All posts by Chris Cocoles

Alaska Fishing Updates


The following press releases are courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Cottonwood and Wasilla Creeks Coho Salmon Sport Fishing Limits and Days Liberalized


Effective 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, 2017, the Department of Fish and Game is increasing the sport fishing bag and possession limit for coho salmon, to four fish, in waters open to salmon fishing on Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks. In addition, fishing will be allowed on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays at Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day.

The coho salmon limit is combined with the bag and possession limit of sockeye, chum, and pink salmon. After taking a bag limit of salmon in any of these waters, a person may not sport fish that same day in any water open to salmon fishing.

Bait and multiple hooks (meaning no more than two single hooks or two treble hooks per line) will be permitted in these fisheries.

The sustainable escapement goal (SEG) for coho salmon in Fish Creek is 1,200-4,400 fish. As of August 22, 2017, weir counts indicate approximately 4,720 coho salmon have passed the weir and the SEG has been exceeded. Based upon previous studies, there is a correlation in run size between runs to Fish Creek and runs to other Knik Arm streams, specifically Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks. A recent staff survey of lower Wasilla Creek indicates an above average run for that system is likely to occur as predicted by the correlation.

The Jim Creek coho salmon run is managed separately to achieve the escapement goal established for that system. Jim Creek and the stocked terminal fishery at the Eklutna Tailrace are unaffected by this emergency order.


Little Susitna River Bait Restriction Lifted

Effective 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, September 30, 2017, anglers will be allowed to use bait in the Little Susitna River from its mouth upstream to the Parks Highway.

The Little Susitna River coho salmon sustainable escapement goal (SEG) is 10,100-17,700 fish. An emergency order effective August 6, 2017, prohibiting bait on the Little Susitna River was issued to slow the rate of harvest, while the run continued to be assessed. In general, the coho salmon run to Cook Inlet is late and low water conditions through much of the season have likely exacerbated the late run timing to area streams. Daily weir counts have recently increased and the cumulative escapement as of Wednesday morning, August 23, is approximately 9,435 coho salmon and the SEG is projected to be met.

State Of Alaska Discusses Refuge, National Park Regs



The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

The State of Alaska is among several parties with lawsuits pending challenging U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service efforts to override Alaska’s authority to manage state-trust fish and wildlife species. While these are presently in-state issues, their implications if unresolved could set national precedent. All other 49 states support Alaska and agree that wildlife management is most appropriately overseen with local expertise by state government. Here’s some background:

The State of Alaska opposed all of these rules and worked with its delegates in Washington, D.C., to address them.

  • In March 2017, Congress repealed the August 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations under House Joint Resolution 69. The repeal, signed into law by the President in April, did not include those adopted specifically by the Kenai refuge in May 2016. (To learn more about HJR69, visit
  • More recently, in directives issued in July 2017 by the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service Alaska Region were instructed to reconsider the recently-implemented federal hunting and trapping regulations on national preserves and in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge that contradict Alaska’s authority to manage its wildlife. The agencies were directed to reassess the need for the October 2015 and May 2016 rules and give further consideration to certain elements, in particular the “various prohibitions that directly contradict State of Alaska hunting and trapping authorizations and wildlife management decisions.”

The repeal of the August 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations through HJR69 was preceded by social media campaigns that used misinformation to cloud the issue. Contrary to what some activists claimed, the repeal does not allow hunters anywhere in Alaska to gas wolf pups in their dens or to shoot bears and wolves from airplanes, nor does it allow bears to be taken in steel-jawed traps. Similar campaigns are now targeting the July directive.

Below are a series of frequently asked questions and answers related to this subject:

Q. What is the status of bear and wolf populations in Alaska?A. The state manages wildlife, both predators and prey, on a sustained yield basis. There are no conservation concerns for bears and wolves in Alaska.Q. Is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game poised to implement widespread predator control plans on refuges, parks, and preserves across Alaska?A. No. Any predator control effort must comply with applicable state and federal laws. The department does conduct predator control in limited areas of state lands and only after significant study and input from the public through open processes.Q. Aren’t some state-allowed hunting practices forms of predator control?A. No, nor do they function in that manner. State hunting regulations have only a modest effect on the relationship between predators and prey and are generally designed to take advantage of abundant populations of wildlife under the sustained yield concept of wildlife management. This is especially important for subsistence users who depend on wildlife as their primary source of food and for others also seeking to carry on personal traditions related to harvesting fish and wildlife as food.Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the aerial hunting of bears (brown/grizzly or black)?A. No. Hunting from aircraft is prohibited for all species. Bears may be taken from the air in state-approved predator control programs only, and only by state staff. Such programs are not hunting, but are management actions for specific areas and purposes. These management actions have occurred in only two places: in a small portion of Game Management Unit 19A in the springs of 2013 and 2014 to benefit moose; and individual bears were targeted in Game Management Unit 26B in the springs of 2012, 2013, and 2015 to benefit muskox. For more information, look for the annual reports for Game Management Units 19A and 26B on the state’s website at Q. Is predator control for bears being conducted on any federal refuge or preserve lands in Alaska?A. No, the state is not conducting predator control programs for bears on any federal refuge or preserve lands.(Follow-up) Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules restricting hunting practices), was predator control for bears taking place on federal refuge or preserve lands?A. No, prior to the federal rules the state was not conducting any predator control for bears on federal refuges and preserves.Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the aerial hunting of wolves?A. No. Aerial hunting or shooting of wolves from planes or helicopters is prohibited under general hunting regulations. Agents of the state in approved intensive management programs areas may conduct predator control that includes taking of wolves from aircraft in limited areas. Such programs are not hunting, but are management actions for specific areas. For more information on each program, see the annual reports on the state’s website at Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules), was aerial hunting of wolves taking place on federal refuge or preserve lands?A. No, hunting from aircraft is not allowed in Alaska. In addition, the state was not conducting any predator control on federal refuge or preserve lands, but the USFWS did conduct predator control (fox and mink) on refuges and USDA Forest Service lands and continues to do so.(Follow-up) Q. What are the general hunting regulations/restrictions for the use of aircraft in the taking of bears and wolves?A. Hunting is prohibited until 3 a.m. the day after flying except for dispatching a wolf in a trap, or under the conditions of a permit for hunting bears at registered bait stations providing the hunter is 300 feet from the plane. 5 AAC 92.095(a)(8) and 5 AAC 92.085(8)(G).Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the gassing of wolf pups?A. No. The use of carbon monoxide is allowed only in approved intensive management programs and only by state staff, not the general public. In a single incident in 2009, after taking two adult wolves in an approved predator control program, biologists discovered pups in a den. Because the pups were in an area endemic for rabies, the pups could not be removed from the area. Carbon monoxide was used to fill the wolf den and humanely kill the pups.(Follow-up) Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules), was gassing wolf pups in dens taking place on federal refuge lands?A. No.Q. What predator control programs are currently taking place on federal land?A. The USFWS is currently conducting predator control for native red fox, Arctic fox, and mink on refuges and USDA Forest Service lands in Alaska. There are no state-run predator control programs on NPS or USFWS lands. Some BLM and military lands may be affected.Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the taking of bears and/or bear cubs at den sites?A. In general, no. State hunting regulations prohibit disturbing dens. However, taking bears and/or bear cubs at den sites is allowed in a limited area where it is a customary and traditional practice, and is limited to subsistence only. The Federal Subsistence Board also currently allows federally-qualified subsistence users to engage in this practice on designated areas within Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. See, pages 84 and 118 Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules), was this practice taking place on federal refuge and preserve lands?A. Yes. The harvest of bears at den sites is also allowed in some federal areas under federal subsistence regulations.Q. Does the State of Alaska allow the taking of wolves and or wolf pups at den sites?A. Dens can’t be disturbed when trapping wolves. Hunting of wolves can take place near dens if seasons are open.Q. Does the State of Alaska allow the taking of bears over bait?A. Yes. The harvest of bears at registered bait stations is a form of regulated take throughout many areas of the state (and throughout many of the contiguous 48 states). State hunting regulations require a permit, issued under 5 AAC 92.044. The Federal Subsistence Board also currently allows federally qualified subsistence users to engage in this practice on federal land. See, pg. 20 Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules), was this practice taking place on federal refuge and preserve lands?A. Yes, this was a recognized, compatible use by permit on federal refuges and preserve lands under a state permit.Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the hunting of cub bears and sows with cubs? If so, in which cases?A. Generally, no. However, taking of black bear cubs and sows with cubs is allowed in a limited area of the state at den sites and elsewhere, under customary and traditional practices by resident hunters. Few bears are harvested under this allowance in any given year.(Follow-up) Q. Under state regulations (prior to the federal rules), was this practice taking place on federal refuge and preserve lands?A. Yes.Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the trapping or snaring of bears? If so, in which cases?A. No, this is prohibited by the state’s hunting regulations. Bears may be snared only under approved predator control programs, and only by foot snares. The use of leg hold, steel jawed traps is prohibited.(Follow-up) Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules), was this practice taking place on federal refuge or preserve lands?A. No. The state has not conducted predator control on refuges or preserves.Q. Does the State of Alaska permit the trapping or snaring of wolves? If so, in which cases?A. Yes, it is allowed under trapping regulations in a manner similar to other states with sustainable wolf populations.(Follow-up) Q. Under state management (prior to the federal rules), was this practice taking place on federal refuge and preserve lands?A. Yes, this use is conducted throughout Alaska, including on refuge and preserve lands where trapping is an allowed use.Q. Does the state Board of Game have the authority to set all hunting rules in refuges and preserves, including seasons and bag limits for bears, wolves and coyotes?A. Except when preempted by an act of Congress, all states have the authority to regulate the use of resident fish and wildlife. In Alaska, the Board of Game has the authority to set hunting and trapping regulations based on principles of sustained yield derived from the Alaska Constitution and as guaranteed by Congress in the Alaska Statehood Act, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. This includes the authority to establish or prohibit methods and means of harvest.Q. Will the state Board of Game authorize predator control in refuges or preserves?A. Though such action is theoretically possible, existing federal law already places significant barriers to implementing state predator control programs on refuges and preserves. The State of Alaska would work cooperatively with the federal agencies and in compliance with applicable federal laws if a state predator control program is desired on federal refuges or preserves. Whether such a program proceeds on those lands would be up to federal officials because such actions are subject to NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review. The USFWS does currently conduct extensive predator control programs in refuges across the United States, including in Alaska. These USFWS predator control programs are intended to improve populations of wildlife, particularly waterfowl, to meet population objectives to support human interests and to support the purposes of refuges, including hunting. In 2015 federal land management agencies, including USFWS, killed 385 wolves, 68,905 coyotes and 480 bears nationwide, along with thousands of other birds and mammals.

Susitna River Coho Limits Increasing

Susitna River photo by Mike Lunde

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Deparment of Fish and Game:

Effective 5 p.m. on August 22, 2017, the Department of Fish and Game is increasing the sport fishing bag and possession limit for coho salmon, to four fish per day and eight fish in possession, in all waters open to salmon fishing on the Susitna River Drainage (Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). No more than three per day and six in possession may be pink, chum, and sockeye salmon in combination.

The sustainable escapement goal (SEG) for coho salmon in the Deshka River is 10,200-24,100 fish. As of August 20, 2017, weir counts indicate 33,297 coho salmon have passed the weir and the escapement goal has been exceeded. Past studies indicate that the Deshka River coho salmon stock can comprise from 7 percent to 17 percent of the mainstem Susitna River total abundance. Given this information, it is likely the Susitna River is experiencing a well above average run of coho salmon. Strong catch rates in commercial fisheries of the Central and Northern districts and reports from sport anglers and guides of above average catch rates across all clear water tributaries of the Susitna River drainage, are further indications of a large run of coho salmon.

These actions do not affect streams within the Knik Arm area including the Little Susitna River, Eklutna Tailrace, and Jim, Cottonwood, Fish, and Wasilla creeks. On the Little Susitna River, the use of bait continues to be restricted by emergency order and the bag and possession limit remains at two coho salmon, 16 inches or greater in length per regulation.



Orphaned Alaskan Bear Cubs Filling Zoos

Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Interesting piece in the San Francisco Chronicle  reflects upon a surplus of orphaned Alaskan bear cubs and the state’s controversial hunting regulations for targeting bruins. 

Here’s Chronicle reporter Filipa Ioannou with more:

Two of the newest residents at the San Francisco Zoo are part of a glut of orphaned bear cubs found malnourished in the Alaskan wild in a trend that coincides with a repeal of regulations restricting the hunting of bears that was approved by President Trump.

The two black bear cubs — one a male found in May in a wildlife refuge near Valdez, Alaska, the other a female rescued in June in a refuge near Juneau — are part of a wave of Alaskan baby bears placed in zoos throughout the lower 48.

 Both cubs at the San Francisco Zoo were emaciated when they were found, weighing less than 20 pounds, officials said.

“It’s definitely not normal,” said Patrick Lampi, executive director of the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. “I’ve worked for the Alaska Zoo for 31 years, and we’ve never had this many bear cubs — the most in the past it was maybe five or six, and this year it was 11.”

The increase is dramatic, especially compared with last year, according to Lampi.

“Last year we had zero cubs — we thought we were doing a pretty good job this year,” he said.

The influx of orphaned bear cubs comes as problematic bear-human interactions appear to be increasing in the state, and at the same time as short-lived Obama-era regulations restricting the use of bear traps and aggressive hunting practices to protect predator populations on federal land have been repealed under a Republican-controlled Congress.

The rest of the piece is worth a read.




Pennsylvanian Fined After Hunting Bears Claiming Alaska Resident Status


A Pennsylvania man will pay $9,000 in fines stemming from hunting bears while claiming to be an Alaska resident.  Here’s Anchorage’s CBS TV  affiliate KTVA with more:

A man from Pennsylvania will pay a steep fine over two illegal Alaska bear kills, after Alaska Wildlife Troopers say he falsely claimed to be an Alaska resident when he applied to hunt them near the Brooks Range.

Brian Schoenly, 53, was ordered to pay $9,000 in the case, troopers said in an online dispatch Wednesday. He pleaded guilty July 31 to one count of making a false statement on an Alaska Department of Fish and Game application, plus two counts of not obtaining a big-game tag as a nonresident.

The case stemmed from an Alaska resident hunting and fishing license Schoenly received in June 2015, troopers said, for which he claimed to have been a resident since 2011.

Here’s the Alaska Wildlife Troopers report:

In February of 2016 Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Juneau started a residency investigation on Brian Schoenly, age 53 of Pennsylvania.  An initial residency investigation revealed Schoenly obtained an Alaska resident fishing and hunting license in June of 2015 claiming he has been a resident since 2011.  Further investigation revealed Schoenly did not meet the requirements to qualify for Alaskan residency for hunting and fishing privileges. In September of 2015 Schoenly harvested a brown bear and a black bear while hunting in GMU 25-A under the claim of residency.  When Schoenly harvested the brown bear in 2015 he did so without a guide.  Schoenly also did not have proper locking tags for the brown bear and black bear and was in unlawful possession of both bears.

Schoenly was originally charged with two counts of making a false statement on a fish and game application, one count of unsworn falsification, two counts of nonresident not obtaining a big game tag, one count of nonresident hunting without a guide, and two counts of unlawful possession of a big game animal.  On 7/31/2017 Schoenly plead guilty to one count of making a false statement on a fish and game application, and two counts of a nonresident not obtaining a big game tag. Schoenly was ordered to pay $9000 in fines and forfeiture of a brown bear and a black bear.  As part of the plea agreement the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the additional charges.


USFWS Shares Kodiak Island Salmon Stories

Check out this great feature from Alaska’s United States Fish and Wildlife office on Kodiak Island salmon.

First Fish

It’s an early morning in early June, and a man in dark blue coveralls paces slowly down the beach to river’s mouth. A few casts into the current and he moves on, stopping again as the beach ends and small waves break along the river’s flow. In the distance behind him, the city of Kodiak rises above the breakwater and ship masts of the downtown harbor. Across the river and just out to sea, small aluminum skiffs move hopefully along the white float line of waiting gillnets.

Across the city, residents wait for the flash of blue-green scales and silver bellies of ocean-fresh sockeye, the first fish of the season to return to their birth streams in the Buskin River watershed.

Sockeye salmon returning to spawn in the Buskin River are some of the first salmon of the year for Kodiak residents.
When sockeye salmon first return from the ocean, the scales on their back are a brilliant blue-green, earning them the name “blueback.” As they prepare to spawn, their colors change from blue, green and silver to a bright green head and red body. Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS
Fresh catch: sockeye salmon provide sustenance. Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

After a long winter, the Buskin River offers some of the earliest subsistence and sport fishing opportunities for Kodiak residents and visitors. Easily accessible and only four miles from downtown, the Buskin River has supported an important fishery for over 5,500 years?—?historically one of the largest subsistence resources on the Archipelago. Filling the freezer with Buskin River reds (sockeye) is part of early summer life, and a tradition for many. The winding waters, rich with life, are a backyard treasure that nourish the Kodiak community throughout the year.

The Salmon Song & the Magic River

Just above the river beach where hopeful fishermen cast, a circle of kindergarten and 1st grade campers begin to sing:

Thumb is for chum! Learning about the five species of Pacific salmon. Photo: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Just a little egg I am,
Buried under rock and sand,
Soon I’ll be an egg with an eye,
Then an alevin, then a little fry…
I’m a salmon, I’m a salmon,
I’m a salmon!

School is out for summer, but learning the salmon life cycle is all part of a day’s fun at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Salmon Camp!
Watch: The Salmon Song

The Refuge’s Salmon Camp offers week-long science learning and outdoor exploration for children K-8th grade throughout the summer. With the Buskin River Beach House as home base, the campers grow up exploring the river in their backyard?—?discovering fish and fishing as they advance from one year to the next.

It all starts with the “Magic” River. For 5 and 6 year olds, a concrete wall at the beach house transforms into a mysterious watery wonderland. Campers practice their casts and sometimes find a tug on the end of their lines… reeling in, they find a fish!

Young campers practice their cast and reel at the Magic River during an early session of Kodiak Refuge Salmon Camp. Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.
All along the river bank, young campers try their luck with the fish. While some arrive with fishing experience, several are learning to cast for the first time.
Getting a closer look: Trent Dodson, Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, leads a salmon dissection session on the banks of the Buskin River. Photo: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

A great big fish is what I am
Swimming in the big ocean,
Back to the river I’ll smell my way,
Maybe you’ll see my kids someday…
I’m a salmon, I’m a salmon, I’m a salmon!

As campers grow up, their fishing days at Salmon Camp move to the Buskin River?—?with real rods, water, and the chance to catch a salmon or Dolly Varden.

They also learn more about salmon biology, with the help of fish dissection activities on the river bank. As the salmon return each year, so do the students, building their connection to the cycles and rich life that runs through the river and enriches their community.

Growing up Salmon Camp: hopeful for fish, proud catch, and learning moments with a Kodiak Refuge volunteer instructor. Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Baby Salmon Live Here

Options are everything for salmon in a river. The Buskin watershed begins at the base of steep mountain ridges and includes several tributaries and lakes. Roads criss-cross the watershed cradled by the city of Kodiak, the largest Coast Guard base in the nation, the Island’s main airport, and the legacy of World War II Navy infrastructure.

View over Buskin River, with Buskin Lake and Pyramid Mountain in the background. Photo courtesy of Carl Royall.

For adult and tiny juvenile salmon, the fragmented habitat can be difficult to navigate and lead to declines in the overall health of salmon populations and other fish species. Old culverts and unused roads may prevent returning adults from reaching spawning grounds and also block the juvenile fish from moving within the river, limiting their access to rearing and feeding areas.

Partners are working to help baby salmon get where they need to go: the Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program field staff are coordinating a Buskin River watershed restoration effort in partnership with the Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District, the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Natives of Kodiak, and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. With funding support from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, over the next three years this partnership is working to restore aquatic habitat connectivity by removing several barriers to fish passage in the Buskin River watershed.

Out of 19 identified road-stream crossings to be addressed, some culverts can be removed completely, while others will be replaced with engineered fish-friendly designs. Service fishery field biologists will also monitor and compare the habitat changes and juvenile salmon access as the barriers disappear.

Left: U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak crew opening access for salmon: removing an old metal culvert and an older World War II wooden culvert from an unused road just above the Buskin River; May, 2017. Right: USFWS Fish Passage Engineer, Heather Hanson, conducts a site visit at a culvert scheduled for replacement; December 2016. Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Healthy River, Healthy Resource

As the Service and its partners remove barriers to fish passage, others work to monitor and maintain the health of the river and its fish.

Upstream from Salmon Camp, Alaska Department of Fish and Game intern Tina Cruz helps seine up sockeye for sampling. Her crew leader places a fish in the sampling cradle and calls out the length and sex, while Tina plucks a small silver scale from the salmon for later age analysis.

Tina and Mekia are high school interns at the Buskin weir for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Tina began her early career with Kodiak Refuge as a Youth Conservation Corps student in 2016! Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Monitoring the number of salmon that escape into the lake to spawn and analyzing trends in their age and size helps managers ensure the future sustainability of the run?—?and future opportunities for subsistence and sport fishermen. Research is an important tool to maximize this fishery that is recognized by the Federal Subsistence Board as a resource important for customary and traditional use for Kodiak residents.

Finding signal crayfish beneath the rocks of Buskin Lake.

Just around the corner from salmon sampling, Kelly Krueger, biologist with the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, turns over rocks in the shallows of the Buskin Lake. She lifts up a female signal crayfish, pinchers grasping and abdomen full of eggs. The crayfish are newcomers to Kodiak, and are considered invasive to Alaska?—?found currently only in the Buskin.

Not far from the Buskin River weir, invasive signal crayfish have established along the shoreline of the Buskin Lake. Photos: Lisa Hupp/USFWS

“We don’t know how they got here, how they established, and we don’t know what they’re doing?—?other studies show that they do eat salmon eggs and juvenile salmon and trout. As a tribe we’re really concerned about what these crayfish could do to our subsistence resources, and we’d like to learn a little more about how they could impact Buskin salmon,” says Krueger.

The close proximity of the Buskin watershed to civilization poses risks as people accidentally introduce harmful invasive plants or animals. As metal barriers come down, new barriers to water flow have emerged: reed canarygrass is considered a major threat to wetlands throughout western North America, replacing native habitats, forming dense stands that can alter stream channels and diminish food and cover used by young salmon. In 2016, Kodiak Refuge staff and the Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District began restoring native habitats impacted by canarygrass in the Buskin drainage?—?control efforts continue during the summer and fall of 2017.

Concerned stakeholders are working together to tackle invasive species issues. Anglers and the Kodiak community can help, too! Prevent the introduction and spread of harmful species by cleaning boats, boots, and gear, and do not empty aquariums into wild river systems.

The Buskin River Future?—?Follow Along!

From tiny mountain streams to the ocean mouth, the Buskin River bends through Kodiak’s backyard. Baby salmon dart over gravel beds, bears sniff along banks, anglers cast, boats unwind nets, and campers sing the first fish home. Follow along with us as we work with partners to improve salmon habitat in the Buskin River watershed and educate the next generation!

Salmon camper casts into the Buskin River. Photo: Lisa Hupp/USFWS


  • Enjoy more photos of the Buskin River stories HERE.
  • Be part of the solution for invasive species! Learn to identify harmful species and where to report sightings. For Alaska, you can report sightings online. For more information about Kodiak invasive species, check out the local work of the Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District and the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak.
  • For more information on actions to restore fish passage in the Buskin River, contact the USFWS Anchorage Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office at (907) 271–1798.
  • For more information about the Buskin River research conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and supported in part by the USFWS Office of Subsistence Management: Fishery Data Series ?14–26

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In Alaska we are shared stewards of world renowned natural resources and our nation’s last true wild places. The lands and waters of this place we call home nourish a vast and unique array of fish, wildlife and people. We cultivate a reverent awareness and respect for all things, from Alaska’s smallest plants and most iconic animals to its diverse communities and cultures. Our hope is that each generation has the opportunity to live with, live from, discover and enjoy the wildness of this awe-inspiring land and the people who love and depend on it.


Alaska Residents Will Be Able To Hunt Emperor Geese Again

Painting courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game.


The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: 

Alaska resident waterfowl hunters will have the opportunity to harvest emperor geese this fall for the first time in 30 years. Federal regulations for the 2017-2018 waterfowl hunting season allow a statewide harvest of 1,000 emperor geese. Registration permits are available now for seven hunt areas; the bag limit is one emperor goose per hunter per season.

A maritime species featuring distinctive white heads and necks and pale-gray wing and body plumage, emperor geese are exclusive to Alaska and the Russian Far East. Conservation efforts over recent decades helped the geese recover from a low population size to a harvestable level.

Hunt areas include coastal Game Management Units 23, 22, 18, 9 and 17 combined, 10, 8, and the Izembek State Game Refuge. Each hunt area is assigned an individual quota and requires a registration permit unique to the area. Hunters are asked to read the hunt conditions on registration permits carefully; hunt areas may have different season dates, quotas, reporting requirements, or restrictions.

Successful hunters must report their harvest of an emperor goose by phone or online at within 24 hours or 72 hours, depending upon the hunt area. All hunts will be subject to closure by emergency order to avoid exceeding area harvest quotas.

For more information, see the “2017-2018 Emperor Goose Hunt Details” sheet below; contact state Waterfowl Coordinator Jason Schamber at (907) 267-2206; or visit

2017-2018 Emperor Goose Hunt Details

  • Hunting will be open by registration permit to ALASKA RESIDENTS who possess a current hunting license (see migratory game bird regulations for license exemptions).
  • Registration permits are free and will be available in unlimited number online at, at Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices, and at many license vendors in rural coastal villages where emperor geese are hunted.
  • A permit allows the harvest and possession of one emperor goose per hunter per season.
  • Hunters must purchase a federal and state waterfowl stamp to hunt emperor geese (see the migratory game bird regulations for duck stamp exemptions).
  • There are seven established hunt areas across the range of emperor geese, each with a registration permit unique to the area and an individual quota.
  • A hunter may register for one permit in a single hunt area or one permit in each of multiple hunt areas; however, the harvest and possession of only one emperor goose per hunter per season is allowed regardless of the number of permits held.
  • Season dates vary by hunt area. Hunters are encouraged to check the migratory bird hunting regulations booklet or online at for detailed information about specific season dates.
  • Successful hunters must report their harvest by phone 1-800-478-7468 or online at within 24 hours or 72 hours, depending on the hunt area.
  • Hunt areas will be closed by emergency order to avoid exceeding area harvest quotas; call 1-800-478-7468 for updated hunt area closure information.
  • Please read the hunt conditions on registration permits carefully; hunt areas may have different season dates, reporting requirements, or restrictions.
  • More information about the 2017-2018 fall-winter emperor goose hunt is available at or contact Jason Schamber at (907) 267-2206


Wanna Camp In Alaska? Try These USFWS Refuge System Options


The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. Photos courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:


Alaska has often been called America’s last wilderness. The concept is vividly real on the 16 national wildlife refuges in the state. While some of the refuges can only be accessed by boat or plane, others are more accessible.

Here’s a sampling of camping opportunities at each refuge, including one the size of a mid-Atlantic state, another with world-class fishing and one famous for its massive bears. 


Kanuti Refuge, at approximately 1.6 million acres, is about the size of the state of Delaware and is de facto wilderness. Visitors here can see the great wilds of remote Alaska, with, if visible, signs of human manipulation or a permanent human presence. Camping is permitted on the refuge; permission is not required, but there are no services or facilities offered. And getting to Kanuti Refuge is part of the adventure.

The best way for a visitor to experience Kanuti NWR is to float in an inflatable kayak or collapsible canoe on either the Middle Fork or the South Fork of the Koyukuk River from the Dalton Highway to the village of Allakaket. Visitors can access the Middle Fork from the Dalton Highway at the small community of Coldfoot, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management operate the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, where visitors can get current information about river conditions and more.

 The South Fork Koyukuk can also be accessed from the Dalton Highway at the bridge crossing, about 30 miles south of Coldfoot. Each river takes about six days to float and they offer ideal camping and the likelihood of seeing very few, if any, other people. Air flights are available to return to Fairbanks. Visitors can and do float the Kanuti River, but it is a more technically challenging float and requires a more expensive air charter pickup by floatplane rather than commercially scheduled flights.

 Fishing is part of Alaska’s great recreation tradition, as is hunting. Both are permitted on Kanuti Refuge.


Kenai Refuge is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The small lakes and rivers in the refuge’s northern portion are great for canoeing. Fishing is a great angling challenge, as each body of water has its own fish ecology and regulations. Good areas for quiet fishing near the road system are found in small lakes such as Lower Ohmer, Watson, Kelly, Petersen, Forest, Dolly Varden, Rainbow, Paddle and many areas of the Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe systems.

Want to pack a tent into the wilderness, or perhaps stay in your RV?  Kenai Refuge has it all. The refuge has more than 120 RV and tent sites. Free camping is available year-round in the Skilak area and on Swanson and Swan Lake Roads. You can reserve one of the refuge’s 14 cabins, or you can try your luck for one of the two cabins available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Kodiak Refuge is often called the Island of the Great Bear. Kodiak brown bears, genetically distinct, live in the wild in the rugged Kodiak archipelago. Kodiak Refuge was established in 1941. The 1.9-million-acre refuge is filled with misty fjords, glacial valleys and mountains. Its diverse habitats include 117 salmon-filled streams, 16 lakes, riparian wetlands, spruce forest, tundra and alpine meadows. 

Some 3,000 bears roam the refuge. More than 400 breeding pairs of bald eagles have been counted on the refuge, which provides migration and breeding habitat for some 250 species of fish, birds and mammals. 

Popular fishing destinations such as the Karluk, Uganik and Ayakulik Rivers offer world-class fishing for salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout. 


Kodiak Refuge has nine cabins priced at $45 per night, each available for reservations in advance. Cabins are equipped with oil stoves for heating, pit-style toilets and separate meat caches. Cabins are only accessible via boat or floatplane, and some have less access in the winter due to ice. 

Summer and fall are high season for anglers, photographers and hunters who are looking for low-cost cabins and camping opportunities in Alaska. Bookings can be made months in advance.

Here’s just one journal entry from one visitor to the Uganik Lake Cabin at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge: 

“We have had the most wonderful time here at Uganik Bay. The wildlife and landscape have forever changed my life. It’s not very often that people nowadays can leave the busy lives they lead – filled with fast-paced technology and lifestyles – to come here where they must leave it all. Nothing but the sounds of birds, fish jumping out of the water, and the constant lookout for a hopeful spotting of a Kodiak bear.”  


Tetlin refuge has two campgrounds along the Alaska Highway that open once roads are cleared of snow (usually in April). The campgrounds stay open until late autumn, usually October, while roads are still passable. 

The refuge also has four public use/administrative cabins that are available year-round if they are not being used by staff for management activities. Contact the refuge at (907) 883-5312 to determine which cabins are available and get a permit. Stays can be no longer than 14 consecutive days during the nonhunting season and seven days during the moose hunting season. 

Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis, but a lottery system has been instituted for the fall moose hunting season (generally late August to mid-September), when demand is especially high. Contact the refuges for specifics about the lottery. 

While the campgrounds and cabins are available for free use, the refuge asks that visitors leave them in the same good condition they found them. Keep in mind that access to the cabins requires a floatplane; the refuge suggests that visitors contact the two air charter businesses located in Tok for arrangements. And oh, just one more thing:

“Happy camping,” says Tetlin Refuge Manager Shawn Bayless. ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges, go to Like at Follow on Twitter (@USFWSALASKA). 

Chris Cocoles <>

Aug 4 (6 days ago)

to me


Helpful links for those interested in USFWS outdoor opportunities:









Retention Of King Salmon Prohibited In Southeast Alaska Salt Waters


The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the retention of king salmon is prohibited in all Southeast Alaska salt waters, king salmon may not be retained or possessed; any king salmon caught must be released immediately and returned to the water unharmed. These regulations will be effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday, August 10 through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, September 30, 2017.

The Southeast Alaska king salmon sport fishery is managed under the directives of the Southeast Alaska King Salmon Management Plan (5 AAC 47.055). This plan prescribes management measures based upon the preseason abundance index determined by the Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission. The plan also directs the department to eliminate inseason regulatory changes, except those necessary for conservation purposes.

Many of the king salmon stocks that contribute to the Southeast Alaska commercial and recreational fisheries are experiencing record-low production. These stocks originate in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. To comply with the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fisheries Policy and the Pacific Salmon Treaty, extreme management measures are necessary to curtail harvests of these stocks. Retention of king salmon will be prohibited at 12:01 a.m. August 10, 2017 in the Southeast Alaska recreational fisheries and extend through September 30. Additional management actions beyond September 30 are also being discussed.

Most of the king salmon stocks that contribute to Southeast Alaska fisheries are exhibiting extremely poor production and will not meet escapement goals or management objectives in 2017. The stocks which are exhibiting low productivity would contribute roughly half of the remaining 2017 allowable catch (per the Pacific Salmon Treaty) in Southeast Alaska waters.

Inseason information received from a variety of agency and academic sources all indicate that poor production conditions are currently occurring and will persist through at least 2018. Therefore it is imperative that Alaska take action to reduce harvest and conserve king salmon stocks with a focus on future production.
Please note that the regional king salmon resident and nonresident regulations announced on April 10, 2017 and the Ketchikan area king salmon regulations announced on March 6, 2017 have been rescinded and the above announced regulations apply.

The following king salmon regulations implemented by emergency order are still in effect:

Haines/Skagway Area
The retention of king salmon is prohibited in the waters of Section 15-A, Lynn Canal north of the ADF&G regulatory marker at Sherman Rock, including Chilkat Inlet, Chilkoot Inlet, Lutak Inlet, and Taiya Inlet through Sunday, December 31, 2017.

Juneau Area
The waters of Gastineau within a 300-yard radius of the Wayside Park Fishing Dock (Channel Wayside fishing dock) remain closed to snagging and sport fishing for king salmon through Thursday, August 31, 2017.

Sitka Area
Kasnyku Bay remains closed to sport fishing for king salmon through Friday, September 1, 2017

Bear Cove remains closed to sport fishing through Thursday, August 31, 2017:

For further information regarding sport fisheries in Southeast Alaska, contact the nearest ADF&G office or visit:

Bait Prohibited At Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River photo by user “Jim”/Wikimedia

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

The use of bait will be prohibited in the Little Susitna River from its mouth upstream to the Parks Highway effective 12:01 a.m. Sunday, August 6, 2017, through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, September 30, 2017. Only unbaited, artificial lures may be used. A person who takes a bag limit of salmon 16 inches long or longer from the Little Susitna River may not fish for any species of fish in the Little Susitna River downstream of the Parks Highway that same day.

The Little Susitna River coho salmon sustainable escapement goal (SEG) is 10,100 – 17,700 fish. Recent daily weir counts are well below average. As of August 3, 2017, only 679 coho salmon had passed upstream of the weir and the escapement is projected to be 4,456 fish at the 15th percentile of the historical run. Sport harvest can exceed escapement in average to below-average run years due to the high effort in this fishery. By August 6, as much as 50 percent of the harvest has typically taken place in the sport fishery. At this time, it is justified to slow the harvest of coho salmon at the Little Susitna River until the run can be further assessed to ensure the SEG is met.

The department will continue to monitor the Little Susitna River coho salmon run as it develops. If run strength improves to a level that can support a larger harvest, restrictions to the sport fishery may be rescinded. However, additional restrictions are possible if the run does not improve.