Bristol Bay drift gillnetters face boat inspection

Harvesters must adhere to current length regulations

Bristol Bay commercial salmon drift gillnet permit holders have been advised by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers of upcoming inspections during the summer fishery to determine whether participating vessels are adhering to current vessel length regulations and if crews are fishing legally.

Ongoing efforts by some participants in this fishery to amend current regulations to allow innovations that give them a harvesting advantage have yet to be approved by the Alaska Board of Fisheries, and no more proposals will be considered by the board before that season begins.

Current state fisheries regulations limit drift gillnetters to 32 feet in overall length with few exceptions, which were carefully identified in a letter sent to every gillnet permit holder in the Bristol Bay fishery.

One of those exceptions is that an anchor roller may extend no more than eight inches beyond the 32-foot overall length and may not be more than eight inches in width or height. An anchor roller is a device used solely for deploying and retrieving anchor gear and does not provide any additional flotation, planing surface, or structural support to the vessel. A planing surface is a surface on the hull of a boat designed to receive dynamic lift from the free water surface upon which it moves.

The regulation defines “overall length” as the straight-line measurement between the extremities of the vessel, but does not include fish drop-out baskets, anchor rollers, gillnet rollers, trim tabs, outdrives or outdrive guards.

The letter sent out on Feb. 14 cites five other items not included in the 32-foot measurement:

  • “Fish Drop-Out Basket” refers to a device used solely to prevent the loss of fish from a gillnet after the fish leaves the water and before it is brought on board the vessel. A “fish drop-out basket” does not provide any additional flotation, planing surface, or structural support to the vessel;
  • “Gillnet Roller” is a device used solely in aid of deploying and retrieving drift gillnet gear. A “gillnet roller” does not provide any additional flotation or planing surface to the vessel;
  • “Outdrive” is the part of the propulsion system of a vessel used for either steering or thrust. An “outdrive” does not provide any additional flotation or planing surface to the vessel; 
  • “Outdrive Guard” refers to a device of skeletal construction used solely to protect the outdrive unit of a vessel. An “outdrive guard” does not provide any additional flotation or planing surface and is not used for any other purpose such as a bench, platform, or storage area; 
  • “Trim Tabs” is an extension of the bottom of a vessel, at the transom, which is no more than 18 inches long at its longest point. “Trim tabs” do not provide any increased flotation, and their sole function is to provide trim to a vessel while underway.

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers noted that while many vessels are 32 feet in overall length, multiple items that have been modified, added to, or repositioned on vessels that extend beyond 32 feet and are not allowed by regulation. Examples of possible illegal modifications include, but not limited to:

  • Anchor rollers that are longer than the allowed eight inches extending beyond the 32-foot length or are taller and wider than the allowed eight inches;
  • Fish drop-out baskets that have been modified significantly. A fish drop-out basket may not provide flotation. Baskets that are built out of large diameter sealed aluminum tubing, which provides flotation when submerged under heavy loads are prohibited. A fish drop-out basket may not provide flotation;
  • Gillnet Rollers structures or mounts that extend beyond the 32-foot length. Although gillnet rollers may extend beyond 32 feet, extensions of the transom beyond 32 feet overall length are not allowed. Vessels that have extended their deck working space by building mounting structures off the stern of the vessel and moving the gillnet roller further back are prohibited;
  • Outdrive mounts that extend beyond the 32-foot length. Traditionally jet outdrives were bolted directly to the stern. Extension of the hull beyond 32 feet to mount the outdrive is not allowed under regulation;
  • Outdrive guards that have been built with large diameter sealed aluminum tubing. If such tubing traps air that provides flotation when submerged it is prohibited under the regulations. Some vessels have guards with aluminum decks added to them to provide a platform or bench. If the vessel has an outdrive guard below the jet unit, it may not provide a planing surface and must be of skeletal construction.
  • Trim tabs that have been modified and act as extension of the hull, if they provide additional flotation, are prohibited. Trim tabs have been seen that extend more than the maximum 18 inches beyond the 32-foot overall length. The “trim tab” can be included below the jet unit but may not be more than 18 inches long beyond the 32-foot overall length;
  • Miscellaneous items like refrigerated seawater systems, washdown systems, transducers, exhaust, ladders, platforms, and other items have been located aft of the transom are not authorized to be beyond the 32-foot overall length.

Alaska State Troopers Director Bernard Chastain said fishermen with questions on whether or not their vessels are in compliance are asked to call the Alaska Wildlife Trooper Post in King Salmon at 907-246-3307, Dillingham at 907-842-5351, Kodiak at 907-486-4762 or Captain Aaron Frenzel at 907-334-2501.