All posts by Chris Cocoles

Buskin River Coho Fishery Shutting Down

Coho salmon photo by ADFG

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

Buskin River Closed to Coho Salmon Fishing

(Kodiak) – In an effort to achieve escapement goals, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is closing the Buskin River drainage to sport fishing for coho salmon effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, September 18 through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, December 31, 2019. Sport fishing for coho salmon on the Buskin River is closed and any coho salmon caught incidentally while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

“The Buskin River coho salmon stock has seen several years of lower returns than expected,” stated Area Management Biologist Tyler Polum. “As long as we’re in this period of low productivity, we need to manage conservatively to get coho salmon upriver to spawn.”

As of September 15, 2019, only 181 coho salmon have passed the Buskin River weir. The escapement goal for coho salmon into the Buskin River is 4,700 to 9,600 fish. Based on historical run timing, more than 50% of the run has occurred and ADF&G does not expect the final weir count to meet the escapement goal for this stock. Therefore, it is warranted to close the coho salmon sport fishery in an attempt to meet escapement objectives.

No Bait Allowed on Copper River Highway Streams

(Anchorage) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is prohibiting the use of bait on the Copper River Highway streams effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, September 18 through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, December 31, 2019. The Copper River Highway streams include all freshwaters drainages crossed by the Copper River Highway from and including Eyak River to the Million Dollar Bridge, including Clear Creek at mile 42 downstream of the Carbon Mountain Road Bridge.

“With the low numbers of coho salmon seen in the aerial survey we need to reduce harvest to ensure escapement for future coho returns,” stated Jay Baumer Sport Fish Area Management Biologist.

On September 11, 2019, the Copper River Delta (CRD) drainage aerial survey count for coho salmon was estimated at 8,565 coho salmon versus an anticipated range of 18,286 – 38,285. In addition, during the CRD aerial survey mortalities were observed in other reaches of Ibeck Creek likely related to low water conditions. The Copper River Delta area had been experiencing drought conditions with minimal to no rain. It has been determined that low water conditions over the last few weeks likely impeded fish migration. To help increase escapement in the CRD eliminating bait from the sport fishery is warranted.

Washington Senator Critical Of Arctic NWR Drilling Report

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell (D) blasted the Trump Administration’s release of an environmental analysis to determine the possibility of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling. Earlier today, the House of Representatives voted 225-193  to reinstate a ban on drilling at Arctic NWR, a vote that seems less likely to pass in among Cantwell’s fellow Senate members.

Here’s Cantwell’s statement. The senator has been one of the loudest opponents to Alaska’s Pebble Mine controversy in Alaska:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement slamming the Trump administration’s environmental analysis for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which will offer the full 1.6 million acres of the refuge’s federally-managed coastal plain for lease to oil and gas companies:

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an intact ecosystem with some of the world’s most unique wildlife. It has been protected for decades. Now the Trump administration plans to destroy it by proposing to drill everywhere in the refuge and conducting a sham environmental review process. Instead of living up to their commitment to protect wildlife, they are spreading pollution risk everywhere.”

The plan released by the administration is the most pro-drilling option considered by the Bureau of Land Management. It will leave just 359,000 acres of the refuge off-limits for drilling.

Throughout her career in the Senate, Cantwell has been a leader in protecting the refuge from oil exploration and drilling. She has cosponsored multiple bills to designate its coastal plain as a wilderness area, including legislation introduced earlier this week. In December of 2005, Cantwell led a historic filibuster that reversed a backdoor maneuver in the Senate to allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

Here’s the Associated Press on today’s House vote:

The drilling was authorized under a 2017 tax cut approved by the Republican-controlled Congress, an action the House vote attempts to undo. The bill now goes to the GOP-controlled Senate, where action is unlikely. Trump has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

Later Wednesday, the Interior Department released its final environmental impact statement on drilling in the refuge, with its preferred plan to offer the entire coastal plain for lease.

Here’s some more social media reaction:

 

Proposed Mining Road Draws Ire Of Conservationists, Alaska Hunters

Bureau of Land Management map of proposed mining road.

A proposed mining road that would run through a caribou-rich stretch of Alaskan wilderness has drawn heavy criticism from not just conservation groups but also hunters in the state. Here’s more from the Anchorage Daily News: 

Hunters condemned the proposed Ambler Road because it would be closed to the public. Conservationists said it would hurt caribou and other wildlife needed by villages in the region.

Close to 20 people spoke against the road. A few people expressed support, saying it would create jobs and state revenue. …

The long-discussed project would link Alaska’s skeletal road system north of Fairbanks to the mineral-rich Ambler Mining District, ending near Ambler and other villages.

 

Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby Will Be Retired After This Year’s Event

 

The following press release is courtesy of the Homer Chamber of Commerce:

After 34 years, the Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center Board of Directors has decided to retire the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby at the close of this year’s Derby on September 15, 2019.  

The Inaugural Homer Jackpot Derby began on Memorial Day, May 26, 1986. The winner that year was a local fisherman, Tony DeMichelle who won $5,000 for his 312-pound fish.  While the Chamber has always celebrated the largest fish weighed, the tournament was diversified by awarding prizes for both tagged fish and released fish.

The Chamber is grateful to all the sponsors and volunteers who have supported and made the Derby successful for so many years.  Don’t despair, Homer is is still the “Halibut Capital of the World” and the Chamber plans to premiere a two-day Halibut Tournament in June 2020.

Historical information on the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby can be found at homeralaska.org/jackpot-halibut-derby.html

Hunter Injured After Surprising Brown Bear Sow And Cubs

Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia

Alaska moose hunters had a harrowing confrontation with a bear last week around Gunsight Mountain, north of Palmer . Check out the video from KTVA TV in Anchorage, which has more on the story:

“Reportedly the two hunters surprised a sow brown bear with two cubs,” troopers wrote. “The sow attacked one of the hunters causing serious injuries.”

According to AST, the second hunter shot the adult female bear and ended the attack. The hunters then evacuated to a cabin and the injured hunter was flown by helicopter to an Anchorage hospital for treatment.

The report also says the bear was shot and killed during the attack. Here’s the full AST report:

Date: 9/9/2019 10:56:15 AM

AK19061774

Location: Eureka
Type: Bear Mauling

Dispatch Text:

On 9/6/19 at approximately 1900 hours, it was reported to Alaska Wildlife Troopers that a moose hunter was attacked by a bear in the Eureka/Gunsight Mountain area.  Reportedly the two hunters surprised a sow brown bear with two cubs.  The sow attacked one of the hunters causing serious injuries.  The second hunter was able to shoot the sow and end the attack.  The hunters self-evacuated to a cabin where the injured hunter was transported by Lifemed Helo to an Anchorage hospital for treatment of his injuries. Other hunters were able to confirm that the sow was deceased. ADF&G was notified.    

ADFG Seeking Proposals For Mat-Su Valley Habitat Restoration Program

The following is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game;

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Division of Sport Fish is currently accepting proposals for the 2020 Mat-Su Valley Habitat Restoration & Protection Cost-Share Program. The submission deadline is 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 30, 2019.

The Mat-Su Habitat Restoration & Protection Cost-Share Program, administered cooperatively by ADF&G and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is a financial incentive and educational outreach program directed towards private landowners and public land managers. The program provides technical expertise about restoration practices, state and federal permitting assistance, and funding for salmon habitat restoration and protection projects along streambanks on the Mat-Su Borough. Funds are limited and not all projects can be funded; however, selected landowners could have up to 2/3 the cost of their project reimbursed. Additionally, ADF&G staff provides educational opportunities to landowners, public land managers and the public on the components and value of fish habitat. The program uses and funds proven bioengineering techniques such as coir logs, willow plantings, cabled spruce trees rootwads, and elevated light penetrating walkways to help stabilize, revegetate, and rehabilitate streambanks.

“Fall is here, which means it’s time for landowners to submit their proposals for the 2020 Mat-Su Habitat Restoration & Protection Program. The deadline for submissions is 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 30, 2019” stated Habitat Biologist Jessica Johnson. “Even if you are unsure of what needs to be done to help your bank, please contact me so we can discuss your streambank or shoreline. Any little bit a landowner can do to rehabilitate or protect their banks helps support and maintain healthy juvenile salmon habitat and their populations.”

For an application and additional information, please contact the program’s Habitat Biologist Jessica Johnson at (907) 267-2403 or by email at DFG.DSF.StreambankRehab@alaska.gov. Additional information is also available on the ADF&G Cost-Share Program webpage.

NOAA Reveals A ‘Blob’ In The North Pacific

NOAA’s rendition of the new heatwave – aka a “blob” – that’s located up down the Pacific Ocean coast from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest. (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a new “blob”, caused by an oceanic heatwave, is covering waters in the Pacific Ocean and potentially affecting North Pacific salmon. A similar blob was detected in 2014, and this one appears to be even bigger.

Here’s some of NOAA’S release after a conference call was held on Thursday:

About five years ago “the Blob” of warm ocean water disrupted the West Coast marine ecosystem and depressed salmon returns. Now, a new expanse of unusually warm water has quickly grown in much the same way, in the same area, to almost the same size.

The warm expanse building off the West Coast stretches roughly from Alaska south to California. It ranks as the second largest marine heatwave in terms of area in the northern Pacific Ocean in the last 40 years, after “the Blob.”

“It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. He developed a system for tracking and measuring heatwaves in the Pacific Ocean using satellite data. “Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen.”

Cold water welling up from ocean depths along the coast has so far held the warm expanse offshore, he said. However, the upwelling, driven by coastal winds, usually wanes in the fall. The heatwave could then move onshore and affect coastal temperatures, he said. This already appears to have happened along the coast of Washington. …

Like “the Blob,” the new heatwave emerged over the past few months. A ridge of high pressure dampened the winds that otherwise mix and cool the ocean’s surface. The heatwave remains relatively new and is primarily affecting the upper layers of the ocean, it could break up rapidly.

“It looks bad, but it could also go away pretty quickly if the unusually persistent weather patterns that caused it change,” said Nate Mantua, a research scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Current forecasts show the heat wave moderating but continuing for months.

A key question is whether the new heatwave will last long enough to affect the marine ecosystem. Biologists say that its large size means it probably already has. For example, warmer conditions during “the Blob” left lesser-quality food available to young salmon entering the ocean. It also shifted predator distributions in ways that contributed to low returns of salmon. …

..NOAA Fisheries’ two West Coast laboratories collaborate on the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment. This is a joint effort to track and interpret environmental change off the West Coast. That provides a framework to monitor shifting conditions, Harvey said.

One challenge will be applying lessons learned from the last heat wave to anticipate and mitigate potential impacts of the new one. For example, the warm water of “the Blob” led humpback and other whales to feed closer to shore. Record numbers became entangled in lines from crab traps and other fishing gear.

In response, fishermen, managers, and others have formed working groups in California, Oregon, and Washington. They hope to find ways of reducing the risk of entanglements.

PacificOceanAnomaly.jpg

The marine heatwave that has formed off the West Coast of North America is currently close to the warmest area in the Pacific Ocean. Map shows sea surface temperature anomalies, with darker orange representing temperatures farther above average. Image from NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

The marine heatwave that has formed off the West Coast of North America is currently close to the warmest area in the Pacific Ocean. Map shows sea surface temperature anomalies, with darker orange representing temperatures farther above average. Image from NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

Real-time research on environmental changes will give managers the details they need to respond, said Kristen Koch, Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “This is a time when we all need to know how our marine ecosystem is changing, and what that means for those of us who live along the West Coast.” 

The new northeast Pacific heatwave reflects current weather patterns. This includes a band of high pressure stretching north to the Bering Sea and Alaska, which have been unusually warm in recent years, said Nick Bond, a research meteorologist with the Joint Institute for the study of the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle, a collaboration between NOAA and the University of Washington.

“There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem,” said Bond, who is credited with naming “the Blob.” “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.

Our fearless leader and executive editor Andy Walgamott has more on the story on the Northwest Sportsman blog. 

Kenai Silver Salmon Derby Hoping To Raise Awareness On Riverbank Protection

The following is courtesy of PR Newswire and the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby:

KENAI, Ala., Sept. 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — As part of its mission to educate the public on protection of river banks and other riparian zones in the City of Kenai, The Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center and the City of Kenai are hosting the Third Annual Kenai Silver Salmon Derby. The family-friendly fishing tournament will run from September 13th through September 16th, and September 20th through September 22nd.

Named “The World’s Most Responsible Fishing Tournament,” the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby is a new kind of fishing tournament that reduces selective fishing practices that lead to catch-and-release injuries which compromise the health of the silver salmon population in the Kenai River. Net proceeds will be donated to the Kenai Community Foundation to support management and protection of river banks and other riparian zones in the City of Kenai.

“Fishing is an integral part of Kenai’s culture and heritage,” says Paul Ostrander, City Manager for the City of Kenai. “We invite members of the community to take part in this truly Alaskan experience while also contributing to conservation efforts that support wild salmon populations.”

For fisherman of all types and ages, the day is usually filled with smiles, high-fives, and coolers filled with silver salmon.

Local businesses have been an integral part of The Kenai Silver Derby and have generously contributed to the cause. Sponsors include Three Bears, Phillip Scales, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Main Street Tap & Grill, Buckets Sports Grill, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Country Foods IGA, the Odom Corporation, Northrim Bank, and Bluetick Inc.

The Kenai Silver Salmon Derby awards prizes using a Magic Weight that is randomly drawn at the end of each derby day. Since any fish over four pounds is eligible to win, anglers of all skill levels have a chance to earn prizes.

The daily prize is awarded to the registered participant with a fish whose weight is closest to the daily Magic Weight. All daily entries, regardless of daily winner status, are eligible to win the overall Magic Weight prize, which will be selected at the conclusion of the final day of the Derby.

To register for the daily derby prize at the Weigh-In Station, ticket-holding participants should bring their fish to the Weigh-In Station at Three Bears in Kenai between the hours of 8:00am to 8:30pm on Friday and Saturday of the event and 9:00am to 7:30pm on Sunday.

The Derby Entry fee is $10 for one day, or $50 for the entire Derby. Tickets are available starting September 3rd and can be picked up at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitor CenterThree Bears, and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

To learn more about the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby, visit www.KenaiSilverSalmonDerby.com or visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KenaiSilverSalmonDerby/.

Early Monster Holds On All Summer To Win Valdez Halibut Derby

Christine Ives photo by Valdez Fish Derbies

The following is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

 VALDEZ, Alaska – In the Valdez Halibut Derby, it was Christine Ives of Fairbanks who held on to win the derby. Ives caught a 285.6 pound halibut on June 6th aboard the Nunatak. Ives said that she had never been halibut fishing before and had to be talked into buying a Valdez Halibut Derby ticket. Ives was surprised at the notoriety she received as the leader of the derby. “I’ve had people stop me around Fairbanks and be like ‘hey you’re the girl that caught that halibut’ and I was like ‘Holy Cow! I can’t believe you know about that’”.

Christopher Barnes of Moorehead, Minnesota captured 2nd place in the halibut derby with a 225.6 pound halibut caught on June 24th aboard the Sea Quester. Joshua Curry of Valdez won 3rd place in the halibut derby with a 213.4 pound halibut he caught on July 21st aboard the Mistress.

Christine Ive’s winning Halibut was caught aboard the Nunatak and the captain of that boat, Dave West, won the $500 Captains prize and the ticket seller’s prize of $500. In the Silver Salmon Derby, it was Jane Karlsten that won the Captain’s Prize. The seller of the winning Silver Salmon Derby ticket was Dixie Shipman. She won a $500 ticket seller’s prize. The winner of Big Prize Friday was John McCay of Valdez with a 12.46 pound silver. Next year’s dates, as well as pictures and information about the 2019 winners, can be found at www.valdezfishderbies.com.

St. Cloud, Florida’s Tom Karlsten won the Valdez Halibut Derby (15.32 pounds)

Tom Karlsten of St. Cloud Florida has been fishing Valdez with his wife Jane for many years, but this year they had to try some unconventional ideas to get the big silver salmon. Jane Karlsten said she prefers trolling for silvers because she loves to watch the shoreline but on August 19th the fish weren’t biting so they anchored up and dropped a line.  “I always thought that jigging was not that productive,” said Jane Karlsten. “I was wrong.” The Karlstens first came to Valdez in the summer of 2011 and they knew they had to keep coming back. “If we were youngsters, we would be living here,” commented Jane Karlsten. Karlsten’s 15.32 pound silver salmon held onto the lead through the end of the Silver Salmon Derby. Karlsten and his wife not only take home the $10,000 first place prize, but Jane also won the $500 Captain’s prize. Tom Karlsten credits his wife for putting him on the fish.

Pravat Phumin of Valdez took 2nd place in the Silver Salmon Derby with a 14.68 pound silver he caught on August 13th aboard the Seagull II. Phumin’s 2nd place silver netted him $3,000 in cash. Frieda Wiley, who holds the distinction of catching the largest halibut on record in the Valdez Halibut Derby, won 3rd place in the Silver Salmon Derby this year with a 14.48 pound silver she caught August 28th aboard the Orion. Wiley’s catch was worth $1,500 cash. In 2017 Wiley reeled in a 374.0 pound halibut to win 1st place in the Valdez Halibut Derby.

 Halibut Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Christine Ives               Fairbanks, AK              285.6 lbs.         June 6              Nunatak
2nd        Christopher Barnes       Moorhead, MN             225.6 lbs.         June 24            Sea Quester
3rd        Joshua Curry                Valdez, AK                  213.4 lbs.         July 21             Mistress

Halibut Derby – Weekly Winners

1st           Andrea Brenney           Cedar, MN                   174.0 lbs.         Aug 27             The Reflection
2nd       Brendan McCabe        Valdez, AK                 165.0 lbs.         Aug 28            The Refraction

 Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Tom Karlsten              St. Cloud, FL              15.32 lbs.         Aug 19            Long Shot
2nd       Pravat Phumin             Valdez, AK                 14.68 lbs.         Aug 13            Seagull 2
3rd        Frieda Wiley               Valdez, AK                 14.48 lbs.         Aug 28            Orion

Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast Tanner Crab Fisheries Seasons And Permits Available

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

(Homer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) announced today the Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast sport and subsistence Tanner crab fisheries season, gear, and limits for 2019-2020. In Kachemak Bay, east of a line from Point Pogibshi and Anchor Point (see Areas D & E in maps below), the sport and subsistence fisheries will provide more harvest opportunity than the remaining areas. The 2017 through 2019, legal male abundance estimates from the Kachemak Bay trawl survey exceeded the restrictive fishery threshold levels and allows for less restrictive fisheries. To ensure that the Tanner crab harvest in Kachemak Bay remains less than 10% of the 3-year average legal male abundance, the season will be from October 1 through December 31, 2019, and January 15 through March 15, 2020. Participants harvesting crab are allowed two pots per person and a maximum of two pots per vessel. The bag and possession limit is five legal sized male Tanner crabs per person in Kachemak Bay.

In all other Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast areas (see Areas A, B, & C in maps below), the sport and subsistence fisheries seasons, pot and bag/possession limits will remain the same as the last two seasons. This includes an open season from October 1, 2019, through February 28, 2020, with participants allowed one pot per person and a maximum of one pot per vessel. The bag and possession limit is three legal sized male Tanner crabs per person.

A valid permit is required to participate in either fishery. Permits are ONLY available online through the ADF&G online store located under the “Fishing Permits” tab. Permits will be available starting Wednesday, September 4, 2019. While a Tanner crab fishery permit may be obtained online, participants are required to have a printed and signed copy with them while fishing for Tanner crab and harvest must be reported in ink on the permit before catch is concealed. Please refer to the online permit for maps and regulations of the sport and subsistence Tanner crab fishery areas.

To receive a Tanner crab sport permit, a sport fishing license is required. Alaskan residents may receive a Tanner crab subsistence permit without a sport fishing license; however, we encourage individuals to obtain only one permit type. There is no added benefit to having both permits.

Each permit holder is responsible for reporting online by March 31, 2020, even if the permit holder did not fish. Individuals who fail to report online by March 31, 2020, WILL NOT be eligible for a permit the following year.

As a reminder, in May 2019, ADF&G issued letters to inform individuals that they will be denied a permit for the 2019-2020 season due to not reporting their 2018-2019 harvest. Approximately 16% of individuals issued a permit last season will be denied permits this season. The list of individuals that are denied a permit will be incorporated into the online store to prevent them from obtaining a permit this season. Denying permits to those individuals that failed to report last season is expected to improve compliance and lead to more timely and accurate harvest information.

For additional information, please contact Sport Fish Area Management Biologist Mike Booz or Commercial Fisheries Area Management Biologist Jan Rumble at (907) 235-8191.

Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast Tanner Crab Fisheries Seasons and Permits Available