Positive forecast could mean early fishing for Stikine kings

(Photo via KFSK.org)
(Photo via KFSK.org)

There could be some commercial fishing early next May for king salmon returning to the Stikine River in Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a return of just under 34,000 large Stikine king salmon next year.

That’s a large enough return to allow commercial fishing on this side of the border and an allowable catch of 1,100 Chinook. Catches of Stikine kings are managed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada.

The announcement means trollers and gillnetters could have a shot at fishing for those kings in early May. The last time that happened was in 2012, although fishing was shut down that year due to low catches. In addition to commercial openings, next year’s forecast could mean expanded bag limits for sport fishermen as well.

Meanwhile, the forecast for the Taku River near Juneau is not as positive. Fish and Game expects just over 29,000 kings to return to that trans-boundary river. That’s not large enough for commercial fishing in early May for the Taku, but openings could occur later that month if the run comes in stronger than expected.

Trolling for king salmon remains open this winter and as of late December the catch had topped 26,000 Chinook. Over 200 trollers were making landings in the first week of the season but that number has dropped to 60 permit holders by late December. The average price is up over $9 a pound this month from a low of $6.19 a pound earlier in the season.

In other fishing news, federal scientists are forecasting a slightly lower harvest of pink salmon in Southeast Alaska next summer. Scientists with the Auke Bay Lab of NOAA fisheries say the 2016 harvest will be just over 30 million pinks.

That forecast is based on an annual trawl survey of out-migrating juvenile salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game this fall came out with a slightly higher forecast of 34 million, which is based in part on that trawl survey along with historical catch information. To compare, this year’s harvest was around 35 million pinks.

And Fish and Game has announced the start of the golden king and Tanner crab season. That will be noon on Wednesday February 17th. The deadline to register for those fisheries is Tuesday, January 19th.