From California to Alaska, fishermen are suffering from a dearth of king salmon and the hard management decisions that have resulted. In Juneau, though, the usual healthy rush of hatchery kings keep daily sport bag limits much higher.
From June 1 to Aug. 31, anglers may catch up to four kings, also called chinooks, daily in Juneau freshwater and saltwater. That's a local "liberalization" of Southeast-wide limits that restrict fishermen to one fish over 28 inches.
Also, kings caught by nonresidents don't count toward their annual limits.
"This shouldn't be any kind of a curve ball to anyone," said Jason Shull, state Department of Fish and Game assistant sport fish manager for Juneau. He said past years have seen similar limits.
Alaska's king salmon are managed by the Department of Fish and Game according to broad allocations given by the Pacific Salmon Commission, a group formed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty of 1999. This year's allotment of chinooks for Southeast Alaska was half that of last year and the lowest since the treaty was signed.
Juneau gets higher limits, Shull said, because it has created an enhanced fishery and because Fish and Game knows from tagging fish that the treaty fish don't come through here at all.
"And top of that, there are loads and loads of nontreaty fish," he said.
Hatchery fry are released from Fish Creek on Douglas Island, Auke Creek and the Douglas Island Pink and Chum hatchery on Channel Drive.
Fishery managers also take some of the DIPAC fry down to Sheep Creek on their way out of town, to imprint in those fish the idea of returning along that route from the south side of Gastineau Channel.
The hatchery kings start returning to those sites in the beginning of June, and the run peters out around the end of August.
Fish and Game expects more than 500 fish to return to Fish Creek.
People may notice a difference in the taste of hatchery fish and the wild fish they catch. But Shull said that probably has more to do with the fact that people catch the hatchery fish when they're terminal, closer to spawning and death, than with the genetics of those fish.
Contact reporter Kate Goldenat 523-2276 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.