state anglers and biologists alike are scratching their heads and asking the
same question, "where have all the king salmon gone?" For much of the state,
sport fishing for the prized species, even catch and release, has been closed.
Donn Tracy is the Kodiak area management biologist for the Department of Fish
and Game Sportfish Division. He said Kodiak runs have been stable, but no
exception to the decline.
"As far as king salmon, we've been a
little more fortunate than the rest of Alaska in the fact that our two native
king salmon runs in the Kodiak archipelago in the Karluk and Ayakulik
rivers, the numbers of returning fish have been abundant enough in that we have
achieved our minimum escapement numbers this year, unlike a lot of other
streams in Alaska, particular in Cook Inlet."
Tracy is quick to note that while the runs
have met escapement goals, the numbers are still relatively weak by historical
standards. He said it isn't clear why the runs are so low, but attributes the
fact that they are statewide shortages to mean there have been higher mortality
rates during the ocean stage of the salmon's life.
grace for Kodiak anglers, he said, has been the Kodiak road system enhancement
project, which has helped improve salmon runs in rivers along the road system.
"We, as you may know, have been releasing
king salmon smolt from the local hatchery, pillar creek hatchery, since about
2007 in the American and Olds rivers. And since about 2004 in Monashka Creek.
And the 2012 returns have been below, actually quite a bit below what we
expected, but there still have been enough adult fish coming back that we've
had some good sportfishing opportunity, particularly at the American and Olds
sportfishing in general, Tracy
said the season has started off slow, but anglers and charter captains are
starting to report more rewards reaped from the sea.
"I understand from reports that I have gotten and looking at
log sheets submitted by the local Kodiak charter operators that the halibut
fishing started off sort of slow this year, king salmon, salt water king salmon
was very slow in May and early June. But the information I have looked at more
recently indicates that halibut fishing has picked up, king salmon fishing has
gotten a little better, people are actually starting to catch a few silver
salmon trolling out in Chiniak Bay, pinks are starting to show up. So the
saltwater fishing has seemed to have gotten off to a small start this year but
has seemed to improve recently and by all accounts pretty good at the moment."
Tracy said the freshwater
runs for sockeye were especially good, and early numbers for pink salmon
predict a great season ahead.