A member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries was cited by wildlife troopers in the commercial fishing hotbed of Dillingham last week for continuing to fish in an area after it had been closed.
Frederick "Fritz" Johnson was fishing for salmon using a drift gillnet with Gust McCarr, his fishing partner of six years, when he was cited.
The two men thought fishing closed at 6:30 p.m., when the actual closure happened at 6 p.m., Johnson told Alaska Dispatch News on Monday. They noticed an Alaska Wildlife Troopers plane circling overhead shortly after 6.
"We were attracting a lot of attention and weren't sure why," Johnson said. "It turns out we were three minutes over."
Troopers issued the citation July 2. The men are expected to be in court July 14. Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen did not dispute Johnson's assessment of the incident, saying she did not have access to the charging documents and she wasn't sure what fine might be associated with it.
The Board of Fisheries decides when, how and how much of a particular fish species can be caught in the state's subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport and personal use fisheries. It also sets policy for management of the state's fishery resources.
Glenn Haight, executive director of the Board of Fisheries, said that whether the citation would compromise Johnson's standing as a board member would be up to Gov. Bill Walker. Johnson was appointed to the board by Walker's predecessor, Gov. Sean Parnell; Johnson's term ends in June 2016.
Katie Marquette, a spokeswoman for the governor, said it is too early for Gov. Walker to weigh in on the matter since since the alleged violation is still in its citation stage.
Johnson, who has fished in Bristol Bay since 1979, said he has received two other citations in his long career, both of which he declared in his ethics statement before his first board meeting.
"I was told by the board's legal counsel that it was not necessary to list those citations on the ethics disclosure, but I did," Johnson said. "It's kind of like getting a traffic ticket."
"I'm certainly embarrassed and not pleased by this," Johnson added.
Johnson, who lives in Dillingham, founded the Bristol Bay Times newspaper in 1980 and a small print shop called Mosquito Press. He is regional fisheries director for the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. and a director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing