So far 2012 has had a shortfall of salmon, which has led the Department of Fish and Game to close the Susitna river to king salmon fishing. The fish count at the Deshka River weir has seen half as many chinook salmon pass through as on this date last year – a paltry 8,043 fish as of June 25th.
The closure of the King Salmon fishery on the Susitna river and its drainages took affect on Monday, and area fishing charters are feeling the difference.
Some charters are seeing anglers agree to fish for trout, dolly varden or grayling instead of kings. Todd Kingery operates Fishbone charters, and he says he hasn’t seen as many cancellations as he’d expected – but there’s a noticeable difference.
Kingery is just one of many guides, and he foresees a big impact statewide.[audio:http://ktna.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2KingClosure.mp3|titles=2KingClosure]
Another area fishing charter has seen a bigger drop-off in clients since the closure. Robert Meals has run Tri River Charters since 1985. He says as much as 90 percent of his pre-season bookings come from outside Alaska specifically to fish for kings. Of those pre-bookings, Meals says he’s seen up to 50 percent cancel since the closure went in to effect.
Both Meals and Kingery feel like the fish management policies give too much consideration to commercial fisheries. Trawlers fishing for pollock are allowed up to 70-thousand kings caught as by-catch, which are then thrown away. As Kingery says, If Alaska wants to see healthy numbers of King salmon returning to inland rivers, the Commercial and Sport fisheries have to share the responsibility.[audio:http://ktna.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/3KingClosure.mp3|titles=3KingClosure]
Salmon fishing on the Susitna will remain closed until July 13th. Until then, local charters could be looking for ways to make up for the lack of healthy king populations.