KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Southeast Alaska’s preseason all-gear catch limit for king salmon has been set at 205,165 “treaty” fish, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Treaty king salmon are defined generally as non-Alaska hatchery produced kings.

The 2021 all-gear catch limit is based on a forecast of “aggregate abundance” of king salmon stocks on the Pacific coast that are under the management of the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty process, according to the Feb. 5 announcement.

Fish and Game stated that the preseason outlook is for continued poor production of king salmon stocks in Southeast Alaska — including the seven stocks (Unuk, Chickamin, Stikine, Taku, Chilkat and King Salmon rivers and Andrew Creek) that now are listed, or are proposed for listing, as “Stocks of Management Concern.”

“This will necessitate a management regime aimed at minimizing catches of these stocks,” stated the Feb. 5 announcement.

Fish and Game has set a target harvest of 201,200 king salmon, a target that’s 2% less than the treaty catch limit in order to serve as a “buffer to avoid exceeding the all-gear limit and payback provisions of the treaty,” according to the announcement.

Under the current harvest-sharing distribution strategy approved by the Alaska Board of Fisheries, Southeast Alaska’s commercial troll fleet is allocated a target of 148,500 king salmon. The sport fishery is allocated a target of 37,120 kings, while the commercial purse seine, drift gillnet and set gillnet sectors are allocated 8,650, 5,830 and 1,000 kings, respectively.

Because the Board of Fisheries has been unable to meet in person (due to COVID-19 issues) and make decisions regarding Southeast Alaska king salmon stock of concern and action plans, the 2021 commercial and sport fisheries will be managed consistent with strategies used in 2019 and 2020, according to the department announcement. These strategies were successful at reducing catches and lowering harvest rates of wild king salmon in this region.

The Board of Fisheries intends to meet on Monday to determine when it will take up Southeast Alaska wild king salmon and other regional finfish and shellfish issues, in addition to the other topics that had been part of the board’s 2020-21 meeting cycle. In January, the board decided to postpone the full 2020-21 meeting cycle to the 2021-22 cycle, and set next Monday’s meeting to finalize the new schedule.

As of Feb. 24, Alaska Board of Fisheries Executive Director Glenn Haight was recommending that the board meet regarding Southeast Alaska and Yakutat finfish and shellfish issues on Jan. 4-15, 2022, at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan.

On Feb. 8, Fish and Game announced its expected 2021 salmon management restrictions for the commercial troll, purse seine and drift gillnet fisheries in Southeast Alaska, which the department said are intended to conserve wild king salmon stocks return to the region.

Commercial troll

The winter commercial troll fishery in Southeast Alaska is set to close on March 15, according to the Department’s announcement on Feb. 8.

The spring troll fishery may open in districts 103, 113 and 183 on May 1. The initial opening dates for the spring troll fisheries in the District 101 Mountain Point and Rock Point areas near Ketchikan will be delayed until after May 31.

Fish and Game anticipates that all terminal harvest areas in the region — except for the Neets Bay THA — will open to commercial trolling on June 1, according to the announcement.

The initial commercial troll opening in the Neets Bay Terminal Harvest Area will occur on June 15, states the announcement. Gear rotations for purse seine and drift gillnet will have additional closures between June 15 and July 4. In addition, the (Neets Bay) THA will not expand to Chin Point until July 1.”

The initial commercial troll fisheries for enhanced chum salmon in districts 109, 110, 112 and 114 will be delayed until after June 14.

Also, portions of section 1-E and 1-F in the Ketchikan area will be closed to the retention and possession of king salmon during the first commercial summer troll king salmon retention period, according to Fish and Game.

Seine fishery

The commercial purse seine fishery will be prohibited from retaining king salmon over 28 inches in length through at least July 24, except within terminal harvest areas that have returns of hatchery-produced kings, according to Fish and Game.

“(King) salmon retention after July 24 will be dependent on areas open to directed pink salmon fisheries and the magnitude of the pink salmon harvests,” states the announcement. “(King) salmon harvests will be monitored closely, and the purse seine fishery will return to nonretention in advance of exceeding 98% of the purse seine allocation” as described in Alaska code.

Drift gillnet

Fish and Game anticipates delaying the starts of the commercial drift gillnet fisheries in District 6 by one week until June 20, and the start of that fishery in District 8 by at least two weeks until June 27, according to the announcement. A maximum mesh size restriction of six inches will be in place through July 10 in District 6, and through July 17 in District 8.

Other time, area and net restrictions for the commercial drift gillnet fishery are expected to be in place farther north, in Districts 11 and 15.

Other restrictions will apply. For further information, contact Fish and Game.