Tonight the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Fish & Wildlife Commission expressed frustration to top officials with the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game about the failure to pass fish through Upper Cook Inlet to Mat-Su waters. ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten and directors answered questions from Mat-Su Commissioners and listened to 21 people testify, some of them very angry about late fish overall and minimal fish in the Little Susitna River.
The cohos did arrive last weekend. The Desha River is teeming with coho salmon and breaking recent return records. But early in the season, on Aug. 6, the Little Susitna River was closed to bait fishing and today remains below minimum escapement for returning coho. Northern sportsfishers were angry because a few days prior to the in-river restriction, some 60+ miles to the south, the commercial drift gillnet fleet had harvested 89,155 cohos in two days.
The meeting ran an hour over the published time. Most of the State Legislators representing the Mat-Su region attended as well as Borough Assembly Members, the Mayor and Borough Manager.
Posted here tonight is the complete audio.
The Fish & Wildlife Commission made four requests of the Department.
1) • err on the side of conservation when making management decisions, not as it has been, erring on the side of a surplus commercial harvest before conservation is met in northern streams.
—Change the present ADF&G philosophy that manages for the dominant Kenai stocks over others. Apply more stock specific management strategies, which ensure salmon movement to northern waters first.
2) • restore sonar to the Susitna River, this time close to the mouth
—Sonar ended on the Susitna River in 2009.
3) • continue the weir on Jim Creek and the foot survey on McRoberts Creek
—Both end this year. The Mat-Su Fish Commission helped direct funds to pay for the count recently.
4) • restore the test fishery off Kalgin Island to collect data on the mixed-stock fishery.
—This will show where different species of fish are and when. This data was collected for 3 years out of a 5-year capital project. On the fourth year, the money that was appropriated by the State Legislature at the request of the Mat-Su Borough Fish Commission was absorbed into the Fish and Game budget, and the test fishery was not completed.
Photo by Patty Sullivan/Mat-Su Borough. Resident Farley Dean wags a finger at ADF&G.