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Juneau's 9th Annual Spring King Derby opens today with new fishing regulations in some locations, larger derby boundaries and a forecast bounty of salmon.
In a move that benefits local anglers and adds a new twist to the monthlong contest, new regulations follow emergency rules that the Alaska Board of Fish adopted this spring. Effective April 25 to June 30 in areas 11-A and 11-B, the temporary regulations seem to give anglers an increased chance to catch a chinook.
The new rules hike the bag limit for kings from two fish to three; allow two rods per fisherman, with a maximum of six lines per boat; and for the first time in several decades anglers will be able to fish up the Taku Inlet to the freshwater boundary mark.
The rules conform to a U.S.-Canada harvest-sharing agreement under the Pacific Salmon Treaty, owing to a high forecasted return of king salmon.
"Don't expect this to happen next year," said fisheries biologist Ed Jones of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Sportfish. "This is based on whether or not there is a surplus, so it could occur next year, it could not occur next year."
The derby is sponsored by the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Alumni Scholarship Assistance program, with tickets costing $30. This year's winner will claim about $13,300 in cash and prizes.
Anglers should pay particular attention to the boundaries of areas 11-A and 11-B, which extend south from Little Island Lighthouse in Lynn Canal to Midway Island in Stephens Passage, due to the new boundaries implemented this year by derby coordinators. From Juneau, the new derby boundaries extend northeast to Point Saint Mary over to Danger Point, southwest to Point Couverden, east to Lizard's Head Point, southwest to Twin Point, and southeast to Point Styleman.
"They should keep in mind that if they are capable and want to fish two rods, they can only do that in sections 11-A and 11-B," said fisheries biologist Brian Glynn of the Sportfish Division. "People who want to go outside Point Retreat and fish the back side of Mansfield Peninsula toward Lizard Head and Funter Bay, they'll have to comply with the one-rod-per-person regulation."
Glynn said he doesn't know whether the new regulations will assist anglers in their pursuit of a top-ranking fish.
"These extra regulations allow us to harvest more fish, but the other thing that has happened here is we just happen to be having a pretty strong return to the Taku," he said. "The nature of the fishery in the Juneau area, it's hard to go out on any given day and catch two king salmon."
Glynn said this is the largest forecasted return since stock assessment studies on the Taku River began.
"The biggest impact on the derby will be what actually materializes in numbers of fish to the river," he said. "If the forecast holds true, fishing should be good."
Jones said the larger return of kings to the Taku doesn't necessarily mean more fish will be caught during the derby.
"The sport fishing doesn't necessarily get better with run size. We haven't seen that," he said. "Sometimes they run deep, sometimes they run fast into the river. There are all kinds of variables."
The effect of the new rules also remains to be seen, Glynn said.
"A guy in a skiff, or maybe two guys, might try fishing an extra rod, but whether or not two guys on a little skiff can fish four rods effectively, it probably depends on the guys and depends on the boat," he said.
Derby tickets are available at Evergreen Motors, Western Auto Marine, Breeze-In, Outdoor Headquarters, Allen Marine Tours, Fisherman's Bend, Harri Plumbing & Heating, Alaskan & Proud, Rayco Sales, and DeHart's Auke Bay Store.
Salmon weigh-in stations will operate at Jerry's Meats and Seafoods from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday; Taku Smokeries from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; and DeHart's Auke Bay Store from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday until the Derby's completion on May 31.