By Patrice Kohl
For the Redoubt Reporter
Urged to do more with less, salmon fishermen are buckling down. Like Americans that once rationed sugar and butter to support war efforts, fishermen are pulling nets and lures from the water to support conservation efforts. As of Monday, the late run of Kenai River king salmon looked like it might be headed for a fourth consecutive year of weak returns, following an already weak early run in June that included several restrictions on fishing.
At a Monday morning rally, sport anglers and fishing guides said they were particularly cognizant of the need for all fishing groups, including their own, to make sacrifices to allow adequate king salmon spawning.
“We’re going to err on the side of conservation in years of low abundance. And we’ll live with that, and that’s how it is,” said Kenai River Guide Association President Dave Goggia in a speech at the rally.
Long-term king fishery declines prompted more than 50 fishermen — mostly sport and guides — to gather outside the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. They asked that the department do more to protect the king fishery, whether through improved data-gathering or stronger restrictions.
While many of the fishermen questioned whether department restrictions fairly distributed the burden of conservation among fisheries groups, anger over allocation issues was tempered with a deeper concern for the well-being of the fishery.
“I hate to see king salmon fishing, which is so great here, start to dwindle,” said Rick Beckers, a local sport fisherman at the rally. “Then, before you know it, it will be done. It’ll be catch and release only.”