The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Fish proposals seek new limits


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Andy Mezirow presents while Jim McCracken and Bob White ponder the details at last week's Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting.

According to Seward Fish & Game Advisory Committee members and charter industry veterans gathered together for a meeting of the committee last week, the Seward area can expect more traffic on Resurrection Bay this summer as fisherfolk are turned away from, or are turned off to, popular fisheries to the west and north.

Closings on the western Kenai Peninsula, including the Kenai River as well as closings for Mat-Su Valley rivers and streams are leaving slim pickings for Southcentral Alaska anglers.

While the fisheries are opened beyond the early- to mid-season closings, restrictions have many sport fisherman looking a little farther down the road at Seward.

With commercial fishing closings and restrictions, Seward charter and commercial operators are also concerned about increased pressure on area fisheries from the commercial fleet.

Several proposals were floated by Andy Mezirow of Crackerjack Sportfishing Charters and Nate Smith of Puffin Charters including one to curtail king salmon shopping via catch and release, by sport fisherman looking to bag a larger specimen. Mezirow also noted sightings of commercial fishing vessels too close to undocumented spawning streams and rivers along the coast.

That information dovetailed into an earlier discussion about the anadromous stream cataloging process in the Seward area. Board member Jeanette Hanneman informed the group that she was trying to obtain a copy of a recent study created under the loose supervision of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and a federal grant to the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance.

The study asserts that fish traps placed in Japanese Creek have established additional segments of that stream as spawning, or anadromous fish bearing, habitat. Although the report was stated to have caused the cataloging of these waters, they were not included in the most recent round of additions to ADFG's Anadromous Waters Atlas and Catalog.

Board member Jim McCracken said that a closer look should be taken at progress in local cataloging as regulations for protecting spawning streams limit development and other use of their property by land owners. Board member Bob White noted that the waterways studied were man-made ditches dug to drain the landfill, noting the irony of labelling them habitat. The study also targeted a culvert across Dimond Boulevard as being an obstruction to fish passage, suggesting that the artificial tributary be enhanced to protect natural habitat upstream.

When asked about the regulatory burden after the meeting, White played down the impacts to the University of Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Alaska Mental Health Trust, who could be most affected by the new habitat findings. He said that, if motivated, the larger institutional landowners had the resources to negotiate the regulations and pursue development. It's only smaller, private landowners who get bogged down by the expansion of habitat claims in urban settings.

Nate Smith related a cautionary tale from his neighborhood in Questa Woods, where a culvert replacement project had established new fish habitat. He noted that property owners should be careful about letting fish near their property as it subjects them to a whole raft of regulations and liabilities. The RBCA has been instrumental in habitat creation and enhancement throughout the area, including the installation of culverts to allow or increase fish migration.

However, it was suggested that several wilderness areas could stand the same attentions as Mezirow noted that some high school students with fish traps might work on saving some truly valuable natural fisheries along the coast. With ADFG's limited budget in mind, getting established, productive habitat protected through citizen initiative summarized the sentiment.

The Seward ADFG AC keeps an eye on lower Cook Inlet, Resurrection Bay and western Prince William Sound fisheries. Thoughtfully composed proposals that are vetted through local user groups and submitted through the Seward AC carry more weight when being considered by the Alaska Board of Fish for inclusion in state fishing regulations. The Seward AC is made up of 11 seats elected from area residents at-large.


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