All posts by Chris Cocoles

Changes Coming For Nelchina Caribou Hunts

ADFG photo

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

(Glennallen) — Caribou hunters in Game Management Unit 13 will be limited to harvesting bulls only this hunting season — and fewer animals than in recent years. In an effort to maintain a Nelchina caribou herd population objective of 35,000–40,000, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order limiting harvest to bulls only for all Unit 13 state-managed caribou hunts (RC561, RC562, CC001, and DC485). In addition, the harvest quota has been adjusted to 1,400.

The department’s July 2018 post-calving survey estimated the Nelchina herd at approximately 35,700 caribou, near the lower end of the population objective. Caribou population objectives are based on the number of animals a given range can sustainably support. Too many caribou can over-graze a herd’s range leading to malnutrition or starvation. Sometimes caribou will leave over-grazed range or join up with adjacent herds for areas of better forage. Currently, biologists have no indication that the Nelchina herd’s range has been over-grazed.

“The majority of the herd wintered in Canada or by the border, mixing with other herds,” said Glennallen Wildlife Biologist Heidi Hatcher. “We have evidence that some of our animals left the wintering grounds with the Fortymile herd, rather than coming back to the Nelchina Basin.”

Information collected from collared caribou indicate severe winter conditions in the eastern part of Nelchina herd’s range led to greater than expected winter mortality. July aerial surveys also revealed fewer than average calves in the Nelchina Basin. Although calf-to-cow ratios remain healthy, these factors cumulatively contributed to this summer’s lower population estimate.

“Basically, this means hunters have done their job,” said Regional Management Coordinator Todd Rinaldi. “We started last summer at around 50,000 caribou, which was well above our population objective, so we encouraged hunters to take cows and set our harvest bar high. Combined with over-winter mortality and lower than anticipated productivity, we’ve arrived within the population objective.”

Biologists believe a harvest quota of 1,400 bull caribou from the state season with additional federal harvest can be taken sustainably while providing for subsistence opportunity and modest herd growth. Harvest quotas are established annually based on summer population surveys, composition surveys, measures of productivity, and historic harvest information. Harvest allocations for the registration and draw permit hunts will be:

  • RC561 — 500 bulls
  • RC562 — 500 bulls
  • DC485 — 250 bulls
  • CC001 — This hunt will also be bulls only, but is managed under a separate cap.

In addition to the bulls-only restriction and harvest quota, a three-day harvest reporting requirement will apply to all state-managed Unit 13 caribou hunts. Successful hunters can provide wildlife managers the information they need to closely track in-season harvest by filing hunt reports online at https://secure.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=interperm.enter_report_hunterid, by phone at (907) 822-3461, or in person at the Glennallen or Palmer Fish and Game offices. Hunts may be closed by emergency order to ensure the harvest quota is not exceeded.

For hunt updates and additional information call the Nelchina Hotline at 907-267-2304, or contact Todd Rinaldi at todd.rinaldi@alaska.gov or (907) 861-2105.

Troopers: Commercial Boats Took 33,000-Plus Pounds Of Salmon Illegally

Alaska State Troopers officers cited four commercial boats for the harvesting of salmon illegally – 33,328 pounds worth of fish.

Here’s the official dispatch from the troopers:

AK18051387

Location: Homer area/ Dog Bay
Type: Illegal Commercial Fishing

Dispatch Text:

On July 20th, during the early morning hours, a Wildlife Trooper made his way to Dog Fish Bay, South of Homer, on the patrol vessel Augustine. The Wildlife Trooper was able to set up in a location that allowed him to observe the bay, and the areas that were open and closed to commercial fishing that day. Four commercial fishing seine vessels were observed to be working together to drive salmon out of the closed water area towards the open water area, and illegally harvesting and transporting those fish. The vessels themselves as well as hand plungers were used by the fisherman in closed waters to drive the fish. The fish were caught by a set that occurred in open and closed waters. The operators of the F/V Little Star, F/V Relentless, F/V Northstar and F/V Windstar were all cited for commercial fishing violations as a result.  A 5th vessel, the F/V Maranatha, was also present and used to illegally transport some of the fish illegally caught.  In total, 33,328 lbs. of salmon were seized after it was delivered by the fishermen to a local processor vessel.

Eric Winslow, age 61 of Homer, was charged with driving salmon, failure to provide information to a fish transporter, and failure to display vessel license numbers. Paul Roth, age 35 of Homer, was charged with driving salmon, commercial fishing in closed waters, and failure to provide information to the fish transporter. Robert Roth, age 39 of Anchor Point, was charged with failure to obtain a fish transporter permit, failure to complete fish tickets, and unlawful possession of commercial fish. Mark Roth, age 64 of Homer, was charged with driving salmon, failure to complete a fish ticket, and failure to display vessel license numbers. Charges were filed in Homer District Court.

Four Dead, One Missing And Presumed Dead In Denali Plane Crash

Sadness in Denali National Park as a sightseeing plane that crashed on Saturday. Here’s KTUU:

Four people on board the plane that crashed near Denali have been found and are confirmed to be dead. A fifth is still missing, though officials say they presume that person to be dead as well.

According to Katherine Belcher, spokesperson for Denali National Park, contact with the wreckage was made Monday morning, despite the treacherous area in which the plane crashed.

A National Park Service ranger was lowered down in a harness to the crash site, roughly 14 miles southwest of the summit of Denali in “extremely technical terrain” on a hanging glacier.

Condolences to the victims’ loved ones.

Women’s Silver Derby Adds To Busy Valdez Summer

Daniel Schneider’s 16.64 fish is the new leader in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. (VALDEZFISHDERBIES.COM)

The following press release is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies: 

VALDEZ, Alaska –  Anglers will hit the waters of Port Valdez and Prince William Sound Saturday during the Valdez Women’s Silver Salmon Derby. Saturday evening the winners will be announced, starting with 50th place and working up to the crowning of the Queen of the Silver Salmon Sisterhood. There will be prizes for the Top 50 fish as well as cash and prizes for the top three biggest fish. The woman who catches the largest silver will be awarded a tiara and signature Women’s Derby pink bathrobe. The theme of this year’s Women’s Derby is “Circus”.

Registration for the Women’s Derby started August 4th at the Prospector and will continue through Saturday, August 11th at noon. Friday night Valdez Fish Derbies hosts an opening celebration with door prizes, a costume contest, and games. The waters of Prince William Sound will be full of boats and anglers on Saturday hoping to catch a big one and get to the weigh in station before it closes at 6pm.

The Women’s Silver Salmon Derby closing awards ceremony is Saturday night. Last year Chinda Heston of Valdez, Alaska won the Derby and was crowned Queen of the Silver Salmon Sisterhood with a 14.88 pound silver salmon. The biggest silver salmon caught in the Women’s Derby was an 18.84 pound silver caught by Betty Valdes of Eagle River in 2010. CLICK HERE to visit the Women’s Derby registration page at www.valdezfishderbies.com.

Often times the winner of the Women’s Derby breaks into the Regular Silver Salmon Derby standings. To compete in the Women’s Derby, ladies must buy a Silver Salmon Derby daily or season ticket so they are eligible to win the $10,000 first place prize in the regular derby if they catch a big one that holds on to the end of the derby. Currently, the largest Silver Salmon in the regular derby is a 16.64 pound silver caught by Daniel Schneider on August 4th. The largest silver salmon caught in the Women’s Derby was an 18.84 pound silver caught by Betty Valdes of Eagle River in 2010.

In the Valdez Halibut Derby, Patricia Johnson of Clovis, California holds first place with a 285.6 pound halibut she caught on July 26 aboard the Harvester. Second place overall in the Valdez Halibut Derby is Doug Cranor of Valdez with a 239.0 pound halibut he caught on June 23rd aboard the Redhead. Holding on to third place is Russell Young of Fairbanks with a 226.0 pound Halibut he caught on June 23rd aboard the Dan Orion.

Halibut Derby – Overall Leaders

1st           Patricia Johnson               Clovis, CA                            285.8 lbs.             July 26                   Harvester
2nd          Doug Cranor                       Valdez, AK                          239.0 lbs.             June 23                 Redhead
3rd           Russell Young                    Fairbanks, AK                  226.0 lbs.                June 23                 Dan Orion

Halibut Derby – Weekly Winners

1st                 Kyle Lucey                           Wasilla, AK                          95.8 lbs.                July 30                   Jaime Lynn
2nd          Martin Mykkanen            Andogh, MN                      87.4 lbs.                July 30                   Halibut Grove

 Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st           Daniel Schneider              Anchorage, AK                  16.64 lbs.             Aug 4                  Sea Duck
2nd          Tom Karlsten                  St. Cloud, FL                          16.40 lbs.             Aug 4                     Long Shot
3rd           Darlene Juve                      Decorah, IA        14.98 lbs.             July 24                   Orion

Search Back On For Plane Crash Survivors In Denali NP (Update)

As of Monday morning, search-and-rescue teams are back in Denali National Park hoping to find survivors of a crash of a sightseeing plane on Saturday.  

Here’s more from the Anchorage Daily News:

The crashed plane is a de Havilland Beaver operated by K2 Aviation out of Talkeetna. It’s believed to have crashed around 6 p.m. Saturday at about a 10,500-foot elevation at a location known unofficially as “Thunder Mountain.”

Two HH-60 rescue helicopters operated by the Alaska Air National Guard launched shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday were unable to spot the crash site, she said.

“The helicopters were not able to make any kind of visual contact or get close to the area,” Belcher said. “They’ll try again at 7 a.m, depending on the weather. There’s supposed to be a small  window of opportunity to get closer and hopefully lay eyes on the crash.”

The crash occurred near the 10,920-foot summit, Belcher said.

Update: The Daily News says the plane carried the pilot and four tourists from Poland.

Sockeye Limits Increased On Kasilof River

Kasilof River photo by user Beeblebrox /Wikimedia

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

Kasilof Sockeye Salmon Bag and Possession Limits Increased

(Soldotna) – Due to a good run of sockeye salmon into the Kasilof River, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is increasing the bag and possession limits for sockeye salmon to six fish per day and twelve fish in possession; however, no more than two salmon per day and two in possession may be coho salmon, in all portions of the Kasilof River open to salmon fishing. These provisions are effective 12:01 a.m., Saturday, August 4, 2018, through 11:59 p.m., Monday, December 31, 2018.

“The poor sockeye salmon return to the Kenai River this year has impacted a lot of people,” stated Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller. “However, there is still an opportunity for anglers to get out and fish for sockeye salmon on the Kasilof River.”

The biological escapement goal on the Kasilof River is 160,000-340,000 sockeye salmon. As of August 2, 2018, a total of 316,500 sockeye salmon have passed the Kasilof River sonar site. The current escapement level of sockeye salmon into the Kasilof River is proceeding at a rate that is projected to exceed the biological escapement goal.

For additional information, please contact Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller at (907) 262-9368.

Support Conservation By Purchasing A Custom Duck Call

White Bear Lake, MN – Wildlife Forever proudly unveils Calls for Conservation, a new promotion with the Deadshot Custom Call Company offering acrylic, hand-made duck calls just in time for the upcoming waterfowl season.

Made in the USA, each call is custom built and hand tuned for amazing sound and clarity. With every Calls for Conservation duck call purchased, the Deadshot Custom Call Company will donate 20% directly to Wildlife Forever’s North American waterfowl and habitat enhancement efforts.  Skillfully made, the radiant copper, double reed duck call features amazing sound quality and is sure to attract attention from fellow hunters and waterfowl alike. As a special bonus, everyone who participates will receive a membership to Wildlife Forever and a special “Calls for Conservation” leg band to adorn on their favorite lanyard.

“Waterfowl require good habitat and groups like Wildlife Forever working to ensure our hunting heritage. Our business and customers depend on it and I’m proud to make this commitment to giving back”, said Brian Rubenstein, Owner of Deadshot Custom Calls.

Calls for Conservation is a wonderful program that helps to support our mission of conservation, ensuring the sights, sounds and future of waterfowl. We’re honored to partner with Deadshot Custom Calls and are offering a free membership to anyone who participates, just text WFCALLS’ to 41411“, said Pat Conzemius, Executive Vice President of Wildlife Forever.

The Deadshot Custom Call Company was hatched from the heart of the Prairie Pothole region in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Producing quality products to help make lasting memories of times afield have helped Deadshot to become a soaring success.  You won’t find them in a big box store or retail outlet…calls are produced to have a direct connection to each customer. Prices are low for a reason, to provide high quality, unique products for every level of waterfowl hunter.  From novice to professional guides and outfitters, Deadshot calls are built to last a life time…and the connection between you and their calls is their #1 goal.

Wildlife Forever’s conservation efforts span over 30 years of projects across the U.S. and Canada. With a 94% to mission rating, funds donated get poured back into the ground to help fish and wildlife. Purchase with a purpose! Calls for Conservation works to improve waterfowl habitat through restoration projects and educating sportsmen and women about invasive species. text “WFCALLS” 41411 to get your custom call and become Wildlife Forever’s newest member.

Fishing For Youngsters At Homer Spit Tomorrow

ADFG file photo

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

(Homer) – A Youth-Only Fishery will be held on Saturday, August 4, 2018, from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Homer Spit. This will be the last Youth-Only Fishery at the Fishing Lagoon for the 2018 fishing season.

The Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon Youth-Only Fishery allows anglers 15 years and younger to fish for all species, including king salmon, in the posted Youth-Only Sport Fishing area. The remainder of the Fishing Lagoon will be open for fishing to anglers of all ages. All other sport fishing regulations remain in effect for the Fishing Lagoon and are found on page 73 of the 2018 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary booklet.

During the Youth-Only Fishery, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) staff will be present at the Fishing Lagoon from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Staff will be available to help young anglers gear up and fish for king salmon and coho salmon returning to the Fishing Lagoon. Fishing rods will be available for kids to check out and use at the Fishing Lagoon, on a first come basis during this timeframe. Other activities will include tying egg loops, fishing knots, and learning the best way for releasing fish. Free loaner spinning rods are also available to all anglers for up to a week through the ADF&G Rod Lender Program. Fishing rods can be checked out at the ADF&G Homer Office.

The Youth-Only Fisheries were established by the Alaska State Legislature and implemented by the Alaska Board of Fisheries to provide a special opportunity for young people to get out and go fishing. Youth anglers do not need a sport fishing license. While adults can assist youth anglers in landing a fish, sections dedicated to Youth-Only fishing are closed to anglers 16 years and up, including catch-and-release, during that time.

For additional information, please contact the ADF&G Homer office at (907) 235-8191.

88 Sockeye Salmon Snagged Illegally

The Associated Press, via KTUU in Anchorage, reported that four men in the Wasilla area were charged with illegally snagging or netting 88 sockeye salmon in Cottonwood Creek.

Here’s the complete Alaska State Troopers dispatch:

Location: Cottonwood Creek
Type: Fishing Closed Waters, Fishing Without License in Possession, Illegal Possession of Sockeye Salmon

Dispatch Text:

On 07/30/2018 Alaska Wildlife Troopers with the help of Alaska State Troopers, investigated a complaint of illegal fishing in Cottonwood Creek near Wasilla.  Investigation revealed Mark Voloshin, age 59 of Wasilla, Nikolay Blidchenko, age 68 of South Carolina, Pavel Lokhmatov, age 70 of Washington, and Valentin Fonov, age 40 of Wasilla, were in possession of 88 sockeye salmon taken illegally by dipnet and snagging from Cottonwood Creek.  All were given citations to appear in court at a later date with bail to be set by Palmer District Court.  The fish were seized and donated to charity.

Kenai River Sockeye Fishing Shut Down

Photo bty Randy Wells

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

(Soldotna) – To protect returning sockeye salmon and increased fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is implementing the following sport fishing closure on the Kenai River effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 4, 2018.

The Kenai River is closed to fishing for sockeye salmon from its mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge at the outlet of Kenai Lake, except those waters of the Upper Kenai River, Russian River, and Russian River confluence areas remain open. The waters of the Russian River confluence remain open to allow anglers to target Russian River sockeye salmon. Please review page 60 of the 2018 Southcentral Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary Booklet for a description of the area. With about 20% of the Russian River late-run sockeye salmon past the weir, the run looks strong with a projection of over 70,000 salmon.

“The department doesn’t take this action lightly,” stated Sport Fish Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller. “This fishery is important economically to the community and important to Alaskans trying to put salmon on the table; but when projections indicate we won’t make the escapement goal, we have to take that final action and close the fishery.”

On July 24, 2018, ADF&G reevaluated the Kenai River sockeye salmon run and projected the run will be less than 2.3 million fish. Based on the current passage estimate of 434,560 fish through July 30 and run timing of sockeye salmon into the Kenai River, the sustainable escapement goal (SEG) of 700,000 to 1,200,000 Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon may not be met without a reduction in harvest of this stock. Therefore, it is warranted to close the Kenai River sport fishery. The personal use dip net fishery was closed two days early this year and restrictions to the commercial fisheries are being implemented.

For additional information, please contact Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller at (907) 262-9368.