For the second year in a row, the personal use coho fishery in Kachemak Bay closed after just one opening. The Department of Fish and Game opened the fishery Thursday for a 48-hour fishing period, but an emergency order closed personal use gillnetting early Saturday morning.
Assistant Area Management Biologist Ethan Ford said the fishery is typically short, but usually provides residents with more than just one fishing period.
“Typically the fishery down here is relatively short because it’s based on a guideline harvest level range,” Ford explained.
The 2017 season also closed after just one opening, the first time in the fishery’s history that has happened. Participants approached the guideline harvest within just 24 hours in 2017, and the harvest ended up slightly over the upper end of that goal.
Ford said that poor sockeye runs during the personal use dipnet fishery on the Kasilof and Kenai rivers, which takes place earlier in the year, may have led to an increase in participation this year. Residents are prohibited from participating in both fisheries.
“This year, we had a little bit higher number of permits in the fishery than in recent years. So that likely had a factor in the shorter season,” Ford added. “But it looks like we’re going to be within the 1,000 to 2,000 coho goal.”
The department issued about 190 permits this year compared to the 140 permits it issues on average. Ford said nearly half of this year’s permit holders voluntarily called in and reported their catch. The reported harvest going into Saturday indicated that permit holders were nearing the guideline harvest goal.
Based on voluntary call-ins, Fish and Game estimates that permit holders harvested about 950 coho, but Ford explains that number will likely grow to about 1,500 or 2,000 fish once participants turn in their permits.
Permits are due Aug. 28 regardless if the permit holder participated in the fishery or not. Voluntary call-ins are not a substitute for turning in a permit.