All posts by Chris Cocoles

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

Spearfishing World-Record Halibut In Homer

KTUU has the details on a world-record halibut that was taken via spearfishing.

Finally, Dornellas was able to exhaust the fish, swim back up current to the boat, and hand it off to the crew, who could gaff it in the gills and haul it out onto the boat. The exhausted diver collapsed on the deck.

“Everybody on the boat just blows up in laughter and disbelief, and just screams of joy, and I just laid back and breathed for a little while, because I was zapped,” he said. “I’ve fought some big fish in my life. I’ve hunted dogtooth tuna, I’ve shot and landed more than I can count, and that fish has me more addicted to that kind of a fight than any dogtooth tuna has ever given me.”

The fish was brought to shore, weighed at the Homer harbor, and is now pending world record status, which could be certified by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association. Currently the record for Pacific Halibut is listed as 96.2 lbs, hunted with a polespear. Dornellas’ monster: 149 lbs.

On The Comeback Trail From Despair

Photo courtesy of Gwen Grimes

The following appears in the August issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY CHRIS COCOLES 

After what she’d been through, how low she’d gotten and how empty she felt, there was no way Gwen Grimes was going anywhere.

Never mind that she was suffering through triple-digit Mexican heat coming from her snow-covered Alaska homestead, being ravaged by bugs and bitten by a tarantula. In other words, a miserable place to spend 21 days with no clothes and just a few tools to help you get through. 

Grimes, just a few years removed from having her law enforcement career ruined in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, agreed to participate on the Discovery Channel series Naked and Afraid when the show contacted her with an invitation. It was one of two phone calls that have given Grimes a second chance. 

“That was one of the questions production had asked before they even sent me out into the field. ‘What would be one thing that would make you tap (out)?’” Grimes, 48, says. “I said nothing’s going to make me tap. I don’t care what you throw at me.”

Fate threw Grimes an unwanted changeup four years ago. In an instant, that car that smashed into the rear of her patrol car while she was on duty with the Wasilla Police Department. Injuries suffered in the wreck effectively ended her career as an active-duty police officer. 

“Everything’s gone. Completely gone,” was how she describes the aftermath.  

So maybe this was an opportunity to get something back.

Grimes (right) with fellow Alaskan and Naked and Afraid alum LeeAnn Duncan.

AS A KID GROWING up in western Oregon, Grimes’ family didn’t totally live off the grid, but it was certainly off the beaten path. Halfway between Eugene and Florence on the Oregon coast, Grimes grew up in the ultimate rural household. She was so far away from civilization, she referred to the little “Podunk town” of Elmira as the closest to the family home. And even that community was a 45-minute drive.

“We were pretty poor. We hunted, trapped, fished,” Grimes says. “In the morning, before I’d hop on the bus to go to school, during hunting season my dad would wake me up at friggin’ four in the morning and we’d go out and hunt until it was time for me to go to school.”

Grimes, the oldest of five siblings, experienced even more of a “country” upbringing when her dad moved the family to Point Hope, Alaska, a North Slope community of mostly Native Alaskans on the Chukchi Sea. 

“We were the only white family out there. (But) we actually integrated really well into the community out there,” Grimes says. 

(Point Hope would become a rather sentimental place to Grimes and her family. “I was reassigned to Point Hope when I was a North Slope Borough police officer, so it was like coming home. Being welcomed back into the community. That was pretty cool. And my brother also is a police officer up there. And he’s stationed at Point Hope right now. So it’s cool because of the deep family ties to some of the communities that are up on the slope.”)

Alaska would become home for Grimes, who would have a family and ultimately nine years as an officer on the North Slope. But the widespread coverage area she was working – her schedule was two weeks on and two weeks off – and the chance to be closer to her kids prompted a move to Wasilla, where she joined that Mat-Su Valley community’s police department. 

Things were going well in Wasilla also three years into her stint there. 

 “I was the department’s hostage negotiator, so I was gearing my career up. I was doing patrol work, I was a field-training officer for rookies coming in,” she says. “I was doing all this cool stuff. It was awesome and I was having fun. Then, bam.”

Officers around the globe are sometimes injured, or worse, in the line of duty, a risk of the job. But Grimes was seriously hurt not in a shootout, a fight or even while engaged in a high-speed chase. She was simply stopped at a traffic light on Main Street in Wasilla. 

“Out of the blue the inside of my patrol car just exploded. Glass in slow motion was just flying around my face. I felt this really sharp pain in my upper chest. I thought I’d been shot because it felt like this instant explosion and then this searing pain,” she says. 

“I didn’t realize at the time that I’d been hit from behind by a ¾-ton pickup trip that had been traveling 55 mph and not paying attention to anything. Didn’t see the red light, and without even putting on his brakes he hit me at full impact while I was in a dead stop.”

 The point of impact most affected Grimes’ left shoulder, which was pulled by her seat belt and caused severe nerve damage. She would lose 40 percent of usage in her left arm. And the news gets worse when you consider that Grimes is a natural left-hander. 

“So with that lack of sensation and that nerve damage, I can’t fire a handgun anymore so I can’t keep doing police work, because that’s kind of a critical aspect of being a cop,” she says with a sheepish laugh. “I was not ready for that to happen.”

It got worse. While she was eligible for disability, it just didn’t pay as much as she made working for the force. It became too expensive to raise her kids in Wasilla. So she settled on the homestead in Eagle, hard on the Yukon River just west of the Canadian border. She was able to build a house on the property, but it wasn’t the easiest of transitions. 

Grimes felt alone. She’d spent most of her savings in a desperate attempt to save the Wasilla home (she’d lose it to foreclosure). 

“I lost my house, my job. I lost everything, so it was like you were at the bottom of the bucket and everything looked grim,” she says. “All of your friends kind of shied away from you, because cop-wise, you were kind of the leper now. You got hurt and, holy crap, they could get hurt too. So it was in the forefront of their minds that this happened to this person and could happen to them too.”

One thought was constantly in the back of her mind: “I’m not ready to be done being a cop.”

So what next? 

Photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel

IF THERE’S ONE MOMENT in Grimes’ Naked and Afraid appearance – her episode, brilliantly titled Baked Alaskan, premiered in March – it was that damn tarantula. After Discovery Channel producers found out about her story and offered her a chance to participate, Grimes took it. 

She and partner Jon Hart, a Pennsylvania endurance athlete, were dropped off in a southern Mexico coastal forest, where the heat index – even in spring – can rise to as much as 130 degrees.

“I went from Eagle, where I think it was 20 degrees outside and snowing,” Grimes says.

Climbing a steep ridge to get to a drinking water source was as difficult a task as she would face upon the partners shedding their clothes and studying a map.

Over what would become a successful 21-day stay, Grimes and her cohort caught elusive crabs from the beach – “We figured out that you couldn’t catch them by yourself. One would find them and the other would come up and stab it with a stick,” Grimes admits – gathered fruit and berries and finally got a fire started to help fend off flesh-eating sand fleas and ants. They made the duo miserable over an entire fireless night.  

“I was covered from head to toe. I felt like a meth addict. I had scabs all over my body. It probably took six months to heal from all those,” she says. “That was the hardest part. Just constant aching pains.”

But it was another insect friend that would define Grimes’ three nude weeks south of the border. One night of sleep was interrupted by a tarantula’s bite. 

“Son of a bitch. That hurt. Something just bit me,” Grimes, channeling her inner Forrest Gump, called out in the middle of the night. 

Gwen and her partner Jon Hart successfully got through 21 days in sizzling Mexico. (Photo by Discovery Channel)

Grimes, who was also temporarily sidelined when she severely stubbed her toe earlier in the challenge, enacted her spider revenge when her stomach was rumbling for protein – any protein. Granted, when they found a big, hairy arthropod hanging on a tree branch, there was no way to know if it was the same spider that hanged its fang into the Alaskan. But why not conclude it was so you can play out the ultimate eye-for-an-eye result?

And then, hungry and not picky about foraging for a food source, they ate the tarantula.

“It was so nasty. Just like burnt ass,” Grimes says of the taste. “The thought never crossed my mind to eat a tarantula until one bit me.” 

They were so close to completing their challenge as day 21 beckoned. It started with another brutal climb and descent from a ridge while carrying limited water sources. And when they got to the beach, they faced a swim over raging waves crashing into the shore and then a swim through the choppy waters to reach their extraction point boat.

As crazy as it sounds the lesser concern for Grimes was probably that bull sharks inhabited the bottom of the sea. Remember that her barely working left shoulder makes it impossible to make a typical swimming motion. 

“The first time we’d gone out we tried to get into it and it wasn’t happening. One (wave) whitewashed me onto the bottom of the ocean, and I knew there were bull sharks down there. I am not that familiar with ocean swimming,” Grimes says. “We had to wait down there for about five hours for the tide to go out enough that the waves weren’t so bad that you couldn’t physically go into them.”

“By the time we finally got those breakers past the reef, my arm was just shot. I couldn’t move it anymore and the nerves were too inflamed. I was doing the one-armed dog paddle.”

But she made it. And nothing felt sweeter than exchanging hugs and high-fives with Hart, devouring the watermelon and cantaloupe the producers brought for them, a much-needed meal of chicken enchiladas, and the extra day she spent drinking beers and bonding with the local villagers. 

“I was proud of myself for accomplishing it on and not letting that stuff crush me or beat me. It was something I needed to do and I did it,” she says. “I love challenges and it was an epic challenge. It tested everything – physical, mental, spiritual. It was an incredible inexperience.”

A couple years after Grimes felt like her life had no purpose, 21 days on a television show she’d never heard of would change everything. And then the phone rang again.

NAKED AND AFRAID CHANGED Grimes’ life. After her episode aired, she was contacted by a representative from The Wounded Blue, which helps brother and sister law enforcement officers injured or traumatized on the job. 

“He said, ‘You’re an injured officer. We’re an organization that’s for you. That’s what we do. We help wounded officers. It’s like a lifeline,’” Grimes says. “They were interested in having me as one of their peer support counselors. I’m like, ‘Holy crap! That would be fantastic! I’d love to do that.’”

The plan is for Grimes to train for her position this fall, then become The Wounded Blue’s Alaska representative for officers who endure similar trauma that she suffered. 

“I’ll be able to talk to them through all the things that happen when you get injured in the line of duty. I didn’t even know there was any help available when I got hurt. I felt cut off, abandoned, alone,” she says. “But there is an organization around there to help and now they want to be a part of it. At least I have direction now. I’ve got something to where I can keep helping other people.”

The helping hands part has spilled over to her home life as well. Grimes and her boyfriend Nate, a wounded veteran, are establishing their own nonprofit group, Wyldwoodz Wilderness Retreat. Grimes will soon be an empty nester, and she and Nate plan to build a cabin on their homestead, which will house disabled veterans and police officers.

Gwen and her boyfriend Nate have started a nonprofit to assist veterans suffering from PTSD.

Eagle seems like an ideal place for healing injuries and PTSD symptoms. 

“There’s nobody up here, it’s quiet, you’re not running into people and there’s no drama. There’s no internet unless you go to the library. Nothing. It’s remote,” she says. “I wanted the peace. I needed the peace. I needed to be able to mentally deal with all the crap that I’ve done in the last decade.”

The hope is any broken men or women who visit her retreat can spend a day fishing, hiking or biking, or that she counsels through the pending gig with The Wounded Blue, can have someone who understands that sh*t happens in combat or on duty.  

Grimes had an informal chat with a friend and colleague who recently visited her homestead. The man was involved in a shooting and opened up to someone who can relate to when something goes bad. 

“He said, ‘This is the place where I can come and find peace and just let everything go,’” Grimes recalls. “This is the place where people can come, heal mentally and kind of get away from that rat race down there.” ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on The Wounded Blue, go to thewoundedblue.org. Wyldwoodz Wilderness Retreat’s website is wyldwoodz.com. Check out discovery.com/tv-shows/naked-and-afraid/ for more on the Discovery Channel series. 

 

Florida Participant Takes The Lead In Valdez Silver Salmon Derby

The following is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

VALDEZ, Alaska – It’s a pretty sure bet that there’s a silver salmon bigger than 15.32 pounds swimming around in Prince William Sound but whether an angler with a Valdez Fish Derby ticket will catch it and weigh it in before the end of the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby is anyone’s guess. Currently Tom Karlsten of St. Cloud, Florida is leading the derby with a 15.32 pound silver he caught August 19th aboard the Long Shot. Karlsten said his wife is the Captain and credited her for putting him on the fish. If Karlsten’s silver is at the top of the leader board at the end of derby Sunday, September 1stat noon, he stands to win the $10,000 first place prize. The angler taking 2nd place in the Silver Salmon Derby will win $3,000 and the 3rd place derby angler will win $1,500. The smallest silver to ever win the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby was Jim Burzinski’s 15.11 pound silver caught back in 1971. The largest silver salmon ever caught in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby weighed in at 22.14 pounds.

St. Cloud, Florida’s Tom Karlsten moved into first place in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby (15.32 pounds). (VALDEZ FISH DERBIES)

Silvers are being caught in the Valdez Arm in good number and the concentration of silvers in Port near Gold Creek, Allison Point and even the Valdez Boat Harbor is increasing. The Valdez Silver Salmon derby is the oldest derby in the state, but records for winners only date back to 1971. The derby was started by the Chamber of Commerce in 1952 and many years back Bill Wyatt, owner of Bear Paw RV Park and owner of a small hotel in the 50’s, recalled the prize for the first derby was $500 and the first winner of the silver derby was Loren St. Amand with an 18.8 pound silver salmon. A history of the Valdez Fish Derbies can be found HERE.

The lead in the Valdez Halibut Derby is still being held by Christina Ives of Fairbanks. Ives reeled in a 285.6 pound halibut June 6th aboard the Nunatak. The 1st place prize in the halibut derby is $10,000 cash, the 2nd place prize is $3,000 and the 3rd place prize is $1,500. The largest halibut ever caught in the Valdez Halibut Derby is the 374 pound fish caught by Frieda Wiley of Valdez in 2017. Halibut fishing has been good for most anglers getting out further. Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests trying large bait on muddy bottom off a rocky slope in 200 to 300 feet of water when fishing inside Prince William Sound.

The final Big Prize Friday of the season is this Friday, August 30th.  The angler catching the largest silver salmon this Friday will take home $500 in addition to the daily prizes. The Valdez Fish Derbies, both halibut and salmon, will end Sunday, September 1st. Weigh-In will close at Noon on Sunday, September 1st and the derby awards party will be held 6pm Sunday night at the Elks Lodge.

New week, same leader in the halibut derby. Christina Ives has held the top spot since early June.

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           James McCay               Valdez, AK                  98.2 lbs.           Aug 19             Lena Claire
2nd       Steve Hylton               Boise, ID                     92.2 lbs.           Aug 20            Orion

 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        Tobey James Fisher    Tifton, GA                  14.42 lbs.         Aug 16            Kittywake

Drought-Like Conditions Creating Issues For Salmon, Wildfires

Alaska has endured a summer that the Last Frontier usually doesn’t experience. It’s been hot and dry, and salmon have been affected to the point that rising water temperatures are believed to be the culprit in fish die-off scenarios in multiple rivers (we’ll have a full report in our September issue.

Here’s the Washington Post with more:

Just about every temperature record has fallen in a state that’s running 6.2 degrees above normal since June. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all hit 77 degrees in Anchorage, setting record high temperatures for the date, compared with the average high, which is 65 degrees. …

The balmy weather sounds nice in theory, but for Alaskans watching their landscape melt and burn, it’s anything but. Nearly 2.5 million acres have burned in more than 600 wildfires this year in Alaska. This is not yet a record for the season, but according to Thoman, the 1991-2010 median-to-date is 681,000 acres.

Now it appears that several regions throughout the state are in full-fledged drought mode. And as Alaska Journal of Commerce says, salmon are being affected:

Shallower lakes and rivers across Southcentral and Southeast Alaska were the first to heat up. In the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, lakes like Larsen and Judd, where the Alaska Department of Fish and Game operates weirs for sockeye salmon, reached 80 degrees. The Kuskokwim River in western Alaska registered water temperatures about 10 degrees greater than normal, likely contributing to a reported salmon die-off as the fish headed upstream.

On the lower Kenai Peninsula, the Anchor River hit its warmest temperature on record on July 7: 73 degrees. It’s dropped since then to about 66.2 degrees, but the spike was troubling, said Sue Mauger, a scientist with Homer-based conservation nonprofit Cook Inletkeeper. The lack of rain has contributed to the temperature increases too.

“I think (the snow) melted out fast,” she said. “It takes a really long time for that volume of water (after a rain event) to warm up again … a rain event can be really significant in these streams.”

 

 

 

 

Little Su, Deshka Rivers To Close For Coho Fishing

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

Little Susitna River Closed to Coho Salmon Fishing

(Palmer) – In an effort to increase the number of coho salmon passing through the Little Susitna River weir, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is closing the Little Susitna River to fishing for coho salmon, including catch-and-release, from its mouth up to the Parks Highway effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, August 21 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, September 30, 2019. The use of bait continues to be prohibited. Gear used for other species is restricted to unbaited, artificial lures, meaning treble hooks or two hooks may be used.

“Extremely low water conditions has stalled upstream migration of coho salmon,” stated Palmer Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “It can be difficult to assess run strength by weir under these conditions. Reports from guides and anglers also indicate below average numbers of fish holding in the lower 30 miles of the river. It is prudent to conserve the remaining coho salmon until environmental conditions change and the indications of run strength improve.”

The Little Susitna River coho salmon sustainable escapement goal (SEG) is 10,100–17,700 fish. To date, only 3,841 coho salmon have passed upstream of the weir.

Deshka River Closed to Coho Salmon Fishing

(Palmer) – In an effort to increase the number of coho salmon passing through the Deshka River weir, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is closing the Deshka River to fishing for coho salmon, including all waters within a one-half mile radius of its confluence with the Susitna River effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, August 21 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, September 30, 2019. In addition, the use of bait is prohibited. Gear used for other species is restricted to unbaited, artificial lures, meaning treble hooks or two hooks may be used.

“Extremely low water levels coupled with high stream temperatures has stalled upstream migration of coho salmon,” stated Palmer Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “It can be difficult to assess run strength by weir under these conditions. Reports from guides and anglers and observations from staff also indicate below average numbers of fish holding in the mouth area and likely too low to achieve the escapement goal at this time. It is prudent to conserve the remaining coho salmon until environmental conditions change and the indications of run strength improve.”

The Deshka River coho salmon sustainable escapement goal (SEG) is 10,200 – 24,100 fish. To date, only 3,285 coho salmon have passed upstream of the weir.

USFWS Releases 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Survey

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Surveys today.

Here’s some of the USFWS report with regards to Alaska waterfowl numbers:

In general, habitat conditions during the 2019 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (WBPHS) were similar to or declined relative to 2018, with a few exceptions. Much of the Canadian prairies experienced below-average precipitation from fall 2018 through spring 2019. Fall and winter temperatures were mainly below average. Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan had a warm spell in December 2018 through January 2019 but February 2019 was brutally cold across all of the Canadian prairies. Spring temperatures were average to slightly below average.

The U.S. prairies experienced average to above-average precipitation over most of the region. Habitat conditions were generally drier near the North Dakota border with Canada. Conditions in much of the eastern survey area remained similar or improved relative to 2018. The region experienced mainly average to above-average precipitation in the south and Maritimes but below-average precipitation across the northern areas since September 2018.

The entire region tended to have a cool spring. Spring phenology and ice-out was generally normal but substantially delayed in northern Quebec and Labrador. Conditions for waterfowl production were good to excellent in the south and poorer farther north. Spring phenology was earlier than average across much of Alaska and the eastern Arctic and Subarctic, whereas spring snow and ice cover in the central and western Arctic and Subarctic were generally comparable to last year.

The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and northcentral U.S. combined) was 5.0 ± 0.2 million, which was similar to the 2018 estimate of 5.2 ± 0.2 million and the long-term average of 5.2 ± 0.03 million.

The 2019 estimate of ponds in Prairie Canada was 2.9 ± 0.1 million. This estimate was 22% below the 2018 estimate of 3.7±0.1 million and 19% below the long-term average (3.5±0.02 million). The 2019 pond estimate for the northcentral U.S. was 2.1 ± 0.1 million, which was 36% above the 2018 estimate (1.6 ± 0.09 million) and 26% above the long-term average (1.7 ± 0.01 million). Spring phenology and timing of ice-out was normal or slightly delayed in places within the traditional survey area.

Alaska experienced above-average temperatures and below- to above-average precipitation in a northward gradient. The boreal forest experienced generally below-average precipitation and temperatures but December 2018 was warmer than average. Habitat quality generally declined across the survey area compared to last year, with the exception of most of the Dakotas and Montana which continued to improve. Overall habitat quality remained fair to good over a large portion of the traditional survey area and should lead to average waterfowl production this year, however dry areas, particularly in the Canadian prairies, have expanded since 2018.

Ducks Unlimited provided the actual numbers projected per species of birds:

Total populations were estimated at 38.9 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, 6 percent lower than last year’s estimate of 41.2 million and 10 percent above the long-term average (since 1955).

 

Valdez Silver Salmon Derby Hitting Home Stretch

Pravat Phumin of Valdez caught this 14.68-pound silver on the Seagull to currently hold the lead in the derby with two weeks left.. (VALDEZ FISH DERBIES)

The following is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

VALDEZ, Alaska – The Valdez Fish Derbies Weigh-In Station has been a busy place this past week with anglers hoping to get on the leader board in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. Pravat Phumin of Valdez is currently leading the derby with a 14.68 pound silver he caught August 13th aboard the Seagull 2. A 14.68 silver is a respectable fish but far from the weight of the fish that have won the $10,000 grand prize over the last few years. The Valdez Silver Salmon Derby features a daily 1st and 2nd place prize and the majority of daily winners have been in the 12 to 13 pound range. With just two weeks in the derby, there’s a good chance the $10,000 derby winner is still swimming in Prince William Sound.

The Valdez Silver Salmon Derby began in 1971 and the smallest winning fish on record in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby was a 15.11 pound salmon caught that first year by Jim Burzinski. In the last 30 years of the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby, only two fish in the 15 pound range have won the derby. Only six fish weighing in at the 16 pound range have won the big money in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. The vast majority of winners have weighed in at 17 to 21 pounds. The Valdez Silver Salmon Derby runs through Sunday, September 1st at noon and there are prizes for the top 3 fish as well as daily prize winners. Tobey James Fisher of Tifton, Georgia is currently 2nd place in the Silver Salmon Derby with a 14.42 pound salmon he caught August 16th on the Kittywake. James Scheirel of Paynesville, Minnesota is holding onto 3rd place with a 13.88 pound silver he caught August 8th aboard the Sue Q.

In the Valdez Halibut Derby it looks like Christine Ives of Fairbanks has a lock on the $10,000 prize. She caught a 285.6 pound halibut June 6thaboard the Nunatak and has been in the lead ever since. Christopher Barnes of Moorhead, Minnesota is currently in 2nd place with a 225.6 pound halibut he caught June 24th aboard the Sea Quester. Joshua Curry of Valdez is holding onto 3rd place in the Halibut Derby with a 213.4 pound fish he caught July 21st aboard the Mistress.  Last year’s winning halibut was a 285.8 pound flatfish caught by Patricia Johnson of Clovis, California.

Silver salmon fishing has been productive at Gold Creek and Mineral Creek. The last two weeks of the derby should be good fishing from shore as well as from a boat. Both the Valdez Halibut and Silver Salmon derbies will end at noon on Sunday, September 1st.

Christina Ives continues to lead the Valdez Halibut Derby. Photo by Valdez Fish Derbies.

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                Jeffrey Nettleton           Klamath Falls, OR        186.6 lbs.         Aug 16             The Reflection
2nd        Fred Augustin              Lake City, FL                146.2 lbs.         Aug 12             Sea Hunter

Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Pravat Phumin              Valdez, AK                  14.68 lbs.         Aug 13             Seagull 2
2nd        Tobey James Fisher      Tifton, GA                   14.42 lbs.         Aug 16             Kittywake
3rd        James Scheirel             Paynesville, MN           13.88 lbs.         Aug 8               Sue Q

Nonresidents Can Fish For Kings Again In Southeast AK

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

Nonresident King Salmon Closure Rescinded August 16

(Juneau) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today, that the nonresident king salmon closure will be rescinded on August 16. Nonresident anglers may again retain king salmon in Southeast Alaska and Yakutat marine waters. These regulations will be effective 12:01 a.m. Friday, August 16, 2019 through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, December 31, 2019. King salmon regulations for Alaska residents remain unchanged.

The regulations are:

  • Nonresident
    • The nonresident bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length;
    • From August 16 through December 31, 2019, the annual harvest limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length, and any king salmon harvested earlier in 2019 apply toward the one fish annual harvest limit;
    • Immediately upon retaining a king salmon a nonresident must enter the species, date and location, in ink, on the back of their sport fishing license or on a nontransferable harvest record.
  • Alaskan Resident – unchanged
    • The resident bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length. No annual limit.
    • Inside waters- from June 15 through December 31, 2019, the resident bag and possession limit is two king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length. No annual limit. For more information refer to news releases issued on June 10 for the Juneau, Petersburg/Wrangell and Ketchikan areas.

The king salmon nonretention periods for all anglers in the Haines/Skagway area, announced on January 7, 2019, are still in effect in order to protect wild Alaska king salmon stocks.

Regulations remain unchanged in the designated sport fish terminal hatchery areas in the vicinity of Juneau.

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 Southeast Alaska Winter Troll catch per unit of effort (CPUE). The Southeast Alaska Winter Troll CPUE for the 2019 season is 3.38 which equates to 25,844 king salmon allocated to the sport fishery. To address the implementation of the new treaty agreement which includes provisions to reduce the Alaska harvest ceiling the following year if the Alaska harvest ceiling is exceeded, the sport fishery is being managed conservatively with a harvest target of 25,300 treaty king salmon in 2019. As directed by the Southeast Alaska King Salmon Management Plan, nonresident anglers will be restricted to stay within the sport harvest allocation and the department shall only restrict resident anglers if nonresident angler restrictions are insufficient to remain within the sport harvest allocation. Based on harvest estimates to date and projected harvest of king salmon for the remainder of the season, a period of king salmon nonretention for nonresident anglers is no longer necessary to ensure that the sport fishery remains within its harvest allocation.

For further information regarding sport fisheries in Southeast Alaska, contact the nearest ADF&G office or visit: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishingSportFishingInfo.eonr