Set Netting Family Copes With Seven-Day Season
Disaster for those who depend on set netting income
SALAMATOF BEACH - Set netters on the upper Cook Inlet only caught 95,000 red salmon this year, compared to 1.8 million last year.
Fish and Game closed all but seven days for set netting due to concerns over the low king salmon return.
CBS 11's Heather Hintze met up with a family that's been fishing the area for generations to see how they're coping with the disastrous season.
The Salamatof Beach north of Kenai has a rich history of set netting.
It's a place where fishermen who've been there 30 years are still referred to as newcomers.
“I grew up here; I grew up fishing here with my folks and we've raised our two daughters fishing here,” said Dan Chay.
His folks, Erik and Tina Barnes, started set netting when he was just three years old.
In five decades on the water, this season was one of the worst and now has family members figuring out how they'll get by.
“We'll be working during the winter and we will cut costs and tighten our belts wherever we can. Also we have two daughters, one will be graduating on the East Coast and the other is actually graduating from a school in India, and we were hoping to attend their graduations. We have to reassess whether we'll be able to do that,” Chay said.
About 450 families along the 70-mile stretch of count on set netting every summer. So catching just 5 percent of what they did last year is devastating.
“It was supposed to be a good year; it was a good preseason forecast. We made business decisions based on that. And our ability to get on the fish we target, sockeye, didn't happen,” said Norm Darch of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association.
The Barnes family was counting on a successful season, and spent money up front getting ready – four thousand dollars fixing up a tractor, and twenty grand to buy a used one.
But that equipment sat on the sideline as fishermen waited to see what each day would bring.
As fishermen remove reminders of a season that didn't happen, they're hoping boats will be back in the water next summer.
The governor has requested a federal fisheries disaster declaration so fishermen can get federal aid. Most fishermen say they're finding other ways to cope in case the funding doesn't come through.