Fish Board: Spotter planes out, Chinook actions on hold for now

The Alaska Board of Fisheries voted to ban spotter planes in Southeast salmon fisheries and provided some relief to struggling commercial troll fishermen on Friday, the first full day of deliberations for the board.

Though the board made significant changes to Southeast finfish regulations, Juneau fishermen were left with a cliffhanger: salmon action plans aimed at protecting struggling Taku and Chilkat river Chinook — which could leave fishermen docked for a significant part of the season — won’t be voted on until at least Saturday morning.

Those are proposals are Nos. 130-134.

Here’s a rundown of the finfish proposals passed Friday:

Proposal 135 requires gillnet subsistence fishers in Yakutat Bay to be in control of their nets or to tie them up. Gillnetters were previously allowed to keep nets out while not around them, but that had become a “feeding station” for marine mammals, leading waste.

Proposal 138 allows fishermen to retain all species of king salmon during the period they’re allowed to fish with two poles, Oct. 1 through April 1. Fishing effort during this time of the year is minimal and few salmon are around in Southeast besides Chinook, which are much more difficult to catch in winter and fall than spring and summer.

Proposal 139 eliminates some language requiring a rotation of gillnetters, seiners and trollers in the Southeast Cove Terminal Harvest Area and allows Alaska Department of Fish & Game to manage the area with the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (NSRAA).

Proposal 141 changes the rotation gillnet and seine fishermen have to fish in Deep Inlet, next to Sitka. Gillnetters and seiners normally take turns in Deep Inlet, with one group fishing two days before the other group gets two days. The rotation is now one day for each.

Proposal 144 provides an increase in fishing opportunity for commercial trollers in Deep Inlet. Commercial trollers will likely be hit hard by Chinook action plan proposals. This proposal was drawn up in an attempt to help make up for the money trollers lost on Chinook by allowing them more access to chum fisheries.

Proposal 149 extends the closing date for commercial salmon harvest in Deep Inlet to align with neighboring Bear Cove. Commercial fishers can now catch coho in Deep Inlet until Oct. 31.

Proposal 150 provides more opportunity, like proposal 144, for commercial trollers. Trollers are allowed to fish an additional area near Crawfish Inlet.

Proposal 151 establishes a Terminal Harvest Area for commercial gillnet, troll and seine fishers in Carroll Inlet.

Proposal 152 regulation language for the Anita Bay Terminal Harvest Area wasn’t accurate before. It was updated to describe the current commercial fishing markers actually in place.

Proposal 157 changes when seine fishers would be allowed to fish for sockeye in Amalga Harbor, north of Juneau.

Proposal 159 prohibits the use of all aircraft used to locate salmon in Southeast commercial fisheries. This proposal passed narrowly with a 4-3 vote. Fishers are using aircraft, proposal author John M. Johanson wrote, to spot salmon in closed areas, then dispatch jet skis to herd the fish into open areas, a practice which could endanger salmon runs.

Proposal 160 allows fishing near a stream in Boat Harbor Terminal Harvest Area.

Proposal 161 corrects a typo.

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.

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