I guess I should not be shocked that the East Side setnetter has once again been completely shut down in 2013 due to the low return of kings to the Kenai River. At least this year we had a few decent fishing days as opposed to last year which ended up being the worst season since 1959.
The amazing thing to me in this whole scenario is how the average non-setnetter does not seem to see the amount of human pressure put on the Kenai River as part of the problem. As I drove to Anchorage to return to South Carolina on Friday, I was astounded by the amount of people I saw along the banks of the Kenai fishing for sockeye. Then I read articles about high bacteria levels and bank erosion along with sport-fishing guides who have possibly damaged king salmon spawning beds. Also the guides have been efficiently catching the largest fish possible for 30 years now which has had an obvious effect on the reason the kings have gotten smaller.
How can this amazing pristine river continue to be pressured like this? I understand that we all need to share in king salmon conservation but I believe it is way past time that we limit sport-fishing pressure on the Kenai the way setnetters were limited in Cook Inlet over 40 years ago. It should be an amazing honor for any non-resident (including myself) to be able to cast a line into the Kenai River. Perhaps a lottery drawing much like a big game hunt is in order to help reduce the pressure. This should add money to the state while making the river more prestigious at the same time.
I’m afraid if something is not done soon we stand to lose a lot more than a low return of kings.