Story last updated at 2:23 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

Meeting to consider king salmon compromise
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

Winter king salmon fishermen will meet tonight at 6 p.m. at Land's End Resort to discuss a potential resolution to their disagreement with the Board of Fisheries over reduced catch limits in Kachemak Bay.

Board chairman Ed Dersham, a saltwater guide who lives in Anchor Point, said he has proposed that a task force of sport fishermen come up a solution of their own <> so long as it meets the board's original intention of limiting the growth of the winter king fishery.

A similar process will be undertaken in Kodiak, he said.

In each case, however, the solutions must be presented to the Board of Fisheries for final approval.

"The board agreement is only that we'll give it fair consideration," not that the board will rubber-stamp the local decisions, Dersham said.

The fish board shocked the Homer fishing community last fall when it rewrote Cook Inlet king salmon regulations and reduced the annual bag limit to a total of five fish.

Before that, the limit had been five during the summer, and a limit of one to two per day during the winter, depending on location.

The board adopted similar restrictions in Kodiak, causing an uproar there, also.

Dersham said he and Division of Sportfish director Kelly Hepler only recently came up with the idea of giving local fishermen more of a say in their fishery, and after getting verbal approval from a majority of the board, set up tonight's meeting.

Nearly a dozen sport fishermen were named to devise a Local Area Management Plan, or LAMP, and to come up with an alternative solution to the board's five-king rule, Dersham said. Fishermen from Homer and Seldovia are on the panel.

There are no limits on what the LAMP group might discuss, he said. "We don't want to put ideas into people's heads."

But the bottom line is that the winter king catch should remain static, Dersham said. That could be difficult as no one knows for sure, but according to the best estimates of the Department of Fish and Game, it's about 1,500 to 2,000 per winter.

Lynn Whitmore, an avid angler and longtime participant in fisheries politics, said he was enthusiastic about the LAMP process, and the chances of "getting back to what we had" before the new regulations were enacted.

"There was no biological justification for what happened, so whatever use was going on before wasn't doing any damage to the fishery," Whitmore said.

That makes him feel that the board might accept a plan that allows a similar level of effort as before, he said. The group might propose establishing a guideline harvest level of king salmon, along with conservation measures that could be taken if it looked like fishing efforts were rising.