Story last updated at 3:13 p.m. Thursday, May 16, 2002

King anglers see season solution
By Joel Gay
Staff Writer

Winter king salmon fishermen believe they have found a simple way to get back their traditional harvest while simultaneously satisfying the Board of Fisheries' demand that their fishery not grow -- changing season dates so the summer fishery begins March 15 rather than April 1.

It may not sound like much of a change, said king salmon task force chairman Lynn Whitmore, but those two weeks are the most important in the winter king fishery, he said. They include the annual Homer Chamber of Commerce Winter King Salmon Derby, plus the 10 days or so leading up to it, when many anglers put their boats in the water for the first time every year.

The task force proposes allowing the traditional two fish per day in Kachemak Bay from Oct. 1 to March 15, with no seasonal limit. From March 16 to Sept. 30, the limit would be one per day, with a five-king seasonal limit.

Although the derby never catches more than a few hundred kings, it was cited by board members as partially responsible for the growth of the winter fishery.

The Homer task force considered other ways of allowing a greater winter take, but each was eliminated because it required expensive monitoring by the Department of Fish and Game

"We went back to the drawing board," Whitmore said, and began looking at the three items that might be changed at no cost <> season dates, times and gear.

"We couldn't find any other way to slow the growth of the fishery in a way that was affordable to the Department of Fish and Game," Whitmore said.

Department biologist Nicky Szarzi said her agency is neutral on the proposal, since there was no biological reason to cut the harvest. However, she added, "It's workable for us because it doesn't cost anything."

Board chairman Ed Dersham said his initial reaction to the proposal was "that it wouldn't be enough to satisfy the rest of the board," he said. After hearing more details, however, "That makes it sound better once you hear the reasoning behind it."

Dersham said he doesn't know how the board will view the idea because he hasn't talked to them yet. "I've been too busy fishing," said the Anchor Point sport-fishing guide.

Though the fish board cut king salmon bag limits in Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Seward last fall out of concern for stocks in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, recent surveys show those stocks are healthy. The department recently raised the limit for nonguided resident anglers in Southeast saltwater from one king per day to two. Their season limit remains at three.