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Two undersized Alaska king salmon leave fisherman with a hefty fine

Jerzy Shedlock

Two undersized king salmon caught during this year’s southeast Alaska winter troll fishery have proven exceptionally costly for a Haines fisherman. Frank White pleaded guilty to catching the two Chinook, the largest Pacific salmon, and ended up paying thousands in fines for the confiscated fish dinner.

As part of a plea agreement with the Sitka district attorney’s office, the 32-year-old White was fined $4,000 with $2,000 suspended -- he’ll have to pay the other half of the fine if he breaks fish regulations again. The court also ordered White to pay $300 restitution for the salmon. At $2,300, White's kings proved spendier than what he'd pay at the most exclusive seafood restaurant. White also was placed on probation for a year.

According to Alaska State Troopers, White is captain of the fishing vessel Triad. He fished the Southeast Alaska/Yakutat winter troll fishery, which opened on Oct. 11, 2012 and generally closes on April 30, 2013, but the season's open until the total number of slayed salmon totals 45,000. As of the season’s 41st week, 26,194 fish had been harvested, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

During the winter fishery, all salmon species except silvers may be retained -- but any Chinook kept must exceed 28 inches. White's misdemeanor citation doesn’t say how big his two undersized fish were.

State wildlife troopers working out of Sitka spotted White offloading kings from the Triad on April 25 and spotted two fish under the required length. The troopers took the fish, wrote a citation and told White to appear in court.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Lt. Steve Hall says troopers hand out four to 10 citations a year for undersized salmon, he said.

Fishermen catching undersized salmon occasionally are repeat offenders while other trollers -- fishermen who drag multiple, baited fishing poles through the water -- may simply fail to measure the kings. Troopers have the freedom to use personal judgment when writing undersized salmon citations, Hall said.

Fines rarely reach the $2,300 White must pay. Offenders are fined on a scale, and the amount increases based on past offenses. White has five past offenses, according to online court records. In 2008, he pleaded no contest to over fishing with gurdies, which are spool-like apparatuses that reel in trolling wire with hydraulic power. And in 2006, the court found him guilty of commercial fishing in a closed area.

Troll-caught kings were selling retail for $17.95 per pound for the whole fish and $26.95 per pound for filets at 10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, on Thursday.

If White hadn’t been caught wet handed, he would’ve received about $7 per pound if he sold the kings, according to Fish and Game. 

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com