Expected low returns of king salmon to a pair of Kodiak Island rivers is prompting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to put sportfishing restrictions in place before the season even starts. It’s the third year in a row for such action.
Donn Tracy is the sportfish management biologist for Fish and Game in Kodiak explains the restrictions on the Ayakulik and Karluk rivers.
“We’ve had a history now of fairly low returns to both of those drainages, and just as a precautionary measure to try to conserve as much of the escapement as we can we’ve taken the measure of closing the Karluk River drainage to king salmon fishing preseason and restricting the Ayakulik to catch and release only with no bait and single hook.”
He said the Ayakulik has a little better track record in returns, which he thinks justifies the catch-and-release limits on it.
“The Karluk River has been designated a stock of concern by the Alaska Board of Fisheries as a result of its history of low escapement. That gives it just a little bit different status. It doesn’t elevate our conservation concerns certainly because it’s similar for any, or the same for any of our local salmon runs.”
He said if the Ayakulik return is even worse than expected, the sport fishery there can easily be closed mid-season.
Tracy also said that interest by fishermen on those two rivers is expected to remain low during this king season, as it has been in recent years.
“That also factors into the decision-making process. That’s actually a significant consideration. We don’t, haven’t seen substantial levels, or really any significant level of angler effort at either of those drainages during the king salmon fishery in recent years. And we expect a similar scenario this year, which also allows for maybe for a little more discretion for our action on the Ayakulik.”
King salmon fishing on the Karluk River will close on June 1st through July 25th, and any that are incidentally caught must not be taken from the water and released immediately. On the Ayakulik, anglers can target kings, but they may not be retained and also may not be taken from the water. Only unbaited, single-hook, artificial lures may be used in both drainages.