John Schandelmeier: Don't just contemplate fishing and hunting seasons -- help make the rules

OutdoorsApril 1, 2014 

John Schandelmeier

It is spring. It's time to think about fishing. Participate! Not just by catching fish, but also the methods and means. Think fishing regulations -- proposals concerning Prince William Sound and the Copper/Upper Susitna rivers are due by April 10. Proposals generated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Fish and Game Advisory Committees or the general public will be heard December 3-8 when the Alaska Board of Fish meets in Cordova.

Personal use regulation changes to the Copper River dipnet fishery will be on the table for discussion. This is always a contentious issue. Everyone wants to put fish in the freezer. Most of the time the discussion revolves around sport and personal use versus commercial use. In spite of disagreements, there always seems to be enough sockeye for everyone's needs. Kings have been in short supply the past few seasons, but that is likely not because of the commercial fishery. King salmon runs throughout the state (other than Nushagak) have not been doing well.

Commercial fishermen need to remember their neighbors need fish also. Personal use and subsistence fishermen need to remember that many of the sockeye they dipnet are generated by the commercial hatchery on the Gulkana River. This hatchery is operated and paid for by the commercial fishing industry.

When your thoughts about how you would like to catch that next sockeye are complete, let the fall hunting regulations cross your mind.

The Board of Game will be accepting proposals for the Southcentral region. These proposals concern most aspects of hunting and trapping in all Southcentral units. Proposals are due by May 1. Discussion of proposals will take place March 13-17 in Anchorage.

There are usually several hundred proposals to be considered by the Board of Game. The Southcentral region is heavily populated and most people hunt from the highway system. ATVs are popular and many of the trails have as much traffic as the main highway. There is intense competition for a limited amount of game. That's led to many special use proposals.

Bow hunters want special seasons and muzzle-loaders want their shot. Subsistence hunters want a moose and sport hunters want to be, or are, subsistence hunters also. Everyone wants something larger than a rabbit, other than the duck hunters who, like myself, just want a shot and don't feel cheated by a clean miss.

Many of the proposals that will be submitted are just that; a clean miss. Before a proposal is submitted, whether for fisheries or for game, several things should be considered. Does your suggestion address the health of the ecosystem?

Pitching for all of the predators to be taken out so there will be more moose to shoot may be counterproductive. Allowing special interest groups to have a unique season can cause division among neighbors. Remember also that there are nonconsumptive users also. Some may scoff at ecotourists who shoot game and catch fish only with their cameras, but they pay many of our bills. Consider their requirements also.

Alaska has a game management system that is the only one of its kind. Fish and Game Advisory Committees are scattered throughout the state. These committees, composed of local area folk, generate proposals concerning their immediate region. The reasoning is that no one understands local issues better than those who live in the area. After all, how would a Board of Game member who lives in Kotzebue know what's happening with the deer in Sitka?

This system works fairly well, depending on the make-up of the board, whether it be the Board of Fisheries or the Game Board. These two entities are ultimately responsible for our regulations. The governor appoints members of both boards. He gets input on his potential appointees from advisors in the Department of Fish and Game and from the public.

Public participation in our regulatory process is more important in a state with the size and diversity of Alaska. Don't leave your hunting and fishing to chance. All of us have the opportunity to stand up in the public forum at the Fish and Game Board meetings and speak our mind. Whether you are a hunter, fisherman, trapper, or nonconsumptive user, we all have the opportunity for active involvement in the regulatory process.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.

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