Fish board votes to require early-season registration

Dec 4, 2015

Fishermen will have to drop a blue card and register to fish in any district from the get-go next summer.

Ekuk setnetter Travis Ball talks to a fellow fisherman at the Board of Fisheries Bristol Bay finfish meeting in Anchorage at the Egan Convention Center on Dec. 4, 2015.
Credit KDLG News

The Alaska Board of Fisheries voted unanimously today to get rid of early season free fishing periods in the east side districts. That means next summer, fishermen will have to drop their cards for a specific district when they start fishing, as was asked for in proposal 41.

Before the vote, board member Sue Jeffrey said that most appeared to support that change.

“The majority I believe of the testimony was in favor of this proposal,” she said. “And that also reflects the on-time public comments. There was no opposition to the original proposed 41 and the substitute language clarifies that.”

While most of the room supported it, a few drift fishermen noted that they enjoyed the flexibility. Naknek drifter Everett Thompson said he likes the opportunity to move between districts early in the season, getting a feel for his gear, vessel and the fish before committing to one district.

The board also voted unanimously to make the Togiak District a little more exclusive with the adoption of proposal 44, which closed a loophole that had been used by some drifters to transfer into the district before the July 27, the date it opens up.

Other proposed changes failed.  There was little support at the meeting for reducing the 48-hour wait to transfer districts to just 12 hours. Board member Tom Kluberton said in his mind it raised some concerns for management.

“I also feel that it’s got potential for disturbing harvest information for the department to utilize in analyzing run strength and stock compositions in that, if we were to reduce the 48 hours to 12, there was some talk about people being able to transport fish, to move," Kluberton said during the board's deliberations.

The board also voted unanimously against a proposal to eliminate the 48-hour wait for Nushagak District set-netters to transfer sides of the bay. That had mixed testimony earlier in the day.

Clarks Point set-netter Desmond Hurley from Clarks Point was one of its supporters, and said the reality is there are times of the season there are a lot of open sites and the few set-netters still fishing should be able to move around to find the fish. He referenced the silver season, after the sockeye fun, as one point when the transfer time is harmful to his business.

“There’s not that many people that fall fish anymore,” Hurley said. “Certain seasons, you should be able to go to different spots in the Nushagak.”

But many at the meeting opposed the change, including drifter Robert Heyano who said it could create new conflicts between drifters and set-netters.

“A very serious problem is that you can have a drifter in a completely legal set and a mobile set-netter come in and set within the required distance separation and it’s the drifter who gets ticketed,” Heyano said. “Since this regulation is in place, that has eliminated that substantially.”

In other decisions, the board declined the general districts and agreed to require GPS markers to establish boundaries as opposed to the old ADF&G markers. 

The board is expected to deliberate set and drift permit stacking proposals on Saturday; board member Fritz Johnson, of Dillingham, won't be able to vote on the drift proposals.