Trollers. (KSTK file photo)

With Southeast Alaska king salmon stocks in a years-long slump, fisheries across the region can expect restrictions aimed at letting more kings return to spawn. But the region’s commercial fisheries manager says there are signs of hope. There is a slight upward trend showing across the region. 

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Like many other Chinook salmon runs in the state, Southeast’s have been declining for years. Troy Thynes manages the region’s commercial salmon fisheries for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. 

“This is mostly attributed to the marine environment, whether that be near shore, the inside waters or when they get out in the ocean, they’ve been experiencing poor survival,” Thynes explains. “It’s not a freshwater-related issue or certainly a fishery harvest issue. It’s just survival in the marine environment.”

But recent numbers are looking slightly more promising. Thynes says the northern panhandle is faring a bit better than the south. Although still considered poor, the Situk and Alsek rivers near Yakutat, and even the Chilkat near Haines are forecasted to have stronger runs than southern Southeast this year. 

“In general, our forecast for this upcoming year has been better than what they have been for the past several years,” Thynes says, “And that’s an indication that we’re seeing some better survivals out there. Hopefully, that trend continues, and we start rebuilding these stocks up to a level where we don’t have to take severe restrictions, and then continue that rebuilding process to where we can start having some directed fisheries on the stocks again.”

But even with the modest increase, the region’s runs are considered poor and fishing will be restricted for the time being. Thynes says state managers have very few options to try and protect dwindling Chinook, or king salmon, stocks. 

“As far as management goes for these stocks, the only thing we can do is try to reduce harvest, which we have been doing for a number of years,” Thynes says. “That’s been through emergency order actions, and then actions that have been dictated through the stock concern action plans that were approved by the Board of Fisheries.”

Quite a few fisheries harvest king salmon in Southeast – commercial fisheries like the troll, seine and drift gillnet fisheries, as well as sport and subsistence fisheries. 

“All those fisheries have taken limitations,” Thynes explains. “In the case of the commercial fisheries that’s meant non-retention in the purse seine fishery, in the drift gillnet fishery reducing the area that’s open as well as time, when the Chinook salmon are running. Same thing with the troll fishery. The troll fisheries have probably had the largest closures in the winter troll fishery and the spring troll fisheries with areas being severely restricted and time being cut. And then in the sport fishery, there’s been non-retention implemented in a number of areas, especially around the terminal areas of these wild systems.”

Thynes says that in some cases, it’s been a dramatic reduction, with allowable harvest as low as 5% of expected runs. 

“We’ve been doing about all we can do short of having mass closures in all these fisheries,” Thynes says, “And those restrictions that we have taken in recent years have been very effective in reducing the harvest rate.”

In the sport fishery, much of the Inside Passage from Ketchikan to Skagway has strict non-retention measures in place until mid-summer, except in very limited hatchery areas

Thynes says those measures will continue this year – retention limits, time and area limits, pretty much everything Fish & Game has been doing to try and protect Southeast kings.

“This isn’t just Southeast, we’ve seen Chinook salmon stocks up and down the coast have been in a state of decline,” Thynes says, “But in Southeast it’s from one and of Southeast to the top end where we have stock of concern listings for the Unuk River, for the Stikine River, for Andrews Creek and the Taku River, the Chilkat, as well as the King Salmon River.”

Fish & Game won’t set an all-gear king salmon harvest limit until April. 

Get in touch with KSTK at or (907) 874-2345.