By Bob Tkacz
A reasonably successful July Chinook troll fishery in Southeast Alaska was buoyed by a catch of more than 30,000 chum hooked in the Home Shore sector of Icy Strait, according to the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
"I think catch rates were very good in some areas, especially this first few days, then the water deteriorated to the pint where it took a lot of people off the water," said Pattie Skannes, who took over as ADF&G Southeast region troll management biologist in the spring following the retirement of Brian Lynch. Grant Hagerman moves up to Skannes former post as assistant troll manager. Both will continue to work out of the department's Sitka office.
Through July 16 fish tickets accounted for a catch of 65,600 Chinook. Skannes had expected a take of as many as 76,000 so-called treaty salmon, but the total Southeast harvest was 74,498 by the end of July.
The counting year for the wild Chinook harvest, controlled by the US Canada Specific Salmon Treaty, began with an all-gear quota of 221,800 fish, including 40,966 for the sport fishery, 9.537 for pure seiners, 6,432 for drift gillnetters and 1,000 for setnetters. ADF&G set a guideline harvest quota of 45,000 kings for the winter fishery, but the catch fell slightly below the projection at 42,534 fish through the end of April.
Prices for the July opening held fairly steady at an average of $3.36 per pound at the start of the fishery, rising only to $3.38 by July 4. Size followed suit at an average of 14 pounds, according to ADF&G figures.
Skannes said the 40 boats that reported catching almost 32,000 chum during the July Chinook opening was partly expected but also a surprise.
"It's the first time in my memory that there has been a fleet of boats targeting chum," she said. Trollers have been talking about targeting chum bound for the Douglas Island Pink and Chum (DIPAC) Hatchery in Juneau and the expected low abundance of Chinook apparently gave them the chance.
"They have been talking about wanting to see if they could be successful ... When a few people found chum fishing was pretty good more people joined them," Skannes said. Boats reporting chum came from "all over," she added.