On Wednesday, state Fish and Game fisheries managers issued a notice delaying the start of the Copper River personal use, or dipnet, fishery in the Chitina subdistrict. Mark Sommerville is the area management biologist in Glennallen. He says an unusually late breakup on the Copper and recent soaring temperatures are combining to create conditions that fish don’t like
“We had ice cover, shore ice, in the Chitina subdistrict and just above the bridge in the Glennallen subdistrict up until about a week ago, and now we’ve just recently seen a flood situation with increased temperatures, so a lot of the ice is moving downriver. “
It seems between May 20 and 26, only 26 salmon passed the sonar counter at Miles Lake downriver closer to Cordova. Given that the prediction for this period was 78,071 fish, that leaves a deficit of more than 78 thousand salmon, and that means that the personal use fishery is closed. Sommerville says the fish will be holding at the mouth of the river until the water temperature is to their liking
“It appears that we are finally seeing some fish move up the river, but basically looking at temperatures in the river, we’re two degrees centigrade colder than the average and even some of the lowest lows we have seen, which is significant when the temperature at this time of year is usually five degrees or four degrees centigrade, we are looking at two degrees or less. “
Sommerville says that Thursday’s sonar counter numbers are showing an increase in the number of salmon heading upstream. Still, this year is a first for the record books
“This is the latest that we have ever been behind. Just to give you an idea here, as of May 29, the cumulative count through the Miles Lake sonar was only 191salmon. The expected cumulative for that date was 154,558. We’ve never been this far behind on the sonar count since we’ve had a sonar going. Talking to people who have lived in this are their entire lives, this is the latest we’ve seen a breakup, and shore ice and these kind of conditions that we’ve been seeing. “
The personal use fishery at Chitina will be closed through June 9.