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Southeast Alaska Commercial Fisheries Update

Daily News Staff Writer

Stikine, Taku forecasts low

Commercial chinook salmon fisheries at the Stikine and Taku rivers in Southeast Alaska will likely remain closed for the 2018 season due to forecasts of limited runs.

The closure is the latest in a decade-long trend of low chinook populations and limited harvests of the species in the region.

According to a recent Alaska Department and Fish and Game news release, both rivers’ chinook runs are forecast fall far short of escapement goal ranges set by the department.

The 2018 preseason terminal run size forecast for the Stikine River large chinook salmon is 6,900 fish, while the lower limit of its escapement goal range is 14,000 fish. The forecast for the Taku River is 4,700 fish, with a lower escapement range limit of 19,000.

This will primarily affect commercial gillnetters, who would have fished these stocks had the areas opened. These fisheries typically open in May when they do occur.

Since the two rivers cross into Canada upstream, management of their salmon stocks fall under the Pacific Salmon Treaty and affects Canadian fisheries as well.

According to the department website, chinook returns statewide have been below average since 2007, “requiring painful restrictions on fisheries that harvest these stocks.”

“What we’ve been seeing has affected chinook salmon mostly across the entire region,” said Steve Heinl, a Ketchikan research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “So it’s not just one or two streams — it’s all of our chinook salmon streams for the most part.”

Additional inseason forecasts may follow, but the department doesn’t anticipate opening any directed chinook fisheries.

Cuke openings scheduled

KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Just two harvest area remain open for the 2017-18 commercial dive fishing season that began in October.

Both of those areas will be open for harvest early next week as follows:

• The South Mitkof and North Zarembo Islands (Subdistrict 108-30) area will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

• The Southern Sitka Sound (113-38 and 41) area will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Restrictions apply. For further information, contact Fish and Game.

Winter troll to remain open

KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Friday that the 2017–2018 Southeast Alaska/Yakutat commercial winter troll fishery will remain open until further notice.

The department’s announcement notes that there are ongoing concerns about wild chinook salmon stocks in Southeast Alaska.

As such, Fish and Game “will continue to closely monitor the stock composition of chinook salmon troll fisheries, managing to minimize the impact on wild (Southeast Alaska)  chinook,” according to the department’s announcement.

The department stated that the opportunity to harvest the winter troll guideline harvest level is tentatively being provided through mid-March at this time.

“The official closure date for the late winter fishery will be announced in a future news release, pending actions taken at the 2017–2018 Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting Jan. 11-23, 2018, in Sitka,” according to Fish and Game.