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Washington Man Dies In Fishing Accident Off Alaskan Coast

Tragedy struck of the coast of the Aleutians when a Longview, Washington, resident died in a sportfishing accident. Here’s more from the Longview Daily News: 

David Long, 55, was recreational gillnet fishing with a friend about five miles off Unalaska when they ran into problems with their net and their boat, Jennifer Shockley, deputy chief and acting director of the Unalaska Police Department, told the Anchorage Daily News. The boat took on water and capsized shortly after 2:30 p.m., authorities said.

Long’s companion was able to swim ashore and get help. By the time the message reached public safety officials, it was about 4 p.m., Shockley said… 

Both men were wearing safety flotation devices, according to Shockley. She said it was a partly sunny day, with calm water conditions and a surface temperature of about 49 to 50 degrees.

Condolences to David’s family and friends.

Kenai River Search Unable To Find Missing Boater

A Wisconsin man who was on a sportfishing boat that overturned on the Kenai River has yet to be found,

Here’s the Associated Press with more on the story:

Sixty-eight-year-old Daniel Hass was one of three men from Algoma on board a boat that flipped Monday on the Kenai (KEE-neye) River, a popular sport-fishing venue south of Anchorage.

Alaska State Troopers say the boat apparently drifted sideways down the river, struck a rock and overturned.

The two other men with Haas in the boat were later rescued by a private boater who was also on the river.

Yellowstone Bear Hunting Decision Won’t Apply To Alaska Regulations

USFWS FILE PHOTO

This doesn’t directly affect Alaska, but given the controversy swirling about federal laws and bear hunting, it should be of note to Alaska’s hunting scene that a decision is coming about fall bear hunting in Yellowstone National Park.  Here’s the Associated Press:

A judge is expected to make a ruling this week on whether the first grizzly bear hunting season to be held in the Lower 48 states in more than four decades will open as scheduled on Saturday outside Yellowstone National Park. …

The threatened species designation doesn’t apply to Alaska, where bear hunts are held each spring and fall and the population numbers about 30,000. There, fall hunters carrying high-powered rifles track grizzlies, also called brown bears, through areas with good food sources as the bears look to fatten up before they settle in their dens for winter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first declared success in Yellowstone in 2007, but a federal judge ordered protections to remain in place while wildlife officials studied whether the decline of a major food source, whitebark pine seeds, could threaten the bears’ survival.

In 2017, the federal agency concluded that it had addressed that and all other threats, and ruled that the grizzlies living across 19,000 square miles (49,210 square kilometers) of the Yellowstone area in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming were no longer a threatened species.

Nelchina Caribou Hunt DC485 Now Closed

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

(Glennallen) — Nelchina caribou hunt DC485 has been closed by emergency order for the remainder of the fall hunting season and began on Sunday, August 26, at 11:59 p.m.

As of Friday, DC485 hunters in Game Management Unit 13 had reported taking 121 bull caribou. Hunters currently remain in the field, therefore it is likely additional caribou have been taken and not yet reported. This closure is necessary to prevent exceeding the DC485 harvest allocation of 250 bull caribou.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s July 2018 post-calving survey estimated the Nelchina herd at approximately 35,700 caribou, near the lower end of the population objective of 35,000–40,000. To prevent overharvest and maintain the population objective, the department issued an emergency order earlier this month limiting harvest to bulls-only for all Unit 13 state-managed caribou hunts (RC561, RC562, CC001, and DC485). The emergency order also established a harvest quota of 1,400, allocated as follows:

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

The early-season RC561 Tier I hunt closed by emergency order on August 18 when the quota of 500 bulls was met. The second Nelchina Tier I caribou hunt RC562 is scheduled to open September 1–Sept. 20 and will be subject to early closure once the quota is reached.

In addition to the bulls-only restriction and harvest quotas, a three-day harvest reporting requirement applies 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 (24/7), or in person at the Glennallen or Palmer Fish and Game offices.

For hunt updates and additional information call the Nelchina Hotline at 907-267-2304 (24/7).

Young Wunderkind Still Leading Valdez Silver Derby

Askel Hutchinson. 8, maintains his Valdez Silver Salmon Derby biggest fish. (VALDEZFISHDERBIES.COM)

The following press release is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies: 

VALDEZ, Alaska – Many anglers braved the cold and rain in Valdez to best the 17.28 pound silver caught by eight-year-old Aksel Hutchinson of Valdez, but his fish is still holding onto 1st place and stands a good chance of winning the $10,000 first place prize in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby. The angler taking 2nd place in the Silver Salmon Derby will win $3,000 and the 3rd place derby angler will win $1,500. The smallest silver to ever win the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby was Jim Burzinski’s 15.11 pound silver caught back in 1971. The largest silver salmon ever caught in the derbies weighed in at 22.14 pounds.

The Valdez Silver Salmon derby is the oldest derby in the state but records for winners only date back to 1971. The derby was started by the Chamber of Commerce in 1952 and several years back Bill Wyatt, owner of Bear Paw RV Park and owner of a small hotel in the 50’s, recalled the prize for the first derby was $500 and the first winner of the silver derby was Loren St. Amond with an 18.8 pound silver salmon. A history of the Valdez Fish Derbies can be found HERE.

The lead in the Valdez Halibut Derby is still being led by Patricia Johnson of Clovis, California. Johnson reeled in a 285.8 pound halibut July 26thaboard the Harvester. The 1st place prize in the halibut derby is $10,000 cash, the 2nd place prize is $3,000 and the 3rd place prize is $1,500. The largest halibut ever caught in the Valdez Halibut Derby is the 374 pound fish caught be Frieda Wiley of Valdez just last year.

The final Big Prize Friday of the season is this Friday, August 31st.  The angler catching the largest silver salmon this Friday will take home $500 in addition to the daily prizes. The Valdez Fish Derbies, both halibut and salmon, will end Sunday, September 2nd. Weigh-In will close at Noon on Sunday, September 2nd and the derby awards party will be held 6pm Sunday night at the Elks Lodge. Everyone who bought a derby ticket will be entered in a drawing for a $5,000 cash prize and that drawing will be held at the Derby Awards Party Sunday, September 2nd.

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

Don Thomas won a weekly prize for this 197.4-pound halibut. (VALDEZFISHDERBIES.COM)

Halibut Derby – Weekly Winners

1st           Don Thomas                Las Vegas, NV           197.4 lbs.         Aug 25            Dan Orion
2nd        Gavin Chrestiensen     Palmer, AK                 157.2 lbs.         Aug 22            Jaime Lynn

 

Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st        Aksel Hutchinson       Valdez, AK                 17.28 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 Ducks

Gov. Walker Declares Economic Disaster For Chignik Salmon Fishery

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announced the declaration in this Friday morning press release: 

JUNEAU – Because of dramatic declines in salmon returns this year, Governor Walker declared an economic disaster for the Chignik fisheries region today. Current harvest rates are low enough to threaten the communities of Chignik, Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Perryville, and Ivanof Bay, which depend on the subsistence and commercial availability of salmon.

  • With a preliminary harvest count of 128 sockeye salmon, the 2018 sockeye harvest was only .00922% of the prior ten-year average.
  • Escapement counts for 2018 for all salmon in the Chignik Management Area (as of July 29, 2018) are 54 percent of what they were on the same date in 2017.

This economic disaster declaration allows the Legislature to appropriate money for assistance grants and allows the Governor to make budget recommendations to accelerate the region’s existing capital projects and provide funding for new ones. It also waives specific provisions of Alaska Statute and regulations relating to capital project requirements, employment, and contractor preference.

In addition to the disaster declaration, Governor Walker directed the Division of Economic Development to commit as many resources as possible to assist salmon permit holders who participate in the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program and may be unable to meet the terms of their loans because of Chignik’s low harvest

“Chignik is used to catching more than a million sockeye every year. This year, they caught 128 fish,” said Governor Walker. “Salmon is the economic and subsistence staple in these communities and the failure of this year’s fishery is a one-two punch. It is critical that we do what we can to support them as they work to recover: that’s what we’re here for.”

Additional support for Chignik area residents is available from the Division of Public Assistance, which provides food relief and financial assistance to Alaskans in need. The division offers programs such as the Heating Assistance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Alaska Temporary Assistance Program. For information about the Division of Public Assistance, visit dhss.alaska.gov/dpa/Pages/default.aspx. For more information about the Division of Economic Development, visit commerce.alaska.gov/web/ded/.

 

ADFG Reopens Kenai River For Sockeye Fishing

Kenai River photo by Randy King.

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

(Soldotna) – The passage of sockeye salmon into the Kenai River has achieved the sustainable escapement goal (SEG) of 700,000 to 1,200,000 Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon, so the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is reopening sport fishing for sockeye salmon on the Kenai River and restoring the bag limit of three fish per day, six in possession effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday, August 23, 2018.

Poor performance by Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon resulted in sport, personal use and commercial closures and restrictions starting in July and continuing through August. As of August 20, 926,917 sockeye salmon have passed the department’s sonar at river mile 19. Sockeye salmon harvest that occurred prior to the closure August 1 and any additional harvest that may occur for the remainder of the season are not expected to result in escapement below the SEG.

“With sockeye passage exceeding 900,000 we’re glad to be able to return an opportunity for folks to fish for sockeye as the season winds down.” said Sport Fish Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller.

Anglers are reminded this does not affect sockeye salmon fishing in the waters of the Upper Kenai and Russian River confluence (see map in regulations summary page 60). These waters are managed for Russian River sockeye stocks and closed to the retention of sockeye salmon by regulation August 20.

For additional information, please contact Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller at (907) 267-2415.

The Kid Is Alright: 8-Year-Old Still Leading Silver Derby

Aksel Hutchinson. 8, maintains his Valdez Silver Salmon Derby biggest fish. (VALDEZFISHDERBIES.COM)

The following press release is courtesy of Valdez Fish Derbies:

 VALDEZ, Alaska – With less than two weeks left in the Valdez Halibut and Silver Salmon Derbies, only time will tell if eight-year-old Aksel Hutchinson will remain the leader of the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby and take home the $10,000 grand prize. Silver salmon are already being caught just off the City Docks and at Allison Point so there will be a lot of opportunities for anglers to catch salmon the last two weeks of the derby. Although he is only eight, Hutchinson said his Mom told him all about the derbies and he has a plan for the money if he should happen to win. “I would buy a reel, and some tickets to go to Hawaii and Texas and a scope (hunting)”.

Aksel Hutchinson said he named his fish “Grandpa because it was very old. Hutchinson is an avid fisherman and eagerly provided tips for fishing Robe Lake and Ruth Pond as he was interviewed for the Valdez Fishing Report radio program. While Hutchinson was being interviewed he also provided a vivid account of his Mom’s reaction to the fish. “When I caught that fish, she couldn’t believe her eyes”, said Hutchinson. “She thought that she was seeing things”.

Patricia Johnson of California is still in the lead for the Valdez Halibut Derby with the 385.8 pound halibut she caught July 26th. Doug Cranor is currently in 2nd place with the 239 pound halibut he caught June 23rd and Russell Young of Fairbanks is holding onto 3rd place with the 226 pound halibut he caught June 23rd.

Both the Valdez Halibut and Silver Salmon derbies will end at noon on Sunday, September 2nd. Last year’s winning halibut was a record-breaking 374.0 pound flatfish caught by Frieda Wiley of Valdez.

The Valdez Silver Salmon Derby began in 1971. The smallest winner on record is Jim Burzinski’s 15.11 pound silver caught the first year of the derbies in 1971. In the last 20 years, winners have been in the 17 to 22 pound range.

Silver salmon fishing has been productive at Gold Creek and Mineral Creek. The last two weeks of the derby should be good fishing from shore as well as from a boat. The raffle for $10,000 cash will be held on Sunday after the close of the derby. Everyone who purchased a Valdez derby ticket will be entered in that drawing. Silver and Halibut Derby winners will be awarded and the drawing will be held at the Derby Awards party Sunday, September 2nd at 6pm at the Elks Lodge.

Valdez Halibut Derby leader Patricia Johnson and her 285.8-pounder. (VALDEZFISHDERBIES.COM)

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                 Larry Goble                         Greely, PA                          154.2 lbs.             Aug 17                  Nunatuk
2nd          Bill Bolinske                        Nampa, ID                           131.2 lbs.             Aug 16                  Nunatuk

 

Silver Derby – Overall Leaders

1st           Aksel Hutchinson             Valdez, AK                          17.28 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 Ducks

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.