Tuesday night’s public meeting in the MatSu Valley with ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten to hear from local anglers is shaping up to be one of the larger of its kind in recent memory.
Cotten is expected to respond to public and legislative outrage over the heavy drift net fleet take of silver salmon headed for Valley streams last month. Earlier this month, there as great concern among sport fishermen that the drifters, some days harvesting 40,000 or more silvers per day, would kill the MatSu runs entirely for this year.
There’s been a recent surge of silver salmon into Valley streams, allowing for more liberal sport limits on the Susitna, to four silver salmon per day. That’s not unlike the late Kenai River sockeye salmon run, which in the last days before fish counting ended, was averaging 30,000 fish per day, as late as Aug. 20, a full month later than normal. Most of the late July sockeye run seems to have wound up with the commercial fleet, resulting in poor sport and personal use fishing then.
Most of the Cook Inlet salmon runs this year have come in stronger than forecast and also later than normal.
Cotten and others will argue that ADF&G is just following direction set by the Board of Fish, which has liberalized fishing guidelines and fishing periods for Cook Inlet commercial fishermen, while runs have been predicted down and sport fishing has been limited or closed.
The MatSu hearing opens at 5 p.m. at the Assembly Chambers, 350 E. Dahlia Ave. in Palmer.
Sport fishermen have a mixed record for showing up to speak on fishing issues. The planners for tonight’s meeting are reported to be planning on 300 or more attendees.
By comparison, when the Board of Fish was setting the regulation framework in February, to allow more liberal netting of silvers and most other salmon species affecting the Valley, only a handful of sport fishermen showed up. Compared to several hundred commercial fishing representatives.
–By Lee Leschper