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Salmon Fishery Update
Southeast Alaska & Yakutat Commercial Fisheries
Updated Thursday, July 18, 2014
Now that the first Chinook salmon retention period has ended, most trollers are turning their attention to coho salmon. The highest catch rates are occurring in the Central Inside and Central Outside areas, followed by the Northern Outside area. Regional catch rates remain high this week, with power troll catch per unit effort currently averaging 118/day, which is well above all historic averages. Average weights for coho have remained stable for the first three weeks of the summer troll fishery, averaging 5.8 lbs. The average price is currently $1.30/lb and the cumulative catch since July 1 is just over 122,000 fish.
The first Chinook retention period of the summer closed by emergency order on July 7, but final harvest statistics will not be available until later this month. Preliminary totals indicate a harvest of approximately 185,000 fish by 771 permits, an average weight of 11.4 lbs and average price of $3.51. Catch rates remained very good throughout the duration of the fishery. Aerial vessel count surveys indicated effort appeared to be low at the start of the opening, however ticket data to date indicates a similar effort level to recent years. Once the department determines the number of treaty Chinook salmon remaining on the troll allocation, information on a second opening will be announced by news release in early August.
A growing portion of the troll fleet has been targeting chum salmon returning to the Neets Bay hatchery in West Behm Canal. A recent report indicates a harvest of over 28,000 chum since early July, with effort estimated at 65 permits on July 14. Trollers have an average chum catch/landing of 100-200 fish, at an average weight of over 11 pounds.
The 2014 Summer Troll Management Plans can be found on the Southeast troll website. Inseason catch and effort data for summer is available on the same site.
Purse Seine Fishery
The SE Alaska purse seine fishery began the 2014 season in traditional areas on Sunday, June 15 and is now in its fifth week. During statistical week 29, fishing occurred on July 13 and there is a mid-week seine opening on July 17.
The department has forecast a pink salmon harvest of 22 million fish for the season, below the recent 10-year average harvest of 34.5 million fish. Based primarily on combined hatchery chum salmon forecasts, total returns of 9.9 million fish are expected.
Seine effort during the July 13 period included 75 boats in District 4, 40 in District 1, 36 in District 2, 27 in District 1, and 15 in District 7. Twenty-eight boats were present at Deep Inlet terminal harvest area (THA) and 11 boats were reported at the Point Augusta index fishery. The largest harvests occurred in District 4 with 471,000 salmon harvested, District 1 with 238,000 salmon harvested, District 2 with 113,000 salmon harvested, and District 7 with 45,000 salmon harvested. Pink salmon harvest per boat was highest in District 1 with 5,500 fish, District 4 with 5,000 fish, District 7 with 2,500 fish, and District 2 with 1,900 fish per boat. Chum salmon harvest per boat was highest in District 2 with 1,100 and in Deep Inlet THA with 800 fish per boat.
Drift Gillnet Fishery
Traditional area drift gillnet fisheries occur in Districts 1, 6, 8, 11, and 15.
Tree Point/Section 1-B
The Tree Point drift gillnet fishery was open for four days starting at 12:01 p.m., Sunday, July 13, 2014. The effort level was slightly above average with 45 vessels participating. The harvest was below average for sockeye and coho salmon, and above average for pink and chum salmon. Total estimate for the weekly harvest is 75 Chinook, 5,000 sockeye, 600 coho, 60,000 pinks, and 46,000 chum salmon. The current Hugh Smith sockeye weir count of 2,300 sockeye projects out to a final escapement of 11,600, which is above the minimum escapement goal of 8,000. Beginning on July 20, the Tree Point drift gillnet fishery be managed according to the District One pink salmon management plan (5AAC 33.360). It is unclear if the purse seine gear group will receive more than one day of fishing time in statistical week 30 so the Tree Point gillnet fishery will be open for two days initially, beginning at 12:01 p.m., Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Prince of Wales and Stikine/Districts 6 and 8
The District 6 and 8 drift gillnet fishery opened for an initial 72-hour period on Sunday, July 13. On the grounds surveys of the gillnet fleet indicated below average effort and sockeye harvest. A 24-hour mid-week opening occurred in District 8 to harvest surplus Stikine River sockeye salmon. The Stikine River sockeye salmon inseason abundance estimate is 250,000 fish, well above the 152,000 fish forecast. The last inseason assessment for Stikine River king salmon made on June 20 was for a terminal run size of 26,000 fish. Both districts will open for an initial 72 hours beginning Sunday, July 20.
The District 11 salmon drift gillnet fishery was only open for three days this week after two consecutive weeks of four-day openings. Sixty gillnetters were observed shortly after the opening on Sunday, and by Wednesday morning approximately half the fleet remained. Those targeting the Limestone Inlet enhanced chum return were disappointed as chum catch rates were well below the recent ten-year average. The sockeye and coho catch rates were near average, while the pink catch rates were well below average.
The annual Tulsequah River flood, originating just upstream from the US/Canada border, brought Taku River water levels up to record highs during the middle of the opening. Not only does this flooding event hamper data collection inriver, it also can push a lot of fish downstream (especially a large flood like this one) making them susceptible to the marine fishery again. With the Taku River sockeye run projection falling by 20,000 fish from the week before (based on data pre-flood) and fish potentially being redistributed back into Taku Inlet, no extension was granted this week.
Sockeye catch rates in the southern portion of the district, aerial observations of jumping sockeye inside Port Snettisham, and inseason thermal-marked otolith reads suggest enhanced fish are around in abundance. However, no wild sockeye have passed through the Speel Lake weir or have been observed in Crescent Lake to date. When escapement to these systems is sufficient, opportunity to target enhanced fish inside Port Snettisham may become available.
The six-inch minimum mesh restriction south of Circle Point, to protect wild Port Snettisham sockeye, will remain in place next week and Section 11-B will again open for three days. Perhaps a bona fide sockeye fishery will occur next week.
Lynn Canal/District 15
The week 29, 2014 Lynn Canal (District 15) commercial drift gillnet salmon fishery opened for three days beginning Sunday, July 13 in Sections 15-A and 15-C. Time and area adjustments to the District 15 commercial salmon drift gillnet fishery is designed to harvest Chilkat Lake and Chilkoot Lake sockeye salmon while minimizing harvest of Chilkat River Chinook salmon as well as harvesting expected large returns of hatchery chum salmon in southern 15-C. A one day extension was granted to harvest the large return of Chilkoot sockeye salmon. An estimated 166,000 chum salmon and 22,000 sockeye salmon were harvested this week. Harvests of chum salmon were near average and above average for sockeye salmon. Catch per unit effort was below average for chum salmon and above average for sockeye salmon. A total of over 150 boats participated in the District this week. Harvest of Chinook, coho and pink salmon were very small and below average for this time.
Sockeye salmon escapement to Chilkat Lake is currently above average for this time. The cumulative DIDSON count of over 19,000 sockeye is 1.25 times the previous ten year average and projects a final escapement above the goal range. Chilkoot weir counts are currently above the ten year average and much better than expected. The current weir count of 30,000 fish projects a final escapement near the upper end of the escapement goal range.
With no concerns over Chilkat and Chilkoot Lake sockeye salmon, 3 days of time will be granted with Section 15-A opening south of the latitude of Seduction Point. The northern line in western Section 15-A will remain at the Glacier Point-Twin Coves line to harvest Chilkat Lake sockeye salmon while conserving Chilkat River king salmon. The eastern side of Section 15-A will open south of the latitude of Mud Bay Point to harvest Chilkoot Lake sockeye salmon. Section 15-C will be open south of Point Bridget on the western shoreline and south of Danger Point on the eastern shoreline. Section 15-B (Berners Bay) and the St. Mary’s shoreline will remain closed until further notice. The Boat Harbor Terminal Harvest area is open until further notice.
Yakutat Area Setnet Fishery
In the Alsek River, eight permits harvested 1,100 sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon Catch per unit effort was again below the recent average and fishing time was not extended beyond one day. In Yakutat Bay, 26 permits harvested 2,500 sockeye salmon. In the Situk-Ahrnklin Inlet, 44 permits harvested 6,600 sockeye salmon. Three permits fished the Akwe River and three more permits fished the Dangerous River, and the sockeye salmon harvest for those two systems contributed small numbers of fish to the overall harvest. The East River and the Manby Shore outside waters were each fished by fewer than three permits, and harvest information for those systems remains confidential. All Yakutat Area fisheries that open by regulation are now open for the season with the exception of the Italio River systems. The Italio River systems will open by emergency order when escapement counts have been observed.
Approximately 53,000 sockeye and 380 large Chinook salmon have passed through the Situk River weir. Inseason forecasts for both species right now indicate the biological escapement goal for each will be attained. The Canadian weir on the Klukshu River, a tributary of the Alsek River, is now operational and both sockeye and Chinook salmon have just started to show at that weir. Early counts for both species are slightly above average for this time of year. Salmon returns to the Yakutat area in 2014 are expected to be average to slightly above average. The 2014 preseason projection of a total return of 826 Chinook salmon to the Situk River is almost double the projection for the 2013 return. It is still indicative of a below average return, and subsistence, sport, and commercial fisheries are now closed for Situk River Chinook salmon. These fisheries will reopen when the projection indicates the biological escapement goal (BEG) will be attained. The preseason projection for Alsek River Chinook and sockeye salmon indicates that the BEG for both species will be attained. The coho salmon return this year is also expected to be average to slightly above average.
Terminal Harvest Area Fisheries
Terminal Harvest Area (THA) gillnet fisheries occur in Nakat Inlet, Neets Bay, Anita Bay, Deep Inlet, and Boat Harbor. THA seine fisheries occur in Neets Bay, Kendrick Bay, Anita Bay, Deep Inlet, and Hidden Falls.
Nakat Inlet THA
The forecasted return of Nakat Inlet summer chum salmon is 280,000 and for fall chum salmon is 10,000. Nakat Inlet opened to the harvest of salmon by drift gillnet and troll gear on Sunday, June 1, 2014. Currently 19,000 chum salmon have been harvested in the Nakat Inlet THA.
Neets Bay THA
The Neets Bay forecasted return for summer chum salmon is 1,800,000, for fall chum salmon is 140,000, for Chinook salmon is 18,100, and for coho salmon is 296,000. Neets Bay opened to the harvest of salmon by all gear groups on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Approximately 6,100 Chinook salmon and 3,300 chum salmon have been harvested by purse seine and 3,200 Chinook salmon and 900 chum salmon have been harvested by gillnet.
Kendrick Bay THA
The forecasted return for Kendrick Bay summer chum salmon is 700,000. Kendrick Bay opened to the harvest of salmon by purse seine gear on Sunday, June 15, 2014. Currently, 20,000 chum salmon have been harvested in the Kendrick Bay THA
Anita Bay THA
In 2014, approximately 501,000 summer chum, 15,400 king, and 15,500 coho salmon are expected to return. The cumulative gillnet harvest to date is 6,500 king salmon and 3,500 chum salmon. Beginning June 13, the Anita Bay THA opened on a rotational schedule for purse seine/drift gillnet fisheries.
Deep Inlet THA
The Deep Inlet THA rotational fishing schedule for seine and gillnet began on June 1. Forecast returns for the Deep Inlet THA and Medvejie Hatchery includes 1,170,000 chum salmon, 36,200 Chinook salmon, and 10,000 coho salmon. This season NSRAA does not anticipate closing the Deep Inlet rotational fishery for cost recovery harvest. On July 13, 27 seiners harvested approximately 100 Chinook salmon and 24,000 chum salmon. During the period July 14-16, twenty three gillnetters harvested approximately 100 Chinook salmon and 25,000 chum salmon. To date, gillnetters have harvested a total of 3,100 Chinook salmon and 142,000 chum salmon, and seiners have harvested 1,000 Chinook salmon and 249,000 chum salmon.
Hidden Falls THA
No cost recovery will occur at Hidden Falls this season. Forecast returns for Hidden Falls THA includes 1,072,000 chum salmon, 6,100 king salmon, and 188,000 coho salmon. The first common property purse seine opening occurred on June 15. Hidden Falls THA closed on June 29 because of broodstock concerns. The seine fishery will remain closed until it is clear broodstock goals will be met. NSRAA needs 180,000 chum salmon for broodstock and to date 90,000 fish have been passed over the barrier net into the broodstock containment area. The total chum salmon harvest for the season is 220,000.