The state Board of Fish has banned the practice of “high-grading” sportfish but turned down a proposal to help disabled fishermen that was endosed by the board’s Kodiak advisory panel.

The board, which is made up of representatives from across the state, met last week in Anchorage to address finfish and miscellaneous issues affecting state-waters fisheries. In a unanimous vote, it banned high-grading, which occurs when fishermen catch a fish, then keep it alive on a line in hopes of grabbing a larger fish later in the day.

The practice has been occasionally seen in Kodiak waters but was more commonly seen on the Kenai Peninsula, where proximity to Alaska’s population centers and catch limits combine to create intense competition for large sportfish.

The board voted 1-6 against a proposal that would have exempted disabled handicapped and disabled fishermen from a ban on felt-soled waders.

Felt soles have been linked to increased transmission of invasive species because the felt traps eggs and small particles that may be carried from river to river as fishermen travel to different places.

Supporters of the exemption argued that felt soles are far superior to any alternative in terms of gripping slick rocks, and allowing handicapped and disabled fishermen an exemption levels the playing field.

While Kodiak’s advisory panel voted 5-4 in favor of the exemption, the board disagreed as it cited arguments like the one made by Brian West of Anchorage.

“Felt sole boots had not been in existence for long, and seniors and handicapped individuals were able to fish before their introduction,” he wrote in a comment to the board.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game withdrew another proposal that divided the Kodiak advisory panel.

That proposal would have allowed Fish and Game to restrict proxy fishing under emergency orders designed to reduce harvests.

ADF&G issues emergency orders whenever fish return to rivers in numbers less than predicted, cutting harvest to ensure the river isn’t overfished. Proxy fishing allows a registered fisherman to catch fish on behalf of an elderly or disabled Alaska resident.

Contact the Mirror at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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