Fishery meeting in Wasilla draws a crowd
by Sue Deyoe ~ August 12th, 2010
Over 30 people gathered in Wasilla to talk about fish data and allocations on Wednesday night. The Mat Su fishing community via Representative Mark Neuman, recently sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. Sport fishers in the northern district of Cook Inlet want answers to a number of questions on the fishery.
This July 4th brought king closures to almost every stream except for the Talkeetna river and clear creek. Limits for kings went down to one in those areas. Many B&B owners and guides asked area representative Mark Neuman and Senator Charlie Huggins for help. A meeting was held a couple of weeks ago at Sheep Creek Lodge with area biologist Dave Rutz in attendance to answer questions.
The latest letter asked 9 questions – everything from the health and productivity of the northern district’s salmon species to genetic stock identification to weirs and Deshka river counts.
Five Fish and Game officials and area legislators were at the meeting Wednesday held in Wasilla to answer those 9 questions. Bill Stoltze, Carl Gatto, Jay Ramras, Charlie Huggins and Mark Neuman listened intently to the crowd ask pointed questions about past Board decisions. The crowd added questions to the agenda as commercial fisheries division biologist Jeff Regnart and others tried to address concerns about the northern district fisheries.
There was clearly animosity toward the commercial fish division AND fish and game biologists by some of the sport fishers of the Valley.
The Governors’ assistant Cora Campbell who works with both DNR and ADF&G spoke at the end of the meeting and assured the group that their concerns were heard and were being addressed both in the legislature and at the ADF&G level. Most of the crowd didn’t seem assured that was happening. Answers to all of the questions had come briefly in written form by division directors. All answers referred to the upcoming Board of Fish hearings in Anchorage in February
Bruce Knowles, chairman of the Mayors Blue Ribbon Sportsmans Committee encouraged and almost pleaded with attendees to show up at the Board of Fish hearings in February. Attendee Tom Peyton suggested that Alaska needs to do what other states have done and request that commercial fishers not be allowed to fish king salmon.
Knowles said that the economic studies done almost 2 years ago, showed $750 million comes to the valley from sportfishing – from people using lodging, to fishing licenses, to use of boats and other transportation to get to fishing sites. Commercial fishing brings in only $35 million. He said those numbers can be used at the Board hearings to convince members that allocations and other rules need to change to protect northern district fisheries.
The Board of Fish hearings for Upper Cook Inlet Finfish are February 20 thru March 5 at the Egan Center in Anchorage. The meeting for Lower Cook Inlet finfish is mid November in Homer.