Category Archives: Featured Content

Senate Votes To Repeal Federal Lands Predator Hunting Bill

 

Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The contentious nature of Alaska’s outdoor managmement officials and the federal government regarding predator hunting on federal land is about to be argued about again. 

Here’s the Alaska Dispatch-News with more:

The Congressional Review Act bill to overturn the Obama administration regulation, having passed the House, and now the Senate by a vote of 52-47, now heads to President Donald Trump. The House passed the bill, introduced by Alaska Rep. Don Young, last month. Trump is expected to sign it into law.

The contested rule has evoked vivid imagery by its opponents in Congress: slaughtered wolf puppies, shooting wolves from planes, undercutting the natural order in Alaska’s 76 million acres of wildlife refuges.

Alaska’s lawmakers say that those arguments are simply untrue, and they miss the point.

Repealing the rule through a congressional resolution is important to the “principle of federalism,” said Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan just before the vote Tuesday, chiding “senators from states that don’t know anything about my state.”

“This rule is about subsistence,” Sullivan said.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said some of the rule’s hunting provisions related to bears would impact subsistence hunting for people in remote areas of Alaska.

But the resolution’s opponents say the lawmakers have it all wrong — that Alaska’s game managers want to illegally control predators to boost the population of moose and caribou for hunters. Favoring one species over another is not allowed, argued Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, during an impassioned speech opposing the rule. 

Here’s a little more insight from the ADN: 

At the heart of the disagreement between state and federal wildlife managers is what each group thinks should guide its purpose. The federal government has argued that the goal on refuges and in parks should be biodiversity. The state Board of Game has an interest in ensuring maximum sustained populations for hunting.

The state Game Board and the federal agencies have clashed over managing predators, which could drive down available game for subsistence hunters, as well as authority over managing the lands.

Both the state and federal agencies argue that it’s the principle of the matter, and that right now the regulation wouldn’t change a great deal in the management of federal wildlife refuges.

As is usually the case, social media brought out a lot of emotional responses:

 

 

 

 

Island Hopping For Kodiak Blacktails

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

BY LOUIS CUSACK 

Toward the end of October, when many folks are picking out a pumpkin to carve for Halloween and buying candy to hand out to the trick-or-treaters, my wife Ruth and I are usually packing for Kodiak Island in preparation for our blacktail deer hunt.

This is a special trip for us because it’s usually our last hunt of the season. It takes place primarily from a single base location, with enough gear to make for a big cozy camp. No freeze-dried meals or spike camps on this hunt! No sir; we bring plenty of food and gear.

There had been three mild winters in a row on Kodiak Island, and the reports we were getting was that there were plenty of deer around and lots of good mature bucks being brought in. So we were especially excited about this year’s hunt and anticipated a great adventure.

With gear shipped and staged, we jumped a flight to Kodiak, where we were greeted by a typical fall morning, which on this island means a big easterly wind that blew 35 mph with sideways rain. Our transporter met us at the terminal for a quick trip to the store and a stop at their hangar for the bulk of our gear. From there, it was over to the office for an update on our departure to the field, which was looking good since the weather reports were pretty decent out toward our hunting area.

Flight schedules and routes on Kodiak are dictated by the weather, and weather patterns on an island this size can be very different from one location to the next. We were also informed that the fall salmon run was pretty weak, thus the bears were hungry and deer hunters were seeing a significant increase in the number of problems with bruins. That meant it was time to double-check the bear fence and throw in an extra can of bear spray.

THE FLIGHT INTO THE field went off like clockwork, and about halfway to our destination we broke through the rain and arrived at our hunting area in the sunshine. There are few things that Ruth and I hate worse than setting up and breaking down camp in the rain, but that wasn’t the case today, so we hit the ground running in hopes of getting camp set up with time left over for a few hours of hunting.

Unlike most big game hunting in Alaska, deer hunting does not fall under the same-day airborne regulation, which requires that you to wait until 3 a.m. the day following the one you are flown in to begin hunting (2016-2017 Alaska Hunting Regulations, Page 19).

After setting up camp, we managed to get in a couple of hours of hunting and spotted several deer, but none that we were interested in taking on our first day afield.

During this time of the year there is roughly a nine-hour period between sunrise and sunset, with a little over 10 hours of useable light from dark to really dark. This meant we had plenty of time to enjoy a great meal in camp, spin a few tall tales from previous hunts and get a decent night’s sleep before it was time to start hunting the following morning.

We were up and out of camp early, catching a few smaller bucks and does down pretty low on our way up to hunt in higher elevation, which on Kodiak is where the more mature bucks like to live. The way we prefer to hunt is to climb up the mountain above the heavier cover, work our way around on a well-used game trail, and glass and scout patches of alders that blacktail will often bed down in.

Our first few days were warm and windy. We saw a lot of deer and a ton of sign, fresh tracks, rubs and scraps all over the mountain. Just about every tree next to a game trail held a fresh rub, but the bigger bucks were not out chasing does as heavily as we would have expected. 

Ruth spotted our first shooter, a really nice buck way toward the top of the mountain in a steep drainage that was surrounded by alders and a lot of heavy brush. We took advantage of the cover and it was not long before she was in position to make a great shot and punch her first tag. 

Did I mention that this drainage was steep? It was really steep! In fact, it would have been a waterfall if there had been any water in it! Taking a deer down a steep drainage has its advantages, but it can be dangerous if you are not careful. I use a piece of 1-inch webbing strap about 6 feet long. This lets me control the deer while coming down and makes it easier to step out of the line of fire if the deer starts tumbling down the chute. If you’ve ever been tangled up with a deer, goat or sheep, then you know what I’m talking about – it’s not fun. 

We were able to get Ruth’s deer down the chute to an open area to clean and dress him for packing out. I like to put some space between the brush and myself just in case an old mama bear decides she wants our deer more than we do. We passed on several more animals and hoped for another good buck as we returned to camp that evening to celebrate with fresh deer tenderloins for dinner.

THE WEATHER WAS STILL not as cold as what we had hoped for, and that night the wind really picked up. This might explain why we never heard that bear come into our meat tree. Ruth thought she heard something at about 2 a.m., but with the noise from the wind and the surf she wasn’t certain. The next morning when I went to check on our meat, it was gone – all of it except for the blackstrap we had in our ice chest. Judging from the tracks and the way he was able to get up to our meat, he looked to have been a smaller bear. Nonetheless, he had wreaked havoc on our meat tree, tearing off limbs and leaving empty game bags scattered up to 300 yards down the trail. I guess that dang bear had to eat too!

There wasn’t much we could do about the bear taking our meat, so we cleaned up the mess he left, loaded our packs and headed out hunting. We had not gone very far before Ruth spotted a really nice buck. He was standing on the skyline just above a bowl that was plastered into the side of the mountain with a steep ridgeback we later named the stairway to heaven, which ran straight up to him.

We climbed up the backside of the ridge, using the ridge line for cover and side-hilling just below the rim into the bottom of the bowl. Once we got a look into the bowl, we saw six deer: five bucks and a single doe that must have been in “season,” since she sure seemed to be getting a lot of attention.

It was my turn to shoot and the buck I wanted was standing at the head of the bowl with the doe. We were stopped cold in front of six sets of eyes and over 600 yards between him and us. After watching them for a bit, I decided to try and circle around them and left Ruth at the bottom of the bowl in hopes that at least one of us would get a decent shot. I had just started making my ascent when that buck turned and walked right into the center of the bowl. I was not in a good position, but Ruth had a perfect shot opportunity and we still were within each other’s line of sight, so I gave her the hand signal to take him.

She made an excellent shot, dropping him instantly to again put us in the process of skinning deer and looking forward to more tenderloins for dinner. We were still not in any hurry to fill tags and it was pretty entertaining to watch those four bucks try to work that doe, but she wasn’t having any of it! Ruth’s shot did not seem to bother them at all. Hmm, maybe they had something else on their mind!

That night the weather broke, the wind died down, a bright moon rose up over the mountain and the temperature dropped well below freezing. This is notable because blacktail deer are not very big; adult does average about 80 pounds and bucks are around 120 pounds. I’ve always been told that during cold temperatures an animal this size has to get up and eat to stay warm. There must be some truth to that, because the next morning there were deer up and moving about every place we looked. We were out of camp for no more than an hour before we spotted two nice bucks and a doe. Ruth and I each took one, both of them really nice mature bucks.

Both deer were dragged down to a flat clearing where they could both be skinned and we could keep a sharp look out for bears. There was already one bear problem and we were being pretty wary, considering we’d spotted a small boar near our location just the day before. As quickly as we could, we got both deer cleaned and bagged, then loaded up most of the meat for our hike back to camp. 

All we had left in the field for our second pack-out were antlers, two front shoulders, a small bag of neck meat and a little gear. We made it back to camp, hung our deer and grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading back for our second load. We had only been gone a couple of hours, but when we returned the bears had already gotten to our deer. The place was practically wiped clean. From what we could tell by the tracks, it looked like it was a sow with cubs. They ate or carried off almost everything. They even chewed the rubber handle off my saw and crushed a metal water bottle we had left for our return. It still held water, but for some reason I could not seem to convince Ruth to drink any of it! 

Back at camp that evening, we hung our meat until we were ready to call it a night, but we cleaned out a couple of Action Packers, packed meat in them and placed them behind the bear fence for the night. This started a daily cycle of hanging in the evening and storing our meat at night that we would continue for the remainder of our hunt. I am not sure if it was just luck or if this simply worked, but either way we did not have any further bear problems.

I’m never one to be short on words, and I could likely write a novel about the weather we experienced toward the end of our hunt. It was perfect hunting weather, with clear cold nights, and near the tail end of the hunt the waxing gibbous moon lit the place up like it was daytime. 

We also experienced crisp, sunny days with little to no wind. It was coming toward a full moon, which I usually try to plan our hunts around; I believe that deer tend to go nocturnal during this period, and this trip was no different. I had even swapped a few workdays, so that we could finish our hunt before the moon was completely full. I’m not sure if this is real or superstition, but with the weather we were having the moon just didn’t seem to matter. The hunting and the weather was great and the forecast was calling for a whole lot more of the same, so Ruth and I decided to stay. 

In the past, we’ve been weathered in a lot and had to stay several extra days a number of times because of snow, rain, flooding, wind or mechanical problems. Once a long time ago, I even had a pilot simply forgot to pick me up. However, this situation was a first for us. 

We were weathered in simply because it was just too nice to leave, which is kind of like calling in well instead of calling in sick. I actually did that once: The powder was deep, my snowmachine was running like hell, the weather was perfect and I just felt too dang good to go to work. My poor boss didn’t quite seem to know how to take that, but that’s another story. 

THE NEXT MORNING I set up the spotting scope and managed to find a really good buck feeding between two alder patches about a mile from camp. Ruth was already tagged out but I still had two to fill, so we loaded up and headed after him. I figured we could relocate him if nothing spooked him or a hot doe didn’t pull him away before we got there. I managed to find him again once we were there; he was lying down in the clearing right at the edge of an alder patch. He was a very good buck and I was really looking forward to getting a crack at him, but just as I was setting up for the shot a brown bear stood up on his hind legs. He was in an alder patch just to his left and about 75 yards from him. 

The bear didn’t seem to be bothering our buck any, but he had dropped back down on all fours and we couldn’t see him. Having already had two bear encounters, neither resulting in anything other than hurt feelings and lost meat, and not wanting the third time to be the charm, I decided not to shoot. We had tried waiting him out, but we never saw that bear again. There were just too many deer around to take a chance on creating an incident, and hopefully that buck will be even bigger next season. I shot a decent buck on our way back to camp that evening and we ended the day with only one more deer tag to fill.

We woke up our last morning of hunting to another perfect day; we had just started making our way up the ridge when I spotted a little buck walking almost beside us. I did not want to take him, so Ruth and I just walked right up that ridge with him walking just alongside of us. It was a really cool encounter. The three of us walked right into another buck with a doe, and we just sat down and watched them. Later that morning, we worked our way over to the same drainage that Ruth took her first deer in. After another steep climb and a quick shot filling our last tag, we were once again taking a deer down the chute and hoping it wasn’t going to take us down first!

With the deer back to camp and with all of our tags filled, it was time to fire up the satellite phone and call for a ride home. We had a great time that night, eating a good dinner, prepping/packing gear and reflecting back on our hunt.

KODIAK ISLAND IS A MAGICAL place, with many different hunting options to choose from. You can use a transporter to fly in for a remote do-it-yourself hunt or pick one of the many outfitters that provide lodging and field transportation from either a boat or land based camp. Or you can even take a fully guided hunt that provides everything you need except for your personal gear and a hunting license. Last but not least is the option to simply go to Kodiak and hunt off the road system. Hunting the road system is my least favorite option, considering that the season is shorter, the limit is only one buck per season, and with the ease of hunting access you can expect this area to get a lot more hunting pressure than most. 

Whatever option you choose, hunting Kodiak Island for blacktail deer is a great way to introduce a new hunter to hunting. The deer are plentiful, fairly easy to hunt and with a liberal bag limit of three per season on most of the island, it’s a great way to keep it exciting for hunters both young and old alike. I know we look forward to every season. Heck, Ruth and I were ready to go back before we even left the island! ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on the “The Rajun Cajun,” Louis Cusack and his wife, Ruth, like and follow them at facebook.com/
AdventuresofLouisandRuthCusack.

Ice Fishing With Baby Lynx

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

BY KRYSTIN AND BIXLER MCCLURE 

The Kenai Peninsula is home to countless lakes, many of which are excellent for ice fishing. As much as we like to drive long distances in hopes of catching lunker fish, sometimes the best lake for fishing is close to home – especially when you have a baby in tow.

Our son Lynx was born in November, right on the cusp of one of the coldest winters in a few years. Sure, we’ve bundled him up like the poor kid on A Christmas Story and dragged him out onto lakes in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, but when the temperature in that area dropped to 20 below, we had to consider other options.

Down the street from our house is a lake full of rainbows and Dolly Varden of all sizes. Every now and then a 20-inch trout gets pulled from the lake, but most of the big fish cruise by your lures, skeptical of the food dangling in front of them. We have secret homemade lures that will occasionally fool a large Dolly, but the rainbows have continuously stumped us. It is a wonderfully frustrating place to fish.

A few months after Lynx was born, the Kenai Peninsula dipped into a deep cold spell and we had a hankering for some ice fishing.

SOLDOTNA AND COOPER LANDING were both 25 below and Sterling was even colder, around minus 35. Seward was a balmy zero degrees that morning when we decided to head to our local lake, our only feasible option in these temperatures. Bixler loaded up our ice fishing gear – now including a shelter with a propane heater – while I prepared the little man for the outdoor temperatures.

Lynx popped into his car seat and immediately fell asleep. A whopping five minutes later, we arrived at the lake, which was free of any signs of other anglers and coated with a fresh crust of ice. Bixler wrestled the ice fishing sled down the steep bank to the lake, while I grabbed Lynx in his carrier, a blanket covering the top to keep out the biting cold. When you have a baby to worry about, you can set up an ice shelter in a matter of seconds. Soon we had two holes drilled, a heater fired up and a baby fast asleep in his car seat in the cozy shanty.

I grabbed my favorite lure for rainbows (the last one in our box) and dropped it through the hole. Bixler grabbed his homemade rig to lure the large Dollies that overwinter in the lake and we started fishing. Immediately, I had a strike. 

I had not ice fished in so long that I was caught off guard and the fish stripped my lure. I was thankful that Lynx was still too young to understand the English language, because what I said afterwards would have landed him in detention if he were to repeat it at school. 

Frustrated, I thumbed through the tackle box to find something else. When I made my selection, Lynx was starting to stir. In the cramped quarters of the shanty, I stripped off his layers to change his diaper and started to feed him after I redressed him. Bixler handed me my rigged rod and I fished while I fed Lynx.

As usual, a large rainbow lazily checked out my lure then headed towards Bixler’s hole. I whispered my sighting to Bixler, who saw the same rainbow swim off after ignoring his homemade rig too.

“I wish I could catch one of those giant fish!” Bixler grumbled.

“Me too,” I said. “It is so frustrating to see them swim by all day long.”

I PUT LYNX BACK in his car seat after he finished feeding and he stared at me with ennui. I started to tell him about the amazing luck we had at this lake last year at around the same time. Seward was in the midst of a warm winter and this lake was a sloppy mess with a few inches of water over 12 inches of ice. The water was oddly murky and I was using the lure I had just lost. That day I’d caught a respectable-sized rainbow and Dolly Varden back-to-back. The story was enough to lull Lynx back to sleep right before Bixler yelled “Fish on!”

I reeled up my rod and helped center his line in the hole. We were hoping that one of the giant fish had finally nabbed our lure, but instead Bixler pulled up a decent-sized rainbow. Bixler proudly showed his catch to our sleeping baby, noting that this was his first successful ice fishing experience since birth.

I tried my hand at fishing, but unfortunately Lynx was starting to fuss. Bixler tended to him as I watched a large Dolly Varden ignore my latest lure selection. Lynx was not calming down and Bixler mentioned that he might be hungry again after thumbing through the layers to check his diaper. I grabbed him and coordinated feeding a baby while fishing, a necessary skill in Alaska. Soon I felt a familiar tap and set the hook. Lynx hardly flinched, but I had to hand the rod to Bixler to fight the fish. Another solid rainbow had taken the bait and was soon in the bucket for dinner. 

I set Lynx back in his car seat. He drifted off to sleep once more as the sunlight dwindled from the Alaskan winter sky. Bixler managed to grab one more rainbow before we called it a day. He again showed the fish to Lynx, who slept through the whole explanation of rainbow trout and their deliciousness, before throwing it into the bucket.

On my last drop as Bixler started packing up, I saw both a big rainbow and lunker Dolly Varden cruise by below. I looked over at Lynx who was fast asleep, enjoying the cold and comfort of the shanty and said, “When he’s older, I think he’ll be the one who will finally catch these giant fish.” ASJ

Editor’s note: Bixler and Krystin McClure operate a Kenai-based adventure business, Seward Ocean Excursions. For more, go to sewardoceanexcursions.com.

BOG To Meet Over Copper Basin Big Game

Kristen Sowl/USFWS

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

The Alaska Board of Game will meet March 18-21 in Glennallen at the Alaska Bible College, Ball Memorial Library, located on Ridley Circle, to consider more than 40 public proposals seeking changes to moose and caribou hunting regulations in Game Management Units 11, 12, and 13.

The meeting convenes Saturday, March 18, at 11:00 a.m., beginning with presentations by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game followed by oral public testimony. The board welcomes oral and/or written comments from the public to assist in its decision-making process. Anyone wishing to testify before the board must sign up at the meeting location before 10:00 a.m. Sunday, March 19. Oral statements will be limited to five minutes. Public testimony will continue until all who have signed up have been given opportunity to be heard. Deliberations on proposals will begin following public testimony and continue through the remainder of the meeting.

All portions of the meeting are open to the public and a live audio stream is scheduled to be available on the board website at www.boardofgame.adfg.alaska.gov. The audio streaming may be limited due to broadband speed, but will also be available on the meeting information page after the meeting. Other meeting materials, including the proposals, agenda and roadmap order of proposals, list of agency reports, and public and agency comments on proposals can be viewed online at: www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=gameboard.meetinginfo&date=03-18-2017&meeting=glennallen.

Written comments will be accepted on specific proposals during the meeting. Written comments limited to 10 pages single-sided (or five pages double-sided) will be accepted by hand delivery at any time if 20 copies are provided. Individuals not attending the meeting can submit comments by fax to (907) 465-6094. Documents submitted to the board during the meeting are intended to be posted online throughout the meeting.

Salmon Regulations Announced In Various Alaska Waters

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced several 2017 salmon season regulations, so here is a recap:

JUNEAU (see map above)

In the waters of District 11, and District 15 south of the latitude of Sherman Rock, and District 12 north of the latitude of Point Couverden (see attached map)

  • From April 15, 2017 through June 14, 2017,
  • King salmon fishing is closed, retention of king salmon is prohibited, any king salmon caught must be released immediately.

Taku River king salmon, like other Southeast Alaska king salmon stocks, are experiencing a period of low productivity. The 2017 preseason forecast for Taku River king salmon terminal run is 13,300 large fish. This level of abundance is below spawning escapement goal range (19,000–36,000 large fish) and below the management target of 27,500 Taku River king salmon (the midpoint of the spawning escapement goal range). Given the projected low abundance of Taku River king salmon, this action is being taken to conserve Taku River king salmon by restricting sport fisheries in the Juneau area.

For more information please call the Division of Sport Fish Region 1 office at (907) 465-4270.

SITUK RIVER

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 1, sport fishing for king salmon in the Situk River is closed. King salmon may not be targeted, retained or possessed; king salmon caught while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

The Situk River drainage is managed for a biological escapement goal (BEG) of 450–1,050 large king salmon. In years 2010 through 2012, and again in 2015 and 2016, the Situk River king salmon stock failed to achieve the BEG. In 2013 and 2014, the goal was achieved after restrictive management measures were implemented in the sport, commercial, and subsistence fisheries. The 2017 preseason forecast estimated a total run of approximately 500 large king salmon. Given recent harvest trends, and small escapements, a run of that size in the Situk River is not expected to achieve the escapement goal without preseason king salmon fishery restrictions. Therefore it is warranted to close the Situk River to sport fishing for king salmon.

For further information, anglers should call the Division of Sport Fish, at (907) 747-5355.

HAINES/SKAGWAY

  • The waters of Chilkat Inlet, north of the ADF&G regulatory marker immediately north of Seduction Point are closed to king salmon sport fishing from April 15 through July 15 (see attached map).
  • In Section 15-A, the waters of Lynn Canal north of the latitude of Sherman Rock the retention of king salmon is prohibited, king salmon may not be retained or possessed; any king salmon caught must be released immediately and returned to the water unharmed from April 15 through December 31 (see attached map).

The 2017 projected Chilkat River inriver run is 600 large king salmon, which is below the lower end of the goal range (1,850 to 3,600 large fish). The run projection is based on the numbers and ages of Chilkat River king salmon sampled in the spawning escapement and marine harvest, and on sibling survival rates observed in the most recent five years. When the run forecast is below the goal range, the Lynn Canal and Chilkat River King Salmon Management Plan prescribes closing Chilkat Inlet to king salmon sport fishing through June 30. Given poor marine survival rates of Chilkat River king salmon from brood years 2011 and 2012, which will provide the large mature spawning escapement in 2017, these additional fishery restrictions, are needed to increase Chilkat River king salmon escapement.

Commercial fisheries in Lynn Canal and subsistence fisheries in Chilkat Inlet and in the Chilkat River will also be limited in time and area in 2017 to increase Chilkat River king salmon escapement.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Haines/Skagway Area Management Biologist, Richard Chapell at (907) 766-3638.

 

UPPER COPPER RIVER

Effective May 1, all king salmon sport fisheries in the Upper Copper River drainage will be closed, this includes catch-and-release fishing. In addition, in all flowing waters of the Copper River drainage, only unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures may be used.

Effective June 1, in the Glennallen Subdistrict subsistence fishery, a total of only 2 king salmon, taken by fish wheel or dip net, may be retained from the period June 1 through July 15. Any king salmon over the 2-fish limit must be released immediately and returned unharmed to the water. Additionally, from June 1 through July 15 fish wheels must be closely attended, while in operation, in a manner that provides for the immediate release of incidentally taken king salmon.

Effective June 7, the Chitina Subdistrict personal use dip net fishery will be closed to the retention of king salmon for the remainder of the season. King salmon incidentally taken must be released immediately and returned to the water unharmed.

The 2017 Copper River king salmon forecast is 29,000 fish. This is the lowest forecast for king salmon on the Copper River and is only 5,000 fish over the drainage-wide minimum escapement goal for king salmon. The Copper River King Salmon Fishery Management Plan (5 AAC 24.361) directs the department to manage the Copper River fisheries to achieve a sustainable escapement goal in the upper Copper River of 24,000 or more king salmon. Copper River king salmon returns have been below average since 2009 and spawning escapement over the last 5 years (2011-2015) has averaged 24,846 salmon and fell below the minimum escapement goal in 2010, 2014, and 2016. Escapement in 2016 was the lowest recorded, at less than 12,000 king salmon. Below average returns during previous years, past performance of fisheries within the Copper River, anticipated subsistence harvest, incidental take in the commercial fishery, and uncertainty over how returns may recover in the future justify closing the Copper River king salmon sport fisheries for the 2017 season.

The Copper River Subsistence Salmon Fisheries Management Plans (5 AAC 01.647), ensures that adequate escapement of salmon in the Copper River system occurs and that subsistence uses, as described in AS 16.05.258 and 5 AAC 99.010, are accommodated. Consistent with this plan, the commercial fisheries of the Copper River District will be conservatively managed to maximize the escapement of king salmon into the Copper River.

The department will monitor the 2017 Copper River king salmon run as it develops. If available indicators of abundance suggest the 2017 run is stronger than forecast, the department will reevaluate these preseason restrictions and, if justified, will relax the appropriate restrictions to provide for additional fishing opportunity.

STIKINE RIVER AREA

In the waters of District 8 from Monday, May 1 through Saturday, July 15, 2017:

  • The king salmon bag and possession limit is one king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length for all anglers.

Anglers are reminded:

  • Only one rod may be used when fishing for king salmon after March 31, 2017;
  • The Southeast Alaska nonresident annual limit of three king salmon continues to apply in this area.
  • Sport fishing for king salmon will remain closed in fresh waters of the Stikine River and its tributaries, upstream of a line between Point Rothsay on the Stikine Flats, and Indian Point in LeConte Bay.

The 2017 preseason forecast for Stikine River king salmon terminal run is 18,300 large fish. This level of abundance is on the low end of the spawning escapement goal range (14,000–28,000) and below the preseason management target of 21,000 (the midpoint of the spawning escapement goal range). Given the projected low abundance of Stikine River king salmon, this action is being taken to conserve Stikine River king salmon by restricting sport fisheries in the marine waters adjacent to the mouth of the Stikine River (District 8). For king salmon regulations outside of District 8 please see current news releases posted at local boat harbors and launches or on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Petersburg/Wrangell Area Management Biologist, Patrick Fowler at (907) 772-5231.

KETCHIKAN AREA

Anglers are advised that conservative king salmon regulations will be in effect for the Ketchikan Area sport fishery in order to reduce the harvest of Unuk River king salmon. New regulations and effective dates are as follows:

North Behm Canal
Salmon fishing is closed from April 1 – August 14 in Behm Canal and the contiguous bays enclosed to the north by a line from Point Lees to Elsie Point and a line from Elsie Point to the longitude of the outlet of Long Lake (131°26.100’W. long.), and to the south by a line from the western entrance of Bailey Bay at 55°56.036’ N. lat., 131°37.943’ W. long. to the northern tip of Hassler Island at 55°54.276’ N. lat., 131°37.798’ W. long. and a line from Fin Point at 55°51.256’ N. lat., 131°35.415’ W. long. to Dress Point at 55°51.145’ N. lat., 131°33.748’ W. long. (see attached map).

West Behm Canal
From April 1 to August 14, the bag and possession limit is one king salmon 28 inches or greater in length for all anglers; nonresident annual limit of three king salmon 28 inches or greater in length in the waters of west Behm Canal enclosed to the north by a line from the western entrance of Bailey Bay at 55°56.036’ N. lat., 131°37.943’ W. long. to the northern tip of Hassler Island at 55°54.276’ N. lat., 131°37.798’ W. long. and a line from Fin Point 55°51.256’ N. lat., 131°35.415’ W. long. to Dress Point 55°51.145’ N. lat., 131°33.748’ W. long., and to the south by a line from Niblack Point at 55°32.998’ N. lat., 132°07.228’ W. long., to South Vallenar Point at 55°22.878’ N. lat., 131°52.747’ W. long., and Tongass Narrows north of the latitude of Lewis Reef light (see attached map).

Ketchikan Sport Terminal Harvest Area

  • April 1 to June 30 the bag and possession limit is one king salmon 28 inches or greater in length for all anglers; nonresident annual limit of 3 king salmon 28 inches or greater in length;
  • July 1 to July 31 the bag and possession limit is six fish any size for all anglers; nonresident annual limit does not apply.

Anglers are reminded that regional bag, possession and size limits are different than those outlined in the areas listed above and anglers are prohibited from possessing fish that exceed the limits for the waters where they are fishing. Therefore, anglers fishing in multiple areas must be diligent to ensure they do not exceed the bag, possession, or size limit for the area they are currently fishing.

Unuk River king salmon, like other Southeast Alaska king salmon stocks, are experiencing a period of low productivity. The Unuk River king salmon spawning escapement goal is 1,800 to 3,800 large fish. After attaining the spawning escapement goal for 35 consecutive years, the Unuk River king salmon spawning escapement goal has not been achieved in four of the last five years. The 2017 preseason forecast is for a total run of approximately 1,500 large king salmon. Given that the total run forecast is already below the lower end of the spawning escapement goal, these conservative regulations are necessary to increase spawning escapement of Unuk River king salmon.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Ketchikan Area Management Biologist, Kelly Reppert at (907) 225-2859.

HERRING BAY AREA

The bag and possession limit for king salmon in the terminal waters of Herring Bay, from June 1 through July 31, 2017, is increased to 6 king salmon of any size. King salmon harvested in the terminal harvest area will not count toward the nonresident annual limit. The terminal harvest area is defined as follows:

Herring Bay Area:

  • The waters of Herring Bay west of a line from the southernmost entrance of Hole-In-The-Wall harbor at 55°19.110’ N. lat., 131°31.187’ W. long. to ADF&G markers located ½ mile north of Whitman Creek (signed and painted rocks) at 55°20.125’ N. lat., 131°30.126’ W long., to the fresh/salt water boundary signs located at the mouth of Herring Cove Creek (see attached map).

The Alaska Board of Fisheries authorized the department to use its emergency order authority to open terminal harvest areas to target surplus Alaska hatchery king salmon. The area opened by this emergency order will allow anglers to target Alaska hatchery-produced king salmon originating from the Whitman Lake hatchery in the Ketchikan area. Projected returns to this facility will exceed broodstock needs, thus a surplus of hatchery fish are available for harvest by sport anglers.

Anglers are reminded that bag, prior to July 1, possession and size limits for the salt waters outside of the designated terminal harvest areas are more restrictive than the limits inside the terminal areas and anglers are prohibited from possessing fish that exceed the limits for the waters where they are fishing. Therefore, anglers fishing in multiple areas must be diligent to ensure they do not exceed the bag, possession, or size limit for the area they are currently fishing.

For further information concerning this announcement please contact Ketchikan Area Management Biologist, Kelly Reppert at (907) 225-2859.

New Regulations Increase Bag Limit On Nelchina Caribou

 

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

New regulations to increase hunting opportunity and harvest of Nelchina caribou were adopted by the Alaska Board of Game recently in response to an emergency petition filed by the Department of Fish and Game. The regulations are intended to keep the herd within management objectives and provide additional harvest opportunity. Currently the Nelchina caribou herd exceeds sustainable population objectives established by the department.

The emergency regulations, which went into effect February 24, increase the bag limit for Tier I hunt RC566 and Community Subsistence Harvest CC001 in Game Management Unit 13 to two caribou per household. Previously the bag limit for these hunts was one caribou per household. Current permit holders for these hunts were sent an email with instructions on how to obtain an additional harvest report, should they choose to hunt for a second caribou.

Under these emergency rules, some 12,000 Tier I and 1,000 community subsistence hunt permit holders will be eligible for permits to harvest a second caribou. The emergency regulations are temporary and only impact the remaining month of the spring seasons, which close on March 31, 2017 or by emergency order.

Harvest opportunity remains for existing DC485 permit holders who have not already harvested a caribou during the 2016–2017 hunting season. Those permits are valid until they are filled or area caribou hunting seasons close on March 31, 2017.

The department will monitor harvests and hunt conditions under the emergency regulations. Further hunting opportunities in the form of a registration hunt could be added depending upon harvest and participation in the existing Tier I, community subsistence, and draw hunts. If additional harvest is needed, the department will provide all necessary information about the new registration hunt in a news release.

Good adult survival and calf recruitment have combined to raise Nelchina caribou herd numbers above the department’s sustainable management objective of 35,000 to 40,000 animals. The objective was designed to prevent over-use of the range. Analysis of data from a photo survey conducted in July places the current population estimate at 49,950.

Significant numbers of Nelchina caribou are currently wintering within Unit 13. In past years, the herd has migrated out of the unit to areas where late-winter harvest is problematic due to land status and the presence of other herds with lower harvestable surplus. The accessibility of the herd this year resulted in community subsistence hunt reaching its 300-caribou cap for the first time.

Hunters are reminded to be aware and respectful of private and Native corporation land boundaries, controlled use areas, and closed hunting areas including the Clearwater Controlled Use Area, Paxson Closed Area, and the Tangle Lakes Archeological District. To learn more about lands closed to hunting, see the 2016–2017 Alaska Hunting Regulations.

For herd movement updates and emergency orders, call the Nelchina caribou hotline at 267-2304. The hotline will be updated periodically for the remainder of the hunting season.

Sportsmen and -Women Comment On POTUS Clean Water Act Plans

As you can see, President Donald Trump’s decision to review the Brack Obama-created  tweaking of the Clean Water Act, which became news last week when Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, recommended that an order to block Alaska’s Pebble Mine project be overturned.

Here’s CNN with more on Trump’s plan:

President Donald Trump will sign Tuesday an executive order requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to review Obama-era water regulations to make sure they are not harming the economy, according to an internal EPA email obtained by CNN.

The order — which is currently in draft form and subject to change before Tuesday afternoon, when Trump is expected to sign it — addresses the “Waters of the United States” rule, which applies to 60% of the bodies of water in the US.
The regulation was created under the Clean Water Act of the early 1970s and essentially gives the federal government authority over major bodies of water, rivers, streams and wetlands, allowing the federal government to police these waterways to ensure they are pollution free.

 

Several organizations, including Trout Unlimited and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, released this  joint statement:

The Trump Administration is undermining the Clean Water Act. American sportsmen and sportswomen call on the Administration to protect headwater streams and valuable wetlands, keystones of America’s clean water and hunting and fishing heritage

Does America need cleaner waterways? Or do we want to forsake decades of progress and allow degradation of our streams, rivers and wetlands? Those are the vital questions for the new Trump Administration and the 115th Congress.

American sportsmen and women want to move forward, not backward.

Yet, today, President Trump signed an executive order to start rolling back the Clean Water Rule, a new definition issued in 2015 to clarify what are “waters of the United States.” The legally sound and scientifically supported definition would ensure protection for headwater streams and wetlands.

The Trump administration Executive Order directs the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA to rescind and revise the Clean Water Rule. It directs the agencies to consider using former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s minority opinion that said seasonal streams and many wetlands do not merit protection as a basis for the revision.

If Justice Scalia’s direction is followed 60 percent of U.S. streams and 20 million acres of wetlands would lose protection of the Clean Water Act; a tragedy for fish and wildlife, hunting and fishing, and clean water.

President Trump’s reliance on Justice Scalia’s opinion is especially misguided and must be reversed. The Trump Administration must consider the benefits of the 2015 Clean Water Rule and make sure that any revised rule does the following:

  • Restores longstanding protections for millions of wetlands and headwater streams that contribute to the drinking water of one in three Americans, protects communities from flooding, and provides essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy.
  • Sustains the sport fishing industry, which accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water.
  • Sustains duck hunting in the U.S., including 1.5 million duck hunters whose expenditures invest more than $3 billion into our economy.
  • Fulfills the aspirations of 83 percent of American sportsmen and women, from across the political spectrum, who believe the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the 2015 rule directed.

The new Administration must listen to the voices of American sportsmen who want more clean water, more fish and wildlife habitat, and new progress building on the successes of the past.

Sportsmen and women will do everything within their power to compel the Administration to change course and to use the Clean Water Act to improve, not worsen, the Nation’s waterways.

Confusion about winners? It happened in Alaska’s Hunting Draw As Well

 

 

 

By now, you know the story: movie wins Oscar for Best Picture, movie loses Oscar for Best Picture, all hell breaks loose. But not knowing if you’ve won or not also affected the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Tier 2 subsistence hunt draw., which unlike the Oscars’ seemingly impossible blunder in mixing up the envelopes for a Best Picture award that went to Moonlight, only after La La Land was announced as the winner, suffered through a glitch in tabulating the results.

Here’s the ADFG press release:

Permit results announced last week for Tier II subsistence hunts have been nullified due to a data processing error. The error has subsequently been corrected and all Tier II applications properly scored. The valid, updated Tier II hunt results are now available on the Department of Fish and Game webpage at http://www.drawresults.adfg.alaska.gov/DrawResults/ .

The error, which compromised scoring for Tier II hunt applications only, was discovered after the announcement of last week’s draw, Tier I/II and community subsistence harvest permit results. Only Tier II hunt applications were affected; draw, Tier I, and community subsistence harvest results were not impacted.

The department regrets any confusion or inconvenience this error has caused Tier II hunt applicants and is taking action to ensure similar issues do not occur in the administration of future hunts. In addition to the updated results now available on the department permit results webpage, all Tier II applicants will receive an email notification of their permit status.

 

 

 

Register For Homer King Salmon Derby

 

Homer Chamber of Commerce

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

Homer, Alaska:  The Homer Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for the 24th Annual Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament (WKT) on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Mark your calendars, get your boats ready, get out and fish!

The Winter King Salmon come north to the waters of Kachemak Bay to feed throughout the year. These “feeder” kings” are here to feed, and not to spawn. They’re building up fat reserves, making them a great fish on the grill.

New for 2017 is online fishing tournament software. This will allow participants to pre-register online at www.homerwinterking.com starting March 1st. There will be a random early-bird prize drawing for those who register online between March 1st and March 10th consisting of great fishing tackle and gear valued at over $300.00.

The 2016 Winter King Tournament Champion, Eric Holland, of Homer won $31,668.00 with a 26.45 lb. King. The total payout for the top 10 cash prizes was $113,100, boat side bet payout totaled $44,531.25, and Skunk Bets $4,687.16. The total payout in all categories in 2016 was $162,318.41. The eleventh through twentieth place winners shared in merchandise worth over $10,000.

In addition to the big prizes, registered anglers have the chance to win hundreds of prizes throughout the day donated by local businesses and nationwide fish & tackle companies. Upon arrival at Coal Point Trading Company (WKT Headquarters), anglers will enjoy live music and receive free beer & food vouchers, while waiting for the big announcement.

The public is welcome to attend and join the festivities from 2pm – 6pm.  There will be food and beer for purchase, kids activities, live music, fish weigh-in and the awards ceremony. New this year will be live results displayed on screen, as the fish are brought in and weighed.

Volunteers and sponsors make this tournament happen. This year’s tournament is sponsored by Ulmer’s Drug & Hardware. Ulmer’s donated both cash and manpower to help make this tournament a huge success. This year both Scott Ulmer and his daughter Monica Mede are on the WKT committee. It is impossible for staff and committee to do everything that goes into making this tournament such a success and we rely on over 40 volunteers every year. Volunteers return year after year because it is a lot of fun to be a part of the tournament, even if you aren’t fishing.  Volunteers are needed the week of the tournament and the day of the tournament in various capacities and various hours.

If you are interested in donating prizes or volunteering, please call the chamber 907-235-7740, Kim Royce or Bridget Maryott.

The Homer Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit supporting our community through cooperative economic development and community service. 

Alaskan Fishing Community Reacts To Reprsentative’s Bristol Bay Comments

Alaska’s Sportsman’s Lodge at Bristol Bay.

Rep. Lamar Smith

Yesterday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Adminstrator Scott Pruitt, who just began his tenure in that post.

Here’s the key point in Smith’s EPA letter:

“The Committee recommends that the incoming Administration rescind the EPA’s proposed determination to use Section 404(c) in a preemptive fashion for the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  This simple action will allow a return to the long-established Clean Water Act permitting process and stop attempts by the EPA to improperly expand its authority.  Moreover, it will create regulatory certainty for future development projects that will create jobs and contribute to the American economy.”

Two prominent members of Alaska’s fishing community, which has worked to block the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay’s rich salmon watershed were understandably concerned about Smith’s salvo. Here they are:

Brian Kraft of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodges:

“It needs to be recognized that rescinding any action to protect Bristol Bay harms American businesses like mine. The EPA was asked to protect the waters of Bristol Bay by Alaskan residents. Their action was supported by an overwhelming majority of Alaskans and people from around the country. The EPA has NOT vetoed anything with regards to the Pebble. The EPA simply set standards by which Northern Dynasty must meet to obtain permits. Northern Dynasty itself has asked to be held to the highest standard possible. Nothing is, nor ever has, prevented Northern Dynasty from applying and receiving permits to mine. They simply have to adhere to standards that will ensure that their operations do not destroy the existing intact functioning ecosystem that supports the largest salmon run in the world, which culture and many American businesses depend upon. What is wrong with setting high standards to protect the largest wild fishery left on the planet?”
Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited in Anchorage:

“Alaskans learned long ago that Pebble cannot be trusted. Decision makers should be cautious before casting aside the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery and American jobs in favor of a foreign-owned mine against the wishes of local residents, a majority of Alaskans and sportsmen the world over. Alaskans have said loud and clear that Pebble is not welcome here.” 

Northern Dynasty Minerals, the company vying to open the mine at Bristol Bay, also released a statement, which read in part:

Since 2014, Northern Dynasty and its 100%-owned subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership (“Pebble Partnership”) have advanced a multi-prong strategy — including litigation, Congressional outreach, independent investigations, among other initiatives – to encourage EPA to withdraw its unprecedented regulatory action against Pebble. The Congressional Science, Space and Technology Committee has held several Pebble-related hearings in recent years, finding that EPA actions concerning the mineral development project in southwest Alaska were based on “a questionable scientific assessment that relied on predetermined conclusions,” and that “EPA employees colluded with Pebble Mine opponents to stop the project.”

Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen said the Committee’s letter provides even greater impetus for EPA Administrator Pruitt to take timely action to reverse what many see as one of the leading examples of EPA over-reach, and return the Pebble Project to normal course permitting and the rule of law.

“All we have ever asked is for the opportunity to propose a comprehensive development plan for the Pebble Project, and to have it fairly and objectively reviewed against the extremely rigorous environmental standards and permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States. Today, we are one step closer to earning that opportunity.”