In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 4:43 PM on Wednesday, August 15, 2012


In our own backyard

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Homer News file photo

In this 1999 Homer News photo, Bob Pankratz, left, brings a silver salmon to shore as Mark and Phil Slabaugh pick the net.

Before personal-use fishermen dipnetted for red salmon on the Kenai River, people harvesting salmon long ago set nets in Kachemak Bay — a tradition that dates back to before statehood. Now called the Kachemak Bay personal-use coho salmon fishery, at times it's also been called a subsistence fishery.

While Kenai River reds have become more popular in recent years, those who'd rather boat to, hike or drive to local beaches for fish once again can seek sea-bright silver salmon starting 6 a.m. today.

Openings are 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Wednesday until Sept. 15 or the fishery reaches the guideline harvest range of 1,000 to 2,000 coho, or silver, salmon.

Restricted to Alaska residents, a household can only fish one personal-use fishery a year, meaning any family that has dipnetted on the Kenai can't fish the Kachemak Bay fishery. Nets can be no more than 210 feet long and have to be 600 feet from another set net. As with the Kenai River fishery, the limit is 25 salmon per head of household and 10 for every family member.


Homer News file photo

In this 1999 Homer News photo, Ann Slaubaugh helps her mother Rachel haul king salmon off the beach after working a personal use set net.

The fishery is restricted to the bay south of Anchor Point and to a line running east of Hesketh Island and south to the easternmost point of Jakalof Bay. Other restrictions apply to areas like the Homer Harbor.

Unlike the Kenai River personal-use fishery, the Kachemak Bay fishery has a striking difference: It's established in Alaska Statutes and not by regulation.

"Which means the Board of Fish could eliminate them with one stroke at a meeting," Larry Smith, a longtime defender of the Kachemak Bay personal-use fishery, said of other fisheries.

"Not that they would dare."

Smith remembered the Kachemak Bay Subsistence Group taking the state all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court to affirm the right of fishermen to take salmon by set net for subsistence use. In 1976, the state had closed Kachemak Bay, Port Graham and Nanwalek to subsistence gillnet fishing. Homer people signed a petition and sent it to the Board of Fish.

"Geez, you made an awful mistake. This is like gardening and coaling to us," Smith said.

Listening to tapes of the Board of Fish meeting, "They laughed at us. They literally laughed at us," he added.

The Kachemak Bay Subsistence Group won in the Alaska Supreme Court and got the fishery restored. Over the years the Board of Fish would try to eliminate the fishery and locals would sue to get it restored.

"We never lost a day's fishing, but we did lose a lot of time quarrelling with the suckers," Smith said.

Silver salmon runs are a mix of wild and hatchery salmon. The early run generally peaks by now, with the midpoint of the late run falling at the end of August, according to a press release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. How long the fishery goes varies. In 2004, with 91 permits issued, it took 96 hours to reach the harvest limit. In 2005, with 108 permits issued, it took 213 hours over four 48-hour periods to reach the limit.

Fish and Game uses daily catch reports to help determine harvest limits. Even if fishermen don't work nets, they're encouraged to call daily. Permit holders are requested to remain on site while gear is in operation. Unattended gear can be confiscated.

Oh, and as in other years, if setnet owners put nets closer than 600 feet and call Fish and Game or Alaska Wildlife Troopers to sort it out, they will — by seizing both nets. Fish and Game encourages setnetters to work out territorial disputes. Owners of beachfront property don't have an inherent right to the navigable waters near their property and it's first-come, first-fish. Placing dry nets on the beach doesn't constitute claiming a site, Fish and Game said in its release.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at

Kachemak Bay Personal-Use Coho Salmon Fishery


Aug. 16-Sept. 15


6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Saturday; 6 a.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Wednesday


Kachemak Bay south of Anchor Point to a line running east of Hesketh Island and south to the easternmost point of Jakalof Bay; restrictions apply locally in some bays and around the Homer Harbor and the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit.

catch limit:

25 salmon per head of household; 10 per each household member

who can fish:

Alaska residents who haven't fished in other personal-use fisheries, including households.

net limit:

210 feet long and no more than 45 net meshes deep.

other restrictions:

Nets cannot be within 600 feet of other nets.

report catches:

Call Homer Fish and Game, 235-8191 or 235-1738 evenings and weekends.

for more information:

Visit Homer Fish and Game, 3298 Douglas Place, or