Fish and Game criticized over “chronic failure” regulating Mat-Su waters

Leadership at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game got an earful Tuesday night in Palmer.

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That’s where the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s fish commission told Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten and other top officials about what the borough described as a “chronic failure” to let fish pass through Cook Inlet to the Mat-Su’s rivers and creeks.

For years, Mat-Su anglers and sport fishing guides have been at odds with commercial fishing interests farther south in Cook Inlet. They say the commercial drift-netters are catching salmon headed to the Mat-Su to spawn and that their fishing opportunities have been more limited. Fish and Game, they say, has tended to use its discretion in interpreting regulations to benefit the commercial fishers.

Eric Spade was one of those who testified.

“Some of you guys have to lose your job, because it’s been like some really bad management,” Spade said. “Last year was horrible.”

Mat-Su officials admit that a fairly strong run of silver salmon arrived in area waterways in the past week. But they say earlier in the fishing season, the popular Little Susitna River was closed to bait fishing for other species and counts remained low for silvers there.

Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts.

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