Reel History: Weirs on the Alaska Fisheries Report


Al Asuncion/KMXT

Hello! I’m Al Asuncion, an intern at KMXT as part of the station’s summer archiving project. Over the past few weeks of my internship, I have been listening to myriad stories from Alaska Fisheries Report, and one of the topics that quite fascinated me was the story of an important tool to Alaska fisheries that aired on October of 1993.
“What’s low tech, low key, low in the water, and one of the most important tools in salmon fisheries management? It’s a weir! ”
Welch explains why weirs are so useful and vital to Alaska fisheries.
“The wooden structures have provided the most reliable data on how many fish are making it upstream to spawn. Weir counts help managers determine when fisheries can occur and provide clues to the strength of future salmon run.”
Larry Nicholson, fish and Game Westward Regional Supervisor, called weirs critical.
“It is the only tool we really have to get access to assessment data. Because of that we have, all of our major systems around the island. There are weirs, not only in Kodiak Island, but throughout the westward region. We have experimented and we do have some systems. We tried sonar and it works through varying degrees, but it certainly not a replacement for a weir.”

Weirs are indeed very essential. Welch explains it even further why it is important to fish systems.
“Weirs are especially important for sockeye salmon systems, where the return of too many spawning fish can be deadly for their offspring. Such over escapement can exceed the capacity of a lake to sustain the young fish with food, oxygen and other nutrients. Unlike other salmon species that can handle such overcrowding, fishery managers need to know the exact number of reds a reeling system can handle.”
Here’s a fun fact. Did you know that Kodiak possesses the oldest weir in the whole state of Alaska?
“The Karluk Weir Camp on the remote west side of the Kodiak Island is the oldest in Alaska. The structure which is in placed in May through September sprawled across the river just far enough from the salt water to protect it from the influence of tide. Its position puts the weir right on its face of fish that are returning from the seeded spawn. That allows state fish and game managers to make quick decision about commercial openers.”
The 325 foot Karluk Weir was constructed in 1921 and was pieced together with heavy wooden tripod spaced by about 8 feet apart; Slanted against the side facing up river are removable aluminum panels and pickets that form gates held down by heavy sandbags.
Well, thank you for joining me this week as I listen to some fascinating reel history. I’m Al Asuncion. Have a great day!

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