Dave Lyon's proposal to use archery gear in Cook Inlet saltwater fisheries was one of the less contentious proposals -- in that it drew a broad base of rejection from most of the users who testified before the Board of Fisheries on its first day -- before the committee designated to discuss sportfish and personal use salmon proposals during the Board of Fisheries meeting Tuesday in Anchorage.
But, when Lyon got the chance to argue in favor of his proposal during the committee meeting, he managed to sway a few people to change their minds and testify in support of his idea.
The key, he said to board members, was in the wording in his proposal that would permit archery fishing only in areas where saltwater was open to snagging fish by regulation, a practice he said implied that a fish stock was abundant.
"If you can rip a giant hook through a school of fish, catch them, maybe hook them, maybe not, you don't have a problem with how those fish are harvested or if they're damaged during the harvesting," he said during his committee testimony. "This isn't going to be some sort of gold rush to go shoot salmon with a bow, this is simply a recreational opportunity for what isn't going to be much more than a big handful of archers in the state who even have boat fishing tackle.
"It would be fun and worthwhile to try and shoot a pink or a chum or whatever might be there where the water is clear and the fish is legal. The circumstances surrounding a successful attempt at archery fishing are pretty slim."
Snagging is allowed year-round in Cook Inlet salt waters south of Anchor Point, except some areas of Kachemak Bay. It is not permitted in the Inlet north of the latitude of Anchor Point, according to Fish and Game regulations.
Fish and Game staff opposed the proposed regulation saying it would create a safety concern in areas where anglers are concentrated and could increase harvest of salmon, according to staff comments submitted in advance of the meeting.
"In Alaska, archery equipment is not allowed for salmon and only allowed for species with no bag limits or liberal bag limits," said Homer area management biologist Carol Kerkvliet.
Several anglers took issue with the idea that archery was unsafe.
Jim Stubbs, a representative of the Anchorage Fish and Game advisory committee, said he wished he had heard Lyon's testimony before he voted on the proposal in advance of the board's meeting.
"I, as a teenager, did bowhunt for carp and as he says it's a pretty heavy fiberglass arrow. You don't get any deflection -- it's just pointing down at the water," he said.
If the proposal doesn't get into regulation this year, Stubbs said, he would support it during the next board cycle in 2016.
Mike Crawford, chair of the Kenai and Soldotna advisory committee, said he was still against the proposal but did not agree with Fish and Game's characterization of archery fishing as unsafe.
"If this is the only reason why the department closes this is a safety issue then you need to pass this proposal because it's not a dangerous activity to do by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "You're not launching an arrow 50 yards out into the water hoping to hit some fish. You're shooting straight down at a fish you see, a couple feet under the water."
Some remain unconvinced, like Dave Martin, president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, whose Central Peninsula advisory committee also voted not to support the proposal.
"This is a fully allocated fishery and we don't think any gear type needs to be introduced," he said. "On a personal note, from what I heard today, if you want to come back in three years and replace snagging with archery, that might be a decent proposal."
Others against the proposal said they worried it would reduce the esteem of salmon as typically archery fisheries are reserved for fish stocks that are plentiful or so-called "trash fish."
Lyon disagreed with those anglers.
"I would say snagging is promoting that kind of approach," he said. "Archery fishermen are looking at a fish, trying to get that fish. You have to lead it and you have to fire under it -- it's not easy. But it's socially acceptable here to just rip a giant hook through a school of fish, catch it in the tail, drag it up, maybe it gets off badly damaged. ... So if you're going to say that there's a nobility associated with pursuing salmon, the state has already eliminated that in some instances."
The Board of Fisheries meeting will consider this and other proposals through Wednesday in Anchorage.
By RASHAH MCCHESNEY