Resurrection River Sockeye Fishery
~~Achieving Master Snagger Status~~
by Klondike Kid
One of the lesser known salmon fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula is the sockeye salmon run in the Resurrection River which drains into Resurrection Bay. Seward is the "host city" for this fishery and sports plenty of lodging, campgrounds, RV parks, beaches and boat launches for accommodating the visitors. This fishery is actually comprised of two separate fisheries. The first one on the calendar is the opportunity to fish for returning sockeye in the saltwaters of Resurrection Bay at the mouth of the river. The Department of Fish & Game has posted prominent ADFG Markers on each side of the river mouth defining the line between what is defined as SALTwater and FRESHwater.
On the saltwater side of the Marker line the season is open year round and SNAGGING is allowed in the saltwaters of Resurrection Bay and the mouth of the river. It is this "fishing" opportunity that is the most popular with Alaskans who are within driving range of this location. In the saltwater zone the salmon limits for all species other than king salmon is six fish per day. And the typical tackle is a very stout salmon rod, 30-40 lb. test monofilament and a weighted treble hook sold in many sports and tackle stores.
Although you might think there is nothing tricky about "snagging" - Hey, just throw out the leaded hook and jerk it back in hopes of snagging a passing fish - there are some things to keep in mind to make you the most successful harvester you can be. Afterall you will spend $100 or more on tackle, fuel, and food on this outing so it better pay off.
OK, you have the basics. And some of my suggestions may not have been considered as important before you read them. But now let's talk about maximizing your opportunities to put fish on the stringer and in the freezer. Those who are not AOJ Regulars and won't read this will be at a distinct disadvantage over those of you "in the know."
The Trail Lakes Hatchery is responsible for this sockeye run. They do egg takes, hatch and rear the fry and release them as smolt a year later. They also rear the silver salmon which Resurrection Bay is noted for as well as providing fish stock for other commercial fisheries. All this costs money! So ADFG has allowed the hatchery to capture and sell these returning sockeye salmon on the commercial market to recover their operating costs for the hatchery programs.
They do this by contracting a number of commercial seine boats and fishermen who then attempt to catch as many of the returning sockeye as possible. The sale of the fish will produce the operating capital needed to keep everything going. But when the boats are fishing its apparent there will be much fewer reds reaching the river channels than the times when they may not be present. Below is the Commercial Seiner Schedule for the Resurrection River sockeye fishery:
The boats are allowed to fish from 6AM to 10PM seven days a week, Monday through Sunday until its no longer economical to be out there burning fuel for the few fish remaining in the run.
That is your first valuable piece of information. If the boats are snaring most of the fish each day then "perhaps" it might be better to fish the tides occurring at night after the boats quit fishing. The incoming tides bring more fish to the river than fishing low tide but there are times when the fish just decide to come in no matter what the tide level or direction. It PAYS to put your time in.
This last item is probably the most valuable of all. And even if you don't heed my suggestions for buying and using the proper tackle in this fishery to maximize your success, this last piece will make every one of you a little more successful. The chart you see below identifies how much of the salmon run has been netted by the seiners on each day of their season for the past 10 years. It is the SWEET SPOT in the chart that will allow you to time your visits to the river at the times when, on average, provide the most fish moving to the head of the bay. What escapes the nets will be the fish available to the sport fishermen.
Good Luck, Good Fishing, Good Snagging~! -Klondike Kid-
UPDATE: June 1, 2012 This chart will show the daily catch of the seiner fleet in relationship to what the expected catch should be. The sockeye run is showing a delay in its timing this season.
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