Those who waited to participate in the Kachemak Bay personal use gillnet fishery are going home with empty nets this year. The fishery, which targets coho salmon around Kachemak Bay, came to a close Saturday after just one 48-hour opening. That’s the fastest closure on record.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Assistant Area Managment Biologist Ethan Ford explains initial reports on Friday showed that fishermen landed nearly half of the 2,000 fish allowed in the first 24 hours.
“We had heard back from 28 percent of the permits that were out there. We hadn’t necessarily heard for both days, but we had heard from them about some fishing that they had done,” Ford explained. “Out of those permits that had called in, we were up to 852 coho harvested.”
About 150 people received permits this year. Ford said little over half of permit holders have reported or called in, and the harvest tally is up to about 1,800 coho. Ford adds it may be possible that fishermen exceeded the guideline harvest.
“Well, it’s hard to say for sure. Looking at the numbers, we still have a lot of permits out that haven’t reported. So, there’s certainly potential for them to get over 200 more fish out of those remaining permits,” he said.
There are no immediate changes that would come from exceeding the harvest limit, but Ford said the state Board of Fish may re-evaluate management tools if it happens consistently. The fishery exceeded the guideline harvest last year by about 30 fish, but that was only the third time since 1999, when the guideline harvest was reduced to its current level.
Fish and Game encourages fishermen to call in during openings to report numbers. Ford said those calls lead to better informed decisions.
“It’s important for people to be calling in their numbers. When I’m making a decision on 28 percent, there’s a lot of unknown associated with what all the other permits out there are doing,” he explained.
Permit holders have until Aug. 29 to turn their permits in, regardless if they fished or not.