Troopers cite homeless Ship Creek salmon snaggers

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

If you're going to break the fish and wildlife laws in Alaska, do it right as Alaska State Troopers say two Anchorage men did this week.

Troopers have cited 56-year-old Martin Cothren and 46-year-old William Abfalter for attempting to snag salmon in Anchorage's downtown Ship Creek using "a weighted hook attached to parachute cord."

Cothren and Abfalter are reportedly "street people," as the homeless are called in the state's largest city. They were busted just blocks from the Brother Francis Shelter, an emergency shelter for the homeless. Ship Creek supports a run of king salmon that has become a bit of a downtown tourist draw.

Fishing is legally allowed on a short stretch of the creek below the downtown bluffs. Abfalter and Cothren are accused of doing their fishing upstream in a woody and closed area that winds through an industrial zone. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the king season in Ship Creek by emergency order at the end of June because of a shortage of fish.

Abfalter has a history of problems with the law. Court records indicate he has in the past been repeatedly charged with shoplifting, criminal mischief, assault, disorderly conduct, trespassing and drunkeness, but this appears to be the first time he's ever been charged with illegal fishing.

Cothren and Abfalter were cited on Aug. 5 for attempting to snag king salmon and for fishing with weighted hooks in fresh water, according to troopers. Each citation carries a penalty of $110.