a vested-interest voting block. Alaskans weren’t thinking about the politics of it when they voted to change the constitution. they were thinking with their hearts about helping Alaska fishermen in trouble.

        the results? we might have shot ourselves in the foot. the state loses money on commercial fisheries, and there’s a interesting argument to be made these days as to which is worse: fish farming or fish ranching. but with the former looking to move on shore, use recirculated and filtered water and move increasingly to plant-based feed, that debate might resolve itself rather quickly.

        Alaska needs a major rethink on how it uses its salmon resource, but that ain’t going to happen. see “vested-interest voting block.”

    • Even with the reduced number of dippers that’s a whole lot of people getting caught doing nothing wrong, other than filling their freezers and others freezers…

    • i don’t know if i’d go that far – the “thank goodness part” – but it is nice to see AWT putting the fear of God in some dipnetters and more than covering costs with that flurry of tickets.

      it would be nice to see this happen more often, but when the commercial fishery is in full swing it makes little sense. there are a lot of days when the dipnet fishery catches only a few thousand fish or less.

      i’ve personally watched that fishery when the catch rate had to be 30 fish per hour or less based on the few 10 minutes increments i timed during the day. it was too damn boring to constantly monitor it. the fishing was just awful.

      17 hours X 30 fish per hour is 510 fish. a couple of drifters can catch more than that in one opening on a decent day. the fishing power sort of dictates where AWT needs to focus its effort most times.

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