Taku kings start slow, but catch will pay bills

Regulators say Juneau gillnetters average 30 kings per boat

Posted: Thursday, May 05, 2005

Juneau gillnetter Ted David, 58, fished the first commercial king salmon opening in his life this week.

On Monday, his nets snagged 30 kings but he missed the morning bites on Tuesday before the fishery closed for the week.

The chinook opening in Taku River Inlet is a historic moment for other Juneau fishermen as well. It's the first king salmon season in the inlet in 30 years.

The fishery is getting off to a slow start, however, with the peak of the Taku king run still weeks away. The peak is anticipated between the second week of May and the first week of June.

State regulators estimated Wednesday that Juneau-area gillnetters caught about 1,500 kings in the inlet on Monday and Tuesday, with an average of 30 per boat. The troll catch was insubstantial.

Regulators spotted only a couple of trollers in the inlet on Tuesday. The trollers are focused on other fishing grounds that are more productive at this time, regulators said.

"The bottom line is, it's early yet. We aren't in the peak time of the run," said Kevin Monagle, the Juneau area management biologist for commercial fisheries.

Gillnetters returning to Juneau Wednesday said the new king fishery - which starts seven weeks earlier than their routine sockeye fishery in the inlet - will put them in a better financial spot this year.

"It will help pay the bills," David said.

"I caught only a couple fish per set, but these are big fish," David said, taking a breather after unloading his catch at Harris Harbor Tuesday afternoon.

Douglas Island resident Gunnar Noreen said, "Anytime you can gillnet king salmon, it's like winning a prize."

He credited cautious management by Alaska regulators, who negotiated the fishery opening with Canadian regulators earlier this year, for the opening of the fishery.

"Through careful management, we've got a viable fishery. It's healthy. It's renewable," he said.

Fishermen are getting about $3 per pound for their kings, though smaller specimens are netting them at around $2.75 per pound, Monagle said.

"It should be plenty to cover their fuel and their groceries," he said.

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