Kenai Setnetters Still Waiting to Cast
Ban on sockeye setnetting meant to protect king salmon
KENAI - Along the Kenai river lies a quiet shoreline known as Salamatof beach, which the Frostad family calls home.
They’ve created a livelihood off the waters for four generations.
“Traditions passed on from when my grandpa was little...hopefully for future generations to come, is what it comes down to,” said Shayla Hudkins, one of the Frostad granddaughters.
The Frostad's are among 400 commercial Eastside setnetters who harvest sockeye salmon every year, 51 summers to be exact.
But this season has been anything but normal.
They’ve spent the last ten days sitting and watching their income swim by, not by choice, but because they can't fish.
“Right now I haven’t even paid for my fuel bill hardly,” said Lars Frostad, a second-generation commercial setnetter.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the sockeye salmon run on the Kenai River to setnetters to help protect king salmon, which have returned in low numbers this season.
“These kind of instances are very difficult, very weighty decisions and we don't make them lightly, sometimes we have to do this,” said Jeff Ragnart, director of Commercial Fisheries at Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Frostad believes there are plenty of kings in the Kenai, and the sacrifice should be shared.
“We definitely are taking the blunt of the restrictions, the guides fishing on river, catching them and releasing them,” he said.
So far this season, they've only been allowed to fish for one twelve-hour day.
The City of Kenai's Mayor Pat Porter says with setnetters stuck at shore, the local economy will suffer.
“It's going to be a huge impact for our area, it's a huge impact for the commercial processors here as well because they're not able to process as much fish as they anticipated,’ she said.
Fish and Game officials say they understand what's at stake.
"The underpinning of this whole issue is to make sure that we have adequate escapement for future generations of fish, and for users," said Ragnart.
For now, all the Frostad's can do is wait, until further notice.