According to Ken Coleman, Vice President of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association, sockeye salmon are streaming up the Kenai and other rivers on the east side of Cook Inlet, and the only people who can’t catch them are commercial fishermen.

 “This is a punitive closure,” says Coleman. “That’s the only word I can think of. Bob Penney said he would shut us down before he died and he’s damn near there.”

 Bob Penney, a millionaire recreational fisherman who served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for three years, wants to keep king salmon in the Kenai Peninsula rivers for the enjoyment of sport fishermen.

 “I suggest that you adopt a six-word phrase for the set nets,” Penney told the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) in 2020. “Stop killing kings or stop fishing.”

 Alaska journalist Dermot Cole has reported that Penney’s $350,000 investment in the campaign of current governor, Mike Dunleavy, has given the sport enthusiast an outsized role in regulating fishing.

Coleman claims the zero tolerance rules that are stopping the set netters from fishing are jeopardizing the sockeye run.

 “We caught 32 kings, that’s 0.2 percent of the run. But when the recreational fishery is restricted to catch-and-release – no retention – it shuts us down completely. Meanwhile the recreational fishermen retool for sockeye, and the dip net fishery is going like crazy. The set netters are the only ones not fishing.”

 Coleman believes that allowing a million sockeye to get up the river will crash that fish stock.

 “The dip netters and a fully prosecuted sport fishery can’t catch all those sockeye, they never could, and the ecosystem can’t handle it. They’re going to kill the sockeye run to save the kings.”

 Coleman reports that at a special meeting on July 26, the Kenai City Council voted unanimously to petition the governor and ADF&G to re-open the east side set net fishery. “The community feels it when we’re not fishing,” says Coleman.

 

 

 

 

Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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