Ketchikan king salmon derby canceled due to concerns over wild fish stocks

Chase Hanis with his winning King Salmon in 2017, the last time Ketchikan hosted a King Salmon Derby. (Photo from Ketchikan CHARR King Salmon Derby)

The Ketchikan Salmon Fishing Summer Derby is canceled due to concerns over low yields.

This would have been the King Salmon’s first derby in Ketchikan since 2017. The next two summers, organizers switched to coho due to poor predictions for Chinook. The pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 derby and pretty much everything in between.

Michael Briggs, who coordinates the annual fishing competition for the Ketchikan Association of Cabarets, Hotels, Restaurants and Retailers, said organizers plan to hold the derby over two weekends from mid-June to the end of June. .

“We had a lot of people in the community hoping that we could go back to kings and that we could go back to the tradition of having a king salmon derby like we did before,” Briggs said in a phone interview. . Tuesday.

But on Tuesday, Briggs said he got a call from the sport fishing division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“And they’ve expressed some concern about the idea of ​​basically encouraging 1,000 boats for a few weekends to go out there and target king salmon,” Briggs said.

State fisheries biologist Kelly Reppert declined an interview request.

But she explained in a statement that the same problem that led organizers to cancel the King Derby in 2018 still exists: poor stocks of wild king salmon.

“There is more concern in 2021 for the wild stocks in the Behm Canal than in 2018, when the derby was first called off,” Reppert said.

King Salmon from the Unuk River north of Ketchikan has been a “stock of concern” for ADF & G since 2017.

And Reppert says too few kings escape fishing in the nearby Chickamin River as well – she says the river has missed its goal of escaping for four of the past five years. This is despite year-round salmon fishing closures in the north and northeast of the Behm Canal and other measures aimed at conserving king salmon.

Reppert says the ministry will recommend the Chickamin Kings to join the Unuk Kings on the list of stocks of concern.

According to her, Fish & Game “makes the difference between providing limited opportunities to target hatchery fish and implementing additional closures during the month of June.

Salmon derby coordinator Briggs says he understands ADF & G’s concerns.

“We certainly don’t want to, as I said, do anything to influence these actions. We want to be able to continue fishing for king salmon here for a long time. And so, while we don’t have an exact plan for moving forward, I think we can say with some certainty that we won’t be doing a Salmon King derby, unfortunately, ”said Briggs.

He says he hopes to host a Salmon Derby for the Silvers at the end of the summer, although he says the planning is still in its early stages.

A king salmon fishery targeting hatchery fish is scheduled to open June 1 in George and Carroll Inlets east of Ketchikan. King salmon fishing elsewhere in the Ketchikan region opens June 15, although much of the west and southeast of the Behm Canal remains closed until August 15. Most areas near Ketchikan have a single fish limit of a minimum length of 28 inches.

About Patricia Kilgore

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