Alaska Troller Credit: Eric Jordan,  AK troller extraordinaire!

Alaska Troller
Credit: Eric Jordan,
AK troller extraordinaire!












Juneau Empire May 5, 2014    by Mary Catherine Martin

High 2013 salmon returns and high escapement projections for non-Alaska rivers are working in the favor of Southeast Alaska commercial and sport fishermen.

King salmon abundance estimates have more than doubled from last year.

The total number of chinook salmon Southeast Alaskan fisheries are allowed to catch is 439,400, up from 176,000 in 2013 and 266,800 in 2012, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game information.

Preseason allocations for sport fishing have almost tripled. This year, 81,353 king salmon are allocated to sport fishing. Last year, that number was 32,466.

For trolling, which catches the largest percentage commercially, that number is also striking, said Pattie Skannes, troll management biologist for the ADF&G.

The troll allocation is set at 325,411 chinook. Last year, it was 129,862.

“This year’s allocation is just far and away much higher. This is the largest quota we’ve had since we began abundance-based management regime back in the late 90s,” she said. “Before that, harvest ceilings were not set based on abundance.”

Last year’s return was underestimated due to low forecasts for several different stock groups.

ADF&G Southeast Regional Management Coordinator Bob Chadwick said the sport fishery had “pretty restricted regulations” in 2013.

The limit index in the Pacific Salmon Treaty, which determines the allocations, is based on 30 stock groups ranging from Oregon to Southeast Alaska.

This year, “there’s large numbers of chinook in the water,” he said.

Many of those increases, however, are coming from Washington, Oregon and Canada streams, he said. The Columbia River, for example, had much larger returns than projected last year. It’s also projected to have a record return this year, Skannes said.

“Our stocks — like the Taku, the Stikine … they’re at escapement levels, but they’re not as high as they have been in the past,” Chadwick said.

An emergency order last April set bag and possession limits at one king salmon for sport fishermen. This year, that emergency order set it at three, which is more common.

This is the first time non-residents have had a two-fish bag limit in May and June. The total limit for non-residents for the year is six chinook.

The winter king fishery also went extremely well for trollers, Skannes said. From Oct. 11 through Wednesday, the last day of the fishery, the approximate catch was 46,800. That number is not final, as fish are still being tallied.

“It was a great season, and catches and catch rate pick up at the end of the fishery nicely,” Skannes said.

Prices were at a record level during the harvest as well, staying above $10 per pound on average for eight consecutive weeks, she said.

“The prices were the highest we’ve ever seen for an extended period of time during the winter, so the market must be very strong,” she said.

As abundance picks up, the fishery follows the law of supply and demand and prices drop. This week, they’re averaging $5.51 per pound, she said.

The spring king fishery opened Thursday.

Skannes said she anticipates long openings this year.