January / February 2020 Alaska Fishing Reports

From February 7 — 19 the Alaska Board of Fisheries is meeting at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage for its Upper Cook Inlet Meeting — where fishing regulations for sport, personal use, subsistence and commercial fisheries will be set for the next 3 years.  I will be attending and invite your attendance as well!  The reports below cover some of the significant changes adopted by the Board of Fisheries that benefitted Northern Cook Inlet sport fishing opportunities.


Alaska Board of Fisheries Upper Cook Inlet Meeting 

February 6, 2020 — I am in Anchorage preparing for the Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting.   Tomorrow will be the first day of the meeting:  Any member of the public can sign up by 3pm for a specific time slot to give testimony before the board:  Specific time slots are Saturday morning (Feb. 8), Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning (Feb. 9), or Sunday afternoon.     For people traveling into Anchorage to testify at the meeting, this can provide some certainty as to when their testimony will likely occur.  

Friday’s meeting schedule also lists reports from Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff as the primary activity of the day.   This provide both board members and the public an opportunity to learn the Department’s assessments of specific Upper Cook Inlet fish stocks and fisheries.

Saturday Feb. 8 — Public Testimony  will start                                                                                                   Testimony sign up continues through 10 am on Saturday Feb. 8 — however, people who sign up after the specific slots deadline (3pm on Friday)  will simply be called on in order to testify.  People at the meeting (like myself) can submit a signup form for other individuals, before either of the two deadlines.  Of course anyone going to, or attending the meeting can also submit their own “blue card” as the testimony sign up forms are called.    Please plan to attend and testify about how a specific  Upper Cook Inlet fishery(s) is important to you and how you would like to see it managed for the next 3 years.  

Depending upon how may people sign up public testimony could be completed by Sunday, or may continue on into Monday (Feb 10).   Public testimony opportunity is short (3 minutes) so people want to keep their message brief and to the point — short and sweet.   Board members may ask questions slightly extending some individual’s time before the Board.

Group of the Whole

After public testimony has concluded additional public comment opportunity is scheduled when the Board will seek additional information about specific groups of similar topic proposals.  This portion of the meeting is conducted as Group of the Whole.   Everyone should have an opportunity to participate, however, since these will be group discussions, each individual may a few opportunities to participate.

Record Copies

A third opportunity for public comment is through submission of a RC (record copy).  A record copy may be submitted at anytime during the meeting for a specific proposal up until the Baord deliberates on that proposal.  Individuals interested in submitting record copies need to provide 21 copies of the document when submitting to the Board Support Staff at the Board Table.   Staff members should provide the submitting person an RC number that identifies there specific document.   These documents will then be distributed to Board of Fisheries members during the next meeting break.

I plan to post more tomorrow!

— Andy Couch

Friday February 7, 2020 –– Board of Fisheries Meeting Starts. I submitted testimony signup forms for several people, and wrote the public testimony I will present to the Board tomorrow. I am scheduled to testify in the morning session.   Sign up for public testimony will end at 10 am tomorrow, however there will still be opportunities to provide public input during the process — some of which I mentioned in yesterday’s post.    Another option for public input is to ask to speak with a Board of Fisheries member during a break or ask to have lunch with one of the board members to discuss the fisheries item of your choice.

If the board stays on schedule it looks like public testimony could easily be over by Sunday afternoon.  Public testimony gives people the opportunity to speak for 3 minutes — so like I mentioned yesterday — keep it short and to the point.


Saturday February 8, 2020 — Public Testimony to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Upper Cook Inlet fisheries occurred all day.   The board moved quickly through more than half of those signed up to testify — so it looks like all testimony should be concluded by Sunday afternoon.  I was impressed with the quality of public testimonies today — and my testimony covered the Mat-Su Borough Fish & Wildlife Commission’s  support of a personal use dip net fishery in the lower Susitna River (proposals 234, 235, 236, 237, and 238) and support of the personal use fishing opportunities as currently configured at Fish Creek, Kenai River, Kasilof River.     Since the board has already heard more than half of those signed up to testify, Sunday’s Meeting is scheduled to start at 10 am for the morning session of public testimony.  The afternoon session of public testimony will follow.


Sunday Update —  February 9, 2020   Alaska Board of Fisheries The Board  concluded taking public testimony this afternoon.   Thank you to all who took time to testify at this meeting.  

Monday starting at 8:30am the Board will take up Committee  of the Whole Group 1  — Kenai River Late-Run Sockeye Salmon Management Plan (there are 15 proposals in this grouping)  
followed by Committee of the Whole Group 2 — Sustina Sockeye Salmon Stock of Concern and Central District Drift Gillnet FIshery Management Plan (12 proposals) — this is the Conservation Corridor group of proposals. 
If anyone can attend — just being part of the group and watching could be helpful.  
Tuesday –Deliberations are scheduled for  group 1 and 2 of proposals.    Attendance and watching as the Board deliberates should be helpful.
Concerning public process I heard a funny quote with  truth in it today:    “There are those at the negotiating table   — and those on the menu!”
In hopes of participating with you at Egan Convention Center — 8:30am start on Monday.

— Andy Couch


February 10, 2020   Alaska Board of Fisheries —Today we worked through the committee process (New England Town Hall Meeting) — talking about some of the biggest issues in Upper Cook Inlet — Group 1  The Late Run Kenai River Sockeye Salmon Management Plan proposals    and  
 Group 2  Susitna River Sockeye Salmon Stock of Concern  and Central District Drift Fishery Management Plan Proposals
Since it was a week day we lost some of the turnout from the sport / personal use people, however, I want to thank all who showed up.   We had a decent number of people scattered throughout the room.     
Rod Arno showed up and spoke on the Alaska Outdoor Council proposal that the Central District Drift Gillnet Fishery Management Plan preamble language be amended to provide reasonable harvest opportunity for all inriver users.
Mat-Su Fishing guide Ben Allen drove in and spoke (in addition to his earlier testimony) on his proposal to rename Drift Gillnet Area 2 as the Conservation and Northern Allocation Sanctuary Area. 
There are 49 proposals in these two groups.  I am thinking the  board will likely take action on 3 – 8 of them.
10 am Tuesday February 11 at Egan Convention Center— the board will deliberate on these proposals.   I am hopefully optimistic at this point.   I would encourage as many people as possible to come and support the board in making decisions that could help the everyday person have a better opportunity to harvest some Alaska salmon in Northern Cook Inlet / Mat-Su/ Anchorage/ Kenai areas.    If the board supports proposals you like — Be sure to  nicely thank board members for providing you  or your group with a more reasonbale opportunity to harvest salmon!   Remember to stay behind the Board table.    Key proposals for sport / personal use groups from these groups are 88, 124, 129, 133, 192. 
In hopes of seeing you at the Board Meeting!

Andy Couch

Tuesday, February 11, 2020  —The Board of Fisheries passed Proposal 133 yesterday by a 6 – 1 vote.   This action extended the Conservation Corridor concept through August.  This was the Matanuska – Susitna Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission’s highest priority in seeking to pass a reasonable amount of Northern Cook Inlet salmon stocks into Northern Cook Inlet waters.    We’ve heard there is an attempt to reconsider this action — which procedurally will need to occur today (Wednesday, February 12).
Wednesday February 12, 2020    As expected two board members attempted to bring Proposal 133 (Conservation Corridor) back up for reconsideration.   The other 5 members voted that they did not have any new information to bring the proposal back.   So we still have 133 — and now it is in the bag.   Can you say Conservation Corridor?
The board also clarified the Drifter’s 1 percent rule starts on August 1 — and every period fished will count.   That should mean even a few more salmon headed North in August.
We discussed personal use proposals today — and all still looks good.  Our AC #234 is the proposal that will likely be used.   It is looking like we may only get a couple days per week,   fishery may run from July 10 –31, hours may be restricted from  what we requested.   I’m thinking we should get something for people who want to personal use fish on the lower Susitna River.    That vote should occur tomorrow — Thursday.
The next Committee of the whole should occur on Friday:  #5 (Northern King Salmon Escapement Goals, Northern Cook Inlet Sportfish management plans, Northern District King Salmon Management Plan, Northern District king salmon fisheries)   9 proposals
Also on Friday #6 (Kasilof Salmon Management  Plan, Northern District Salmon Management Plan, Landmarks and Waypoint, and Misc.  Commercial Fisheries (29 Proposals)
 Tomorrow Thursday Feb. 13, 2020 — 8:30am  Egan Convention Center (Downstairs)     We should learn fairly early how the vote goes on Proposal 234 to allow a personal use dip net fishery in the lower Susitna River.
Fish On!

February 13, 2020 — Susitna River Personal Use Fishery Created                                     This afternoon the Alaska Board of Fisheries adopted a personal use salmon fishery on the lower Susitna River (below the Yentna River confluence, but above Bell Island).   The fishery will be open from July 10 — July 31 on Saturdays and Wednesdays only.   According to Board Member Israel Payton this will only be a 6-day opportunity for the entire year.   Salmon that may be harvested include chum, sockeye, pink, and coho.     Any king salmon must be released.  This measure was adopted by a 5 – 2 vote.  The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has authority to create fishery permit conditions, and may also adjust the fishery for conservation concerns.

February 14, 2020 —  Northern King Salmon Issues Discussed                                                 Northern Cook Inlet commercial and sport king salmon management plans were discussed amounts user groups and in Committee today.  In addition, the Board and public worked on a Kenai River Late Run King Salmon Management Plan throughout the day.   Deliberations on these proposals should occur tomorrow.      Committee 6 proposals — Kasilof River Salmon Management Plan proposals and Northern District Salmon Management Plan proposals should also be discussed tomorrow.

February 15, 2020 — Alaska Board of Fisheries Adopts Management Plans                                               A revised Kenai River Late Run King Salmon Management Plan was adopted after  3 days of work by user groups and the board.   In addition, the first sport king salmon management plan for the Susitna River drainage and Little Susitna River was also adopted, and finally adjustments were made to the Northern District King Salmon Management Plan (a commercial plan).  These were the big ticket items for the day.    Committee 6 discussions of Kasilof River Salmon Management Plan and Northern District Salmon Management Plan Proposals also occurred later in the afternoon.

I left today’s meeting without hearing when the Board of Fisheries Meeting will start tomorrow.   The meeting will be held at Egan Convention Center in Anchorage.   Having finished deliberation on Group 5 proposals, the Board is now ahead of the posted agenda.

The February 16 meeting should start with board deliberations on Group 6 proposals.   If time remains the Board may continue with Committee 7 public discussion of mainly sportfishing proposals.  I believe deliberations on Group 7 proposals will likely start on Monday February 17.

Proposals in Group 7 that I plan to support in discussion:  

#221  (Mat Valley AC proposal) would extend the use of bait to September 10 in Unit 2 of the Susitna River Drainage.  (RC amended )

#227 (Mat Valley AC proposal) would open additional days in the Fish Creek sport salmon fishery.  (RC amendment)

#222 (ADF&G proposal) Allow fishing for resident species on days closed to king salmon fishing in Unit 2 Susitna River Drainage.

Fish On!

Andy Couch

Sunday February 16, 2020 — Board of Fisheries Update    The Board deliberated on Group 6 proposals.   For Northern Cook Inlet users the board’s adopting of proposal 204 recognized in river users along with commercial users for reasonable harvest opportunities of sockeye, chum, and pink salmon stocks.   The proposal also kept in place management of coho salmon primarily to provide sport and guided sport users a reasonable opportunity to harvest coho salmon throughout the run as measured by the number of in season restrictions.   

In the afternoon, Committee of the whole discussion of all proposals in Group 7 occurred.   I spoke in favor of #227 which would lengthen the sport salmon fishing season on Fish Creek.  i also spoke in favor of proposal 221 which would extend use of bait in Unit 2 of the Susitna River drainage through September 10.  And finally I spoke in favor of proposal 222 which would allow fishing for other fish species in Unit 2 when king salmon fishing was closed.

At the end of the afternoon, Chairman Morisky announced the meeting would resume at 8:30 am on Monday morning, with the board scheduled to deliberate on Group 7 proposals and then finish miscellaneous business at the end of the meeting.   Chairman announced his intention to get through all the remaining agenda items on Monday.

Monday February 17, 2020 — Board of Fisheries Deliberations on Group 7                         The board adopted proposal 227 which lengthened the early end of sport salmon fishing season at Fish Creek near Knik-Goose Bay Road.  In addition the Board adopted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s proposal to allow fishing for species other than king salmon in Unit 2 of the Susitna River drainage on days when king salmon fishing was not allowed.  Dustin Slinker’s proposal #229 to extend fishing hours for the Youth Fishing Day at Ship Creek was adopted as well.         The 2020 Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries Meeting concluded in the afternoon.

I will be posting a fishing forecast for our upcoming 2020 sport salmon fisheries on our March 2020 Alaska Fishing Reports Page — and will also post what I expect to see each month on our Monthly summer report pages..

Thursday February 19, 2020   — 2020 King Salmon Regulation Update —   I talked with Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist, Samantha Oslund this week and asked when the Department would be providing the public with sport king salmon regulations for the Deshka River, Little Susitna River, and other Northern Cook Inlet locations.   Samantha mentioned that the regulations were being written this week, and after review by supervisors  they should be available by sometime early next week (Feb 24 – 28).   For those who have been waiting and contacting me — we should know shortly during the last week of February.

February 26, 2020 — KING SALMON REGULATIONS RELEASE 2020                                         King Salmon harvest will be allowed via standard regulations at the Eklutna Tailrace / Knik River fishery.   Deshka River and Little Susitna River will provide king salmon fishing on a catch and release basis.   The Alaska Department of Fish and Game king salmon outlook for Deshka River calls for a return of 10, 500 king salmon — so if the actual number of fish passing salmon counting weirs at either Little Susitna River or Deshka River exceeds the spawning escapement goal minimum the regulations could be liberalized to allow harvest at one or both of these rivers.   In 2019 this situation occurred on June 26 at Little Susitna River.