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Pattie Skannes, regional troll management biologist, says the Department of Fish & Game will shut down fishing by emergency order in six-to-ten days. Skannes says she and other management staff will have a busy week.
“We start tracking the catch on a daily basis. We get fish tickets and they get entered every day. We get faxed or emailed king tallies from the processors around the region, the number of kings they bought that day and the number of landings. Another thing we do is aerial surveys out of a number of different towns in Southeast, and we count troll vessels and note their location. And we compile all that to get a total effort for the region.”
Skannes adds that ADF&G has samplers in most ports who will interview fishermen to get an idea of the catch rate. That data is then folded into a formula to estimate the catch per-boat-per-day, which should then give her a pretty good idea of how long the opener will go on.
Southeast is the only region in the state with commercial salmon trolling. This year’s pre-season chinook quota is the seventh lowest since the Pacific Salmon Treaty was signed in 1985. Skannes says 500 boats made landings in eight weeks of spring chinook fishing which concluded on June 30. The results were pretty much what she expected.
“I’d say for the most part the fishery was somewhat slower than a lot of years. The catch right now, though, has bumped up a bit – it’s up over 27,000 and may reach 28,000 by the time we read the report at the end of the day.”
The spring harvest does have a bearing on the summer fishery. The Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada allocates a total of just under 164,000 kings to the commercial troll fishery, and that accounting began in October of 2009 and ends in September of this year. The summer opener feels like the beginning of the season, but for management purposes, it’s really the end.
“So what we’ll do is continue to look at the number of fish caught in the spring, based on our fish tickets, and we’ll look at the hatchery component, and from that we’ll come up with the number of treaty fish harvested in the spring fishery, and that will influence what is left for summer.”
The good news for Southeast trollers is that, despite facing the seventh-lowest quota in 35 years, the Alaska hatchery component is ticking up – 13-percent in the winter, which is about double last year, and a more typical 40-percent this spring. Alaska hatchery fish don’t count against the treaty with Canada.
Skannes is generally upbeat about the health of chinook stocks in the region. The lower-than-average quota is only part biology. In 2008 the US accepted a 15-percent harvest reduction when it renewed the salmon treaty. Skannes says this year’s low quota is partly due to politics.
“Whatever we would have got under the old treaty, we take that number and take 15-percent of the top. That’s another reason that has nothing to do with the health of the stock.”
Skannes says the Department typically closes king trolling after reaching the initial target, requires everyone to unload, and then two days later re-opens trolling to all species, including coho. Once managers get an idea of the strength of the coho run – usually by the first week of August – they’ll order a trolling closure to allow cohos to escape into local rivers and streams. A number of Southeast communities take advantage of the closure for festivities of one kind or another (inter-tidal golf tournaments have become popular). Then, usually in the latter half of August, trolling for kings will re-open, with a target of around 30-percent of the commercial allocation.
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