Kodiak residents may have noticed that the Pasagshak River looks a little low recently, and that hasn’t gone unobserved by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Donn Tracy is the Kodiak area management biologist for ADF & G’s sport fishing division and says the river has been low all summer and that it’s blocked off where it drains into the bay.
“It’s basically a result of low water, you know, the dry weather conditions, we’ve had low fresh-water levels in the Pasagshak drainage coupled with a gravel berm built up along the Pasagshack from a series of prevailing on-shore winds, so it’s a combination of dry weather, low water and then a berm of gravel built up on the gravel built on the beach from the waves.”
He says there are two scenarios to remedy the blockage.
“One would be going down and mechanically opening the stream channel with heavy equipment, which has been done in the past with the endorsement of the department of Fish and Game and other agencies. There’s permitting required with that because it is a salmon stream and it’s within Kodiak State Park lands.”
He says the other scenario is to let nature take its course. In other word: rain.
“Once we finally get some significant precipitation here and it raises the water level here in the lake and the remainder of the Pasagshak drainage, it will eventually push through that gravel berm and reopen the channel.”
The blockage has a negative effect on sport fishing, but they could afford to wait for rain a little while longer before stepping in.
“The actual spawning in Pasagshak drainages and other Kodiak road system drainages with the silver salmon runs, the actual spawning doesn’t occur until late October and through the month of November and, as time draws closer to that event and the river mouth continues to be blocked, then it would be even more of a concern than it is now.”
Tracy says the situation is similar through most of Kodiak Island when it comes to the smaller drainages that rely on rainfall for flow rather than melted snow like larger rivers do. That’s the situation with the Olds River.
“With the dry conditions, the water levels are so low, that the Olds River is actually dry a short ways above the highway. The low water levels and the abundance of other spawning salmon, namely pink salmon, lower the dissolved oxygen levels in the stream so that the silver salmon are really unable to get into any of the streams along the Kodiak road system right now.”
But as far as the blocked Pasagashak River goes, Tracy says forecasts for next week bring good tidings.
“We have some very large tides, ten foot tides, which are the largest tides that we’ve had here in a couple of months, and on those ten foot tides, it’s really likely that there’ll be enough water – especially if there’s some on-shore wind – there’ll be enough water breaking over that gravel berm that silver salmon will still be able to get in the drainage.”
Tracy says that even if ADF & G does open up the Pasagashak river mouth manually, the next round of waves could close it back up again. He says Kodiak’s best hope is rain.