Anglers on the most heavily used river in the state will be joined by another group of fishermen this year after the Federal Subsistence Board on Thursday voted to allow subsistence gillnetting on the Kenai River.

The board also voted to allow the gear type on the Kasilof River after receiving proposals from the Ninilchik Tribal Council asking for a community set gillnet fishery for subsistence users.

While the new fisheries primarily target sockeye salmon — subsistence users are allowed 4,000 per year in the Cook Inlet — the potential to harvest other species of fish was an ongoing sticking point in the discussion. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists were concerned about resident species such as Dolly Varden and rainbow trout and the beleaguered king salmon runs. While the Ninilchik Tribal Council argued that the gillnets will catch far fewer king salmon than sport and commercial users do, state biologists said they were concerned that the new fishery is ill-prepared and potentially harmful to conservation efforts on struggling species.

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