Sportsfishing Restrictions on Karluk and Ayakulik

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Jay Barrett/KMXT

The king salmon sport fishery on one Kodiak Island river is set to be closed completely this year, and severely restricted on another.

The Karluk River, which has not achieved its minimum escapement goals since 2005, will be closed to all king sportsfishing throughout its drainage. Last year, 1,308 kings returned to the system, which was more than 2008, but still well below the 10-year high of over 7,000 in 2004. The lower end of the target range this year is 3,600.

Meanwhile, on the nearby Ayakulik River, anglers can fish for kings, but it will be catch-and-release only from the beginning of the season. Escapement goals have not been reached on the Ayakulik the last two years. Last year the return was 2,615 king salmon. The 10-year high also occurred in 2004, when nearly 25,000 fish returned to the river system. The lower end of the escapement goal this year is 4,800.

Suzanne Schmidt is the assistant area management biologist at the Fish and Game office in Kodiak. She said king salmon stocks often rise and fall in multi-decade cycles:

(Kings 1 35 sec "This happens with kings … how king salmon work.")

Trawler bycatch has been pointed to as a potential reason Western Alaska – and especially Yukon River king salmon have declined. In the Gulf of Alaska, the National Marine Fisheries Service reports almost 9,000 kings have been caught as bycatch by trawlers through March 27th. But Schmidt is not convinced they are the reason for declines on Kodiak Island rivers:

(Kings 2 29 sec "There is bycatch … throughout the entire region.")

Schmidt said the Alaska Peninsula king rivers have been meeting their biological escapements, and will not have restrictions this year:

(Kings 3 17 sec "There’s Chignik, also Nelson Lagoon … rivers, as of yet.")

Use of bait is also being prohibited downstream of Karluk Lake and in the Ayakulik River. Schmidt says there are two good reasons to enact that measure:

(Kings 4 25 sec "If you’re using bait … catching more sockeye.")

The returns to both the Karluk and Ayakulik rivers will be monitored by Fish and Game at fish-counting weirs. If the situation changes as the runs progresses, the department may make further management adjustments during the season.

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