The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has decreased bag limits for sockeye salmon in the Saltery River drainage for anglers to two per day and two in possession from Saturday to Dec. 31, according to a department press release.
Saltery is the largest sport fishery on the island for harvest in a single river, Tyler Polum, a Fish and Game area management biologist, said in the press release.
In an effort to protect returning sockeye salmon and ensure fishing opportunities in the future, the department decided to decrease the limits, citing low numbers of salmon that have passed the Saltery Creek weir as the reason for the decision.
As of July 21, only 4,773 sockeye salmon had passed the weir, well below average for this time of year. Typically, the escapement, or number of salmon that swim into the Saltery River drainage, is 15,000 to 30,000, said the press release.
By this time, about 54% of the run has typically already occurred.
“Harvest restrictions are necessary to achieve the escapement goal,” said the press release.
“With the warm temperatures and low water conditions we’re seeing, the fish just aren’t moving into the river. Even considering late run timing we need to slow down harvest and get more sockeye to the lake for escapement,” Polum said.
In another press release published last week, the department said it has closed Chignik River to king salmon sport fishing through Aug. 9. Catch-and-release for king salmon is also prohibited. “During the closure, king salmon may not be targeted, possessed, or retained; king salmon that are caught incidentally while fishing for other species may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately,” said the release.
In addition, as an added measure to reduce incidental hooking of king salmon, the use of bait is prohibited and only one unbaited, single-hook artificial lure may be used in the Chignik River drainage.
“The Chignik River king salmon run has seen low returns over the last several years,” Polum said in the press release. “With the low counts so far this year and other recent years in mind, ADF&G is closing this king salmon sport fishery until it is apparent escapement goals will be achieved.--”
King salmon angling opportunities may be restored in the Chignik River by a subsequent emergency order if in-season assessment indicates the king salmon run is stronger than anticipated. ADF&G staff will continue to closely monitor this fishery at the Chignik River salmon counting weir.