Sportfishers got two pieces of good news over the weekend.
In the Resurrection Bay area, salmon fishers could walk away with twice the number of fish they expected, thanks to an emergency order issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Separately, anglers can get an early shot at salmon in the Russian River Sanctuary, which has opened early this year.
ADF&G has doubled the legal bag limit for sockeye salmon in the Seward area from six to twelve in salt water, and from three to six in freshwater. The relaxation comes in response to a good showing at the Bear Creek weir, where over 10,000 sockeye salmon had been recorded as of June 12, according to the emergency order.
Trail Lakes Hatchery operates the weir and, together with a cohort of other agencies, sets annual “escapement goals,” reflecting the number of adult salmon that need to reach the spawning grounds in the lake to support the salmon population.
“every year we have a goal of how many eggs were looking to take and that goal is set in our annual management plan,” said the hatchery’s Kristin Bates. “This year need 12,750 adult sockeye salmon — 6375 males and 6375 females. We need all of those to go into the lakes so we can collect our 6 million eggs.”
More than 90 percent of those eggs will survive to the fry stage, Bates said, at which point they will be returned to lakes to mature.
The number of fish already recorded at the weir make fishery managers confident that the run will easily exceed the 12,750 fish goal, justifying the increase in the bag limit.
“Now after we’ve met the brood needs, we’re looking at the common property fish, and they’re coming up Resurrection Bay,” said management biologist Jay Baumer. “That’s why they’re expanding the bag limits, so that other user groups like sport guys can go fishing.”
Baumer added that anglers need to be aware of the separate rules on bag and possession limits. These limits constrain how many fish anglers may harvest on a per-day and in-hand basis.
The bag limit restricts the number of fish an individual may harvest on a single day. The possession limit restricts how many you have altogether.
In Resurrection Bay, the bag and possession limits are identical. In freshwater, the limit is six fish, and in saltwater, twelve.
“Because the bag and possession limit are the same, to be able to get them out of your possession limit you need to either freeze solid, smoke, can, or preserve them in a manner that they can last two weeks,” Baumer said.
The Russian River Sanctuary normally opens on July 15. Sportfishing in the sanctuary instead began on June 19 this year, after a solid early salmon run that has fishing officials confident that the escapement goals will be met.