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Sockeye Runs Have Mixed Results In Alaska

Sockeye salmon photo by ADFG

Alaska Public Media published a report today about some uneven sockeye salmon returns, which turned out to be good runs in some areas (Bristol Bay) and less than satisfactory numbers in others (Kenai and Copper Rivers).

There are a few theories that the article suggests, including the impact of pink salmon, which we’ll also have a report on in our September issue. Here’s one such idea mentioned in today’s report:

In Southeast Alaska, one of the first Fish and Game staffers to notice an unusual trend was Iris Frank, a regional data coordinator and fisheries technician.

Frank’s lab is on the first floor of Fish and Game’s Douglas Island office that looks like it hasn’t changed much in the 32 years since she got there.

Frank has been looking at blown-up images of sockeye salmon scales for decades.  She pops one onto the machine and dials it into focus to show that salmon scales have ridges, called circuli. They look a lot like fingerprints.

It’s worth a read.

 

 

 

 

 

Unalakleet River Drainage Coho Limits Increased

Unalakleet River photo by Bureau of Land Management

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

The Division of Sport Fish is increasing the bag and possession limit for coho salmon in the Unalakleet River and its tributaries to 10 fish, from 12:01 a.m. Friday, August 17 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, October 15. The bag and possession limit for salmon, other than king salmon, is 10 fish, of which only four in combination may be chum and sockeye salmon. This bag and possession limit for salmon, other than king salmon, includes the 10 fish limit for coho salmon.

The cumulative count of coho salmon at the counting tower on the North River, a tributary of the Unalakleet River, is well above the recent 5-year average. As of August 14, 11,247 coho salmon have been counted at the North River tower, compared to the recent 10-year average 3,469 fish. While no aerial surveys have been conducted on the North River, the coho salmon count at the tower will be sufficient to exceed the North River aerial survey-based sustainable escapement goal (SEG) of 550-1,100 salmon. In addition, the cumulative coho salmon count at the Unalakleet River weir is over three times the historical average for this date. As of August 10, when the weir was removed for the season, 58,756 coho salmon had passed the weir. This is well above the average of 16,295 coho salmon by this date. Due to the high number of coho salmon in the Unalakleet River drainage and projections to exceed the upper bound of the SEG at the North River tower, an increase in the bag and possession limit for coho salmon from 4 to 10 fish is warranted. It is anticipated that the additional harvest associated with the increased bag limit will not reduce the escapement below the SEG.

For additional information contact Brendan Scanlon, Northwest and North Slope Area Management Biologist, 907-459-7268.

Situk Among Yakutat-Area Rivers Closing For Sockeye Fishing

 

Situk River photo by Tony Ensalaco.

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

Yakutat – In order to protect sockeye salmon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has extended the closure of the Situk, Lost, and Ahrnklin River drainages to sport fishing for sockeye salmon.

From August 16 to December 31, 2018 sockeye salmon may not be targeted, retained, or possessed in the Situk, Lost, or Ahrnklin Rivers; sockeye salmon caught incidentally 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 30,000-70,000 sockeye salmon. As of August 14, 2018, 25,332 sockeye salmon have been counted through the Situk River weir. Average run timing data for sockeye salmon on the Situk River indicates that approximately 100% of the run should be in the river by August 14. Given the low numbers of sockeye salmon that returned to the Situk River, the BEG will not be achieved. This action is warranted to conserve sockeye salmon present in the Situk, Lost, and Ahrnklin Rivers.

Anglers are reminded that the entire Situk River drainage is closed to sport fishing for king salmon. King salmon may not be targeted and any incidentally caught king salmon may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

Anyone needing further information concerning this announcement please contact Matt Catterson, Yakutat Area Sport Fish Biologist at (907) 784-3222.

FortyMile Caribou Hunt Shut Down After Three Days Near Fairbanks

ADFG map of the affected hunting area.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced a closure of a section of Fortymile Herd caribou hunt in the Fairbanks area. Here’s the full ADFG release:

Fortymile Caribou Season on Steese Highway to Close after 3 Days
The State of Alaska fall hunting season for Fortymile caribou in areas accessible from the Steese Highway and Chena Hot Springs road in Zone 1 will close after 3 days on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at
11:59 p.m.
Caribou are present in portions of Zone 1 and harvest in the first 3 days of the season is expected to meet the quota of 530 bulls in that zone. The state hunting season is scheduled to remain open in Zones 2, 3, and 4.
Caribou are abundant in Zone 2 (located in parts of Game Management Units 20B, 20D north of the Tanana River, and western Unit 20E) and widely scattered in portions of Zones 3 (Taylor Highway area in a part of Unit 20E) and 4 (White Mountains in parts of Units 20B and 25C).
State hunting seasons for Fortymile caribou opened on August 12 in all zones. ADF&G staff will be monitoring the hunt carefully to minimize chances that the quota is exceeded in these zones.
Caribou movements during fall are largely unpredictable, and seasons may be closed in other zones to keep the harvest within the harvest quota. Hunters are advised to phone the Fortymile Caribou
Hotline at 907-267-2310 before departing for the field to obtain the most current information on status of the hunt.
The annual Fortymile quota is 2,030 caribou, with 1,525 allocated to the fall hunt and 505 to the winter hunt. The fall quota of 1,525 is divided as follows: Zones 1 and 4 combined is 530, Zone 2 is
200 and Zone 3 is 795. The fall bag limit is 1 bull for all hunters in August, while during September it is 1 caribou (bull or cow) for residents and 1 bull for nonresidents.
These changes only apply to state caribou hunts in these areas. The federal caribou hunt on federal lands is not affected by these changes. Hunters with questions about federal subsistence regulations should call (800) 478-1456.
Successful hunters must report within three days of the kill on the internet at http://hunt.alaska.gov, or in person or by phone to the ADF&G office in Tok (883-2971). Hunters
who report by phone must also mail their permit reports or drop them off to the Tok ADF&G office.
ADF&G News Release, August 13, 2018 Fortymile Zone 1 Closure 
Unsuccessful hunters must return their reports to the Tok office or report online at http://hunt.alaska.gov by October 15.
Hunters are urged to obtain a receipt when they turn in their hunt reports or to mail them by
delivery confirmation receipt. Permit holders who fail to report will not be allowed to obtain registration, drawing, or tier I and II permits next year, and may be cited for a violation of the Alaska
hunting regulations.
The Alaska Board of Game endorsed the Fortymile Caribou Herd Harvest Plan (harvest plan) as a means of guiding harvest of the herd from 2012 through 2018. The harvest plan allocates all
available Fortymile Herd harvest to a hunt area, divided into 4 Zones, south of the Yukon River in portions of Units 20B, 20D, 20F and all of Units 20E and 25C. Management is designed to allow the
Fortymile Herd to continue to grow and expand within habitat limitations into its former range in Alaska and Yukon. At about 78,000 animals, the Fortymile Herd is the largest caribou herd in Interior Alaska.

Valdez Puts On A Party For The Ladies At Silver Salmon Derby

Leslie West of Provo, Utah, whose 16.48-pound fish won the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. (VALDEZFISHDERBIES.CICOM)

The following press release is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

VALDEZ, Alaska – After a raucous evening at the Opening Event for the Valdez Women’s Silver Salmon Derby Friday night, anglers set out early  Saturday morning in search of the salmon that would earn them the title of Queen at the Awards Ceremony Saturday night. Many anglers heading out past the narrows ended up doubling back and coming back to fish Port Valdez because the silver salmon are in and plentiful close to the harbor. Laura Saxe of Eagles Rest RV Park said she heard that someone even caught a silver salmon at Allison Point.

Leslie West of Provo, Utah had never fished for salmon in Valdez but she said she got the hang of trolling and was really excited to see such a big fish at the end of her line. West brought in a 16.48 pound silver salmon to win her 1st place in the Women’s Silver Salmon Derby and put her into 3rd place in the overall Silver Derby standings. “I’ve never trolled before”, West said. “This was all new to me and a lot of fun. I was just so grateful we got it in. It was kind of hard netting and it was exciting there for a few minutes, but we got it in. Oh my gosh, what a feeling!”. West said she was fishing very shallow but most anglers had success fishing at depths of 40 to 70 feet. “They were jumping, they were on the surface. We could see them everywhere. We just trolled on through and I lucked into the one”, West said.

West wasn’t the only one who caught a big fish on Saturday. Eight-year-old Aksel Hutchison of Valdez caught a whopper of a fish. Hutchison’s fish weighed in at 17.28 pounds and puts him in the lead to win the $10,000 first place prize in the regular Valdez Silver Salmon Derby.

With silver salmon heavy in the narrows, fishing should be good from shore at Allison Point and in Port Valdez the final weeks of the derby. Most of those trolling on Saturday had success trolling at a depth of 40 to 70 feet. Hot spots this weekend were the Valdez Narrows, Shoup Bay, Gold Creek and just outside the Valdez Harbor. The silver derby and Valdez Halibut Derby end Sunday, September 2nd at noon.

Patricia Johnson of Clovis, California is leading the Valdez Halibut Derby with a 285.8 pound halibut she caught July 26th. Doug Cranor of Valdez is currently 2nd place with a 239 pound halibut and Russell Young of Fairbanks is currently in 3rd place overall with a 226 pound halibut.

Photos by ValdezFishDerbies

 

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           Kevin Ulrich               Eagle River, AK         202.6 lbs.         Aug 5              Dan Orion
2nd        Steve Hanna                Emmett, ID                 140.0 lbs.         Aug 5              Sea Quester

 

Aksel Hutchinson’s 17.28-pound coho that leads the Silver Salmon Derby.

Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Aksel Hutchinson       Valdez, AK                15.62 lbs.         Aug 11            Amanda Rose
2nd        Daniel Schneider         Anchorage, AK          16.64 lbs.         Aug 4              Sea Duck
3rd        Leslie West                 Provo, UT                  16.48 lbs.          Aug 11            Sea Duck

Coho Salmon Fishing Regulation Updates

Coho photos by ADFG

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

Cottonwood and Wasilla Creeks Coho Salmon Limits and Days Liberalized

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is increasing the bag and possession limits for coho salmon, 16 inches or greater in length, to four per day and four in possession in all waters of Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks open to salmon fishing. In addition, fishing will be allowed on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays at Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day. These provisions are effective 5:00 a.m. Friday, August 10 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, December 31, 2018.

The coho salmon limit is combination of the bag and possession limit of sockeye, chum, and pink salmon. After taking a bag limit of salmon in any of these waters, a person may not sport fish that same day in any water open to salmon fishing. Bait and multiple hooks, meaning no more than two single hooks or two treble hooks per line, will be permitted in these fisheries.

“There is a correlation in run size between salmon runs to Fish Creek and salmon runs to other Knik Arm streams, specifically Cottonwood and Wasilla creeks,” stated Assistant Area Management Biologist Sam Oslund. “ADF&G is expecting an above average coho salmon run to these waters; therefore, by allowing more days for sport fishing and increasing the bag and possession limits this provide anglers have an opportunity to harvest these additional fish.”

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

Fish Creek Coho Salmon Limits Liberalized

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is increasing the bag and possession limits for coho salmon, 16 inches or greater in length, to four per day and four in possession in all waters of Fish Creek open to salmon fishing. The bag limit for salmon, other than king salmon, remains at six per day and six in possession, which of those six salmon only four per day and in possession may be coho salmon. In addition, sport fishing on Fish Creek will be allowed seven days per week from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day. These provisions are effective 5:00 a.m.Thursday, August 9 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, December 31, 2018.

After taking a bag limit of salmon, a person may not sport fish that same day in any waters open to salmon fishing. Bait and multiple hooks, meaning no more than two single hooks or two treble hooks per line, will be permitted in these fisheries.

This sport fishing regulation liberalization supersedes the Fish Creek coho salmon limits increase issued on August 7, 2018.

“This emergency order allows anglers to harvest additional coho salmon from the waters of Fish Creek that are open to salmon fishing,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “Based on weir counts, the projected escapements for coho and sockeye salmon are expected to be over the higher threshold of the SEG; therefore, it is warranted to allow sport fish anglers not only additional days to harvest salmon but an opportunity to harvest extra salmon on Fish Creek.”

The Jim Creek coho salmon run is managed separately to achieve the escapement goal established for that system. Other Knik Arm waters, including the Little Susitna River, Eklutna Tailrace, and Wasilla and Cottonwood creeks remain unaffected by this emergency order.

Alaska Stand For Salmon Measure Will Be On November Ballot

ADFG photo

Alaska’s controversial Measure 1 that’s meant to provide protection for salmon habitat but has plenty of opposition,   will be on the November ballot after an Alaska Supreme Court ruling. But there’s a catch as the Anchorage Daily News reports:

Alaska’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Stand for Salmon initiative contains unconstitutional sections that can be removed so voters in November can still decide on the measure designed to enhance protections for salmon and other fish.

“We conclude that the initiative would encroach on the discretion over allocation decisions delegated to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by the legislature, and that the initiative as written therefore effects an unconstitutional appropriation,” the court said in a 48-page decision.

The lieutenant governor, who oversees Alaska elections, must remove the “offending sections” and place the remainder of the initiative on the ballot, the court said in reversing a Superior Court ruling.

Stand for Salmon released a lengthy statement on the ruling, Here’s some social media reaction and links:

 

Little Su Coho Limits Increased; Fish Creek Open Every Day

Little Susitna River photo by Wikimedia user “Jim”

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

Little Susitna River Coho Salmon Limits Increased

(Palmer) – The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is increasing the bag and possession limits for coho salmon to three per day and three in possession in the Little Susitna River. These provisions are effective 12:01 a.m.Wednesday, August 8 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, December 31, 2018, for all waters of the Little Susitna River open to salmon fishing downstream of the Parks Highway bridge. The coho salmon bag limit is in combination with current limits for pink, chum, and sockeye salmon; which is only three salmon, other than king salmon, 16 inches or greater in length, can be harvested per day and in possession.

“ADF&G wants to remind anglers to be cognitive of the high and turbid conditions the Little Susitna River drainage is experiencing with the recent rains,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “We know anglers are excited to get out and fish, but we want to make sure they are staying safe while fishing on the waters.”

The sustainable escapement goal (SEG) for coho salmon in the Little Susitna River is 10,100-17,700 fish. As of August 6, 2018, 6,725 coho salmon have passed the Little Susitna River weir. Based on weir counts and average run timing, ADF&G is projecting to exceed the SEG. ADF&G does not anticipate that increased sport harvest from this emergency order will lower escapement below the goal in the Little Susitna River; therefore, it is warranted to provide anglers an additional sport fish harvest opportunity.

Fish Creek Open 7 Days per Week for Sport Fishing and Sockeye Salmon Limits Are Liberalized

(Palmer) – Due to a great run of sockeye salmon into Fish Creek, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is increasing the bag and possession limits for salmon, other than king salmon, 16 inches or greater in length to six per day and six in possession; however, no more than two salmon per day and in possession may be coho salmon, in all waters of Fish Creek open to salmon fishing. In addition, sport fishing on Fish Creek will be allowed seven days per week from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day. These provisions are effective 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, August 8 through 11:59 p.m. Monday, December 31, 2018.

After taking a bag limit of salmon, a person may not sport fish that same day in any waters open to salmon fishing. Bait and multiple hooks, meaning no more than two single hooks or two treble hooks per line, will be permitted in these fisheries.

“Over 43,000 sockeye salmon have been counted at the Fish Creek weir with an escapement goal of 15,000-45,000 fish,” stated Area Management Biologist Sam Ivey. “The projected escapement is expected to be over 47,000 fish; therefore, it is warranted to increase the open fishing period, and bag and possession limits for sockeye salmon and allow sport anglers an additional sport fishing opportunity.”

The SEG for coho salmon in Fish Creek is 1,200-4,400 fish and weir counts to date indicate more than 550 coho salmon have passed the weir at about 18% of the historical run. It is not anticipated that increased sport harvest of coho salmon, because of increased fishing time directed at sockeye salmon harvest will lower the escapement of coho salmon below desired escapement levels in Fish Creek.

The Jim Creek coho salmon run is managed separately to achieve the escapement goal established for that system. Other Knik Arm waters, including the Little Susitna River, Eklutna Tailrace, and Wasilla and Cottonwood creeks remain unaffected by this emergency order.

Mom Would Approve: Eklutna Tailrace Wins Honor

Eklutna Tailrace photos by ADFG

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

Eklutna Tailrace) – The results are in. The Eklutna Tailrace has been ranked as the Nation’s top Mom-Approved fishing location.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) conducted a six-week nationwide contest asking for people to rank the top Mom-Approved fishing location in each state. Voters from Alaska banded together and put the Eklutna Tailrace in the top spot with over 5,000 votes. The second place finisher was Cumberland Lake in Kentucky.

“We are thrilled to have the Eklutna Tailrace be voted the top Mom-Approved fishing location in the nation,” Lisa Evans, the Assistant Director for the Division of Sport Fish said. “This would not have been possible without the many people who took the time to cast their vote. It’s important to recognize the Alaska Outdoor Journal and their efforts to help promote the voting process. We could not have reached the top without the many votes that came in from AOJ’s Facebook followers. Thank you to all who voted!”

RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources.

The Eklutna Tailrace is located just outside Palmer and is stocked annually by ADF&G with king and coho salmon.

To find a comprehensive list of stocked lakes in Alaska, or to find other resources available to anglers, please visit www.wefishak.alaska.gov .

To view a complete list of the Top 10 Mom-Approved Fishing Locations in the Nation, please visit:https://www.takemefishing.org/blog/august-2018/top-10-mom-places-to-fish-and-boat/ .

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.