New hatchery project planned in Southeast

PETERSBURG — A new king salmon hatchery project, aimed at improving local catches, is planned near Petersburg next spring.

The Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, or SSRAA, plans to release 200,000 smolt near the mouth of City Creek, which is about three miles from downtown Petersburg. The group hopes extra rearing time in a temporary net pen will help more fish live in the ocean, KFSK reported.

The plan calls for a 40-by-40 foot saltwater net pen to hold the young salmon for about six weeks, production manager Bill Gass said. The net pen will have a predator net around it to keep sea lions away.

The fish that will be used are at Crystal Lake, which is an association-run king and coho hatchery facility on Mitkof Island, he said. “Come mid-April, we will transport those fish out to the site, rear them for approximately six weeks and release 200,000, we hope,” he said.

Gass said he would consider any returns from the new net pen site a success. He said he hopes to see 2-3 percent of the fish — or 4,000 to 6,000 Chinook — return as adults.

The project was proposed by a local charter operator and a state sportfish biologist as a way to potentially improve local catches. Recent returns of Crystal Lake kings have been poor.

The Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon Mitigation Program provided a grant of more than $100,000 for the City Creek project. Gass anticipates operational costs will run about $15,000 a year.

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