ADF&G releases new sport fishing restrictions

Published: Mar. 14, 2018 at 4:13 PM AKDT
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(Editors note: this story has been changed to clarify which areas are affected by the emergency orders)

Estimated numbers for returning king salmon in the Deshka River are predicted to be 200 less than base goals, according to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

"There's an escapement goal, which is how many fish we want to see up on the spawning grounds, of 13,000 to 28,000 king salmon," said Matt Miller, Southcentral regional fisheries management coordinator with ADF&G. "The forecast is for a couple hundred fish below that, so some preseason actions were needed."

The department started conversations about what the appropriate actions would be, including similar actions to what they've done in the past. It was decided that catch and release would be allowed on some of the more remote fisheries, specifically those on the western side of the Susitna Drainage. It was decided for fisheries along the Parks Highway, which Miller said has not been producing quality numbers of king salmon runs and are open to more public access, would be closed.

According to emergency orders from AK Dept. of Fish and Game:

- sport fishing for king salmon will be allowed along the Little Susitna Drainage, but fish can only be kept if caught Friday-Monday. Kings caught on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday must be released immediately.

-sport fishing for king salmon in the rest the Susitna River Drainage will be closed in 2018.

- sport fishing catch-and-release for king salmon will be allowed in the Deshka and Yentna river systems. No harvests will be allowed.

- commercial fishing for king salmon using set-nets will be closed in all waters of the Northern District of the Upper Cook-Inlet in 2018.

"Specifically along the Cook Inlet, there's been a decline in king salmon, and we're not quite sure why that is," Miller said. "There's been a lot of resources poured into answer that question, but now after the king salmon leave the fresh water and go out into the salt water – the first year, when they are out in that salt water, seems to be high mortality."

The department says that they are aware that this decision could impact tourism in the impacted regions, but they are trying to look at the big picture of what it would mean with, and without, action.

"We certainly realize that there are impacts to livelihoods, when you start talking about closing fisheries," Miller said. "There are certainly people who will be impacted with this decision, but sustainability of the fishery stocks is our main goal."

For the Susitna River drainages, the regulations and restrictions are effective at 6 a.m. May 1, through July 13, 2018.

You can review the new ADF&G regulations in this press release by clicking