Restrictions or no restrictions, the fish just aren't biting locally.
``For some reason, they're just not taking the bait,'' said Scott McPherson, Southeast research coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Game.
Although the local Taku River run isn't bad this year, the kings are just not being caught, said McPherson.
``The bulk of the chinook run around here in April, May and June are from the Taku, and that run is up this year from 1999. It's not a real good run but it's OK even though it is below average,'' McPherson said.
``For some reason it just hasn't translated to fish being taken in the Juneau sport fishery. The fish just aren't available to bite, ignoring the bait or continuing through the fishing area real fast,'' he said.
About 2,700 king salmon have been caught this year in the Juneau sport fishery area. Some 2,900 were hooked in the same period in 1999. And the cumulative catch rate is 16 percent below average, said Brian Frenette, a state fishery biologist.
``Prior to the terminal harvest area fish (fish produced by local hatcheries), it was 30-something percent below the cumulative average,'' said Frenette.
Since most of the fish are being caught in the terminal harvest areas, where hatchery fish are returning, the best places to land a king are Auke Bay, Fritz Cove and all the waters between False Outer Point and Indian Point on Douglas, said several staffers at Fish and Game.
The department recently repealed restrictions, imposed on June 3, that affected nonresident anglers and guided fishermen. But the daily bag limit is still one king in most marine waters, and the nonresident annual limit is three kings.
Despite the restrictions and low catches reported by Fish and Game, the season is going well for Rick Helmes of Auke Bay Sportfishing and Sightseeing.
``I'd have to say I'm right on par with what I did last year. I might be a little ahead actually,'' said the charter boat captain.
For Art Sutch, owner of Art Sutch Photography and Digital Imaging and an avid angler, the season has been slow but not terrible.
``It hasn't been OK, but it hasn't been a total bust either. I've done better in other years,'' said Sutch, who caught five kings in about 80 rod hours to date.
Currently, the average is 23 rod hours to catch a king, compared to the five-year average of 21 rod hours, said Rocky Holmes, Southeast sport fish supervisor for Fish and Game.
Along with fewer fish being caught, the size of the kings seems to be smaller this year than last.
``The principal age class of this run is 5 years old. We have two principal age classes, 5- and 6-year-olds, and this year there's not that many 6- year-olds around,'' said Fish and Game researcher McPherson.
``It's not that the fish didn't grow as well, they're just not as old,'' he added. ``Next year, they'll be bigger.''
Although it has been a lackluster season for kings, the good news is that the Fourth of July historically heralds the arrival of pinks, chums, and even some cohos in the far reaches of Juneau's sport fishery limits.
``The cohos are definitely making their way in out by Icy Strait, and the pinks and chums are starting to be taken and it looks like a normal run,'' said biologist Frenette.
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