Local gillnet fishermen are in the midst of a 48-hour opening that started mid-day on Sunday and ends on Tuesday. Currently the fleet is focused on sockeye salmon. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Troy Thynes says they weren’t expecting a very good return for reds this year and have been managing the fishery accordingly. “So far in-season indicators, as far as returns of sockeye to the Stikine River go, we’re looking at right around what the pre-season forecast was.”
The pre-season forecast for the Stikine River district was 134,500 reds. The total allowable catch for the entire system is about 60,000 fish, shared 50/50 between the U.S. and Canada.
In-season numbers for the king run up the Stikine River indicate that it is about 15,000 fewer fish than expected. The pre-season estimate was 41,000 fish, and now managers are only expecting 25,000 to 30,000. The fleet is no longer allowed to directly target king salmon, though about 4,000 have been caught incidentally when the boats were targeting sockeye.
Thynes said that fishermen are starting to see more kings enter the area. “It does appear that Stikine River is getting a little bit later push of fish. We’ve seen some more king salmon showing up in the river here later than what we would normally expect.” The fishery is experiencing similar problems to the rest of the state. “We think there is something going on out in the ocean that has been affecting their survival in the ocean,” he explained.
He does expect that they will reach their escapement goals of 14,000 to 28,000 Chinook.
The fisheries are looking a little bit better in the Anita Bay Terminal Harvest Area. Thynes says they are actually expecting more chums and more kings to return to the area than previously thought. Fishermen are having a good harvest for this time of the year. Four hundred fifty thousand Chums are expected to return to the Anita Bay area and 10,000 kings. Unlike for the Stikine, the king run timing is normal.
Seine boats are currently targeting pinks in Section 7a going toward Anan Creek. Biologists estimate the returns going up the creek using aerial surveys. Thynes says the numbers in the creek look good, but catch rates are lower than normal. “We’re not sure if the water temperatures this year are causing the fish to migrate a little differently, a little deeper. A different route where they’re catchability is a lot lower, but bottom line is they’ve been showing up at the creek.”
The District 10 mainland fishery is one of the earliest in the region. The area had a good parent year escapement, so management biologists expected good runs of pinks this year. But Thynes says that’s not what they’re seeing. “We only have one of our major systems up there that are doing okay. The rest of them are not looking so good.” As a result, the fishery may not open this upcoming Sunday as originally planned. Most of the seine fishery harvest typically takes place in August.