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|Wild or native coho salmon spawn in the Bay's tributary streams in October. After spawning, the adult fish die, leaving their deposited eggs to incubate in the gravel and hatch the following spring. The newly hatched salmon (fry) remain in this freshwater environment during the summer and following winter. In the spring of their second and third years the young fish (smolt) migrate to salt water. They remain in the rich marine waters about 16 months before returning to fresh water as adults to spawn and perpetuate their life cycle. Because Resurrection Bay tributaries are susceptible to sever periodic flooding, the most recent flooding occurred in September 1995, production of wild stocks has been and will continue to be extremely variable.|
The Department of Fish and Game has stocked coho salmon in Resurrection Bay water since the early 1960's to stabilize and increase the numbers of coho salmon available to sport anglers. Coho salmon produced by the stocking program begins when the adult salmon return to a weir on Bear Creek. A portion of these fish are artificially spawned and the fertilized eggs are taken to the Trail Lakes Hatchery where incubation and hatching take place. A portion of the fry are then returned to Bear Lake where they rear for a year before migrating to the marine environment. The advantage in this program is that the survival from egg to fry is much greater in the hatchery than in the natural environment and the maximum number of fry are produced for a given number of eggs. This fingerling stocking program was conducted by the Department of Fish and Game until 1988. The program has been conducted by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association in cooperation with the department since 1989.
The Department also conducts a smolt stocking program to further increase the number of coho salmon available to sport anglers. As with fry stocking, adult coho salmon are captured and spawned at the Bear Lake weir. The fertilized eggs are transported and incubated at Elmendorf Hatchery near Anchorage. In the spring, the resultant smolt are released into Seward Lagoon or Lowell Creek where they quickly migrate to sea to join wild and Bear Lake produced coho salmon on the feeding grounds.
Coho salmon of wild stock origin return earlier than those of hatchery origin. Wild stock coho typically return from early to mid July through mid August. Coho of hatchery origin begin returning in early August and continue returning through early October.
Irrespective of their origin, coho salmon and Resurrection Bay are synonymous terms to many recreational fishermen. From the late 1960's to the present, anglers have made 5,000 to 10,000 recreational boat fishing trips annually on the marine waters of the Bay to harvest an average of 25,000 coho each year. Not all coho are harvested from boats, as shore anglers harvest several thousand fish annually. Anglers are allowed six salmon other than kings daily and in possession with no size restrictions.
The Bay's coho salmon enthusiasts have about 10 weeks to pursue this species, which usually weigh from six to 20 pounds. Coho salmon usually begin to enter the outer areas of Resurrection Bay the first week of July with fishing continuing through mid September. Coho gradually work their way toward their release point (if stocked) or stream of origin (if wild).
Popular spots for early season coho in the outer areas of the Bay include Pony, Agnes, Porcupine, and Bulldog Coves, Rugged Island, and Eldorado Narrows. As the season progresses, this species moves toward the head of the Bay with Callisto Head, Caines Head, Lowell Point, the Army Dock, Spring Creek and Humpy and Thumb Coves being popular areas.
Shore anglers concentrate their efforts from early August until mid September near the Seward Lagoon outfall, at Lowell Point, the terminus of Resurrection River, from the ferry dock and near and in Seward small boat harbor.
What's the best way to catch the Bay's coho? There is no single answer to this question as different anglers have numerous preferred and proven techniques. Trolling herring is a popular method. Generally, dual hooks are used and the cut or whole herring is affixed so that it spins slowly or simulates the movement of a swimming fish. The depth at which the herring is fished is critical and involves experimentation. Either a trolling sinker or diving apparatus such as a "pink lady" are used to reach the desired depth. Down-riggers have recently become widely used for greater depth. Many anglers attach a flasher or other type of attractant immediately above the herring. If you prefer a lure, rig as if you were fishing bait and substitute the lure for the herring.
Shore fishermen generally prefer lures. A variety of spoons and spinners are effective with lures of the "tee-spoon", "pixie", and vibrax variety used by many fishermen. Anglers have also been successful fishing cut herring at all depths using a bobber in near shore areas. Snagging is also a legal harvest method and becomes the gear of choice for many anglers fishing late in the season.
The largest number of coho salmon fishermen are to be found on the waters of Resurrection Bay during the annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby. The derby has been an on-going event for more than 30 years and offers prizes to successful anglers in a number of categories. The Derby begins the second Saturday in August and continues for 8 1/2 days. During this brief but intense fishing period, about 50% of the Bay's annual coho catch is harvested. In recent years, over half of the coho salmon harvested during the Derby originated from hatchery stockings. Approximately 30% of the harvest occurs prior to the Derby and the remaining 20% after the conclusion of this annual event. During the Derby it is not unusual to see 400 to 600 boats daily plying the waters of the Bay with each boat carrying an average of three to four anglers.
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