The king salmon abundance index, a number derived by complex biological and mathematic inputs, drives our king salmon regulations and doesn’t become available until April. In the meantime, we’re left to read the tea leaves which include near record ocean productivity off Washington, Oregon and British Columbia in the last few years. We saw a nice jump up in the abundance index in 2009 based on better runs to the lower 48 including the Columbia River. The big producing hatcheries off the west coast of Vancouver Island generally lag a year behind the Columbia River, thus are expected to have higher abundance in 2010. So, the guess is an increased abundance index, with guess being the operative term. The regulations are driven by the abundance index and our expectation is a repeat of 2009 – 1 king per day/3 kings per season throughout the season. Again, we won’t know this for sure until the spring.
It’s almost impossible to forecast silver fishing. The biological date indicates that there are no concerns with coho (silver) stocks in Southeast Alaska. We’re getting plenty back to the streams for spawning each year. From a fishing perspective, these fish go where they find the best feeding opportunity. Most years large numbers seem to think that’s somewhere within range of Sitka. We expect the same for 2010 – good to great silver fishing getting underway by the second week of July and lasting well into September. Limit 6 per day, no annual limit.
The stock assessment and quota numbers for 2010 halibut are still months away. In general, halibut don’t show large annual swings in abundance, but there are changes in management or the biological models that can have big effects. We’ve seen the impacts of both in Southeast Alaska over the past three years. On the up side, there are two big year classes of halibut (successful spawning years) – 1999 and 2000. On the down side, these fish are growing very slowly so they are just reaching a size that we’d call a chicken – roughly 10 to 20 pounds. Why the slow growth rates? No one knows for sure other than it has something to do with food supply. Our expectation is that reduced commercial and sport quotas will continue to have the effect of keeping us at one halibut per day for the foreseeable future. These decreases in catch should, however, have a positive impact on the quality of the fishing – meaning faster catches and bigger fish.
Limit: One per day, no annual limit.
Lingcod and Rockfish:
Biologically speaking we have abundant rockfish off the coast, but these are slow growing, long lived, and slow reproducing fish that can be overfished easily. Thus the highly restrictive limits on non-pelagic (rockfish that stay on the bottom) rockfish like yellow-eye (red snapper) which can live to be over 100 years old.
Expect no change with lings. We’ll have the usual May 16 – June 15 spring opener and August 16 through end of the season second opener. Bag limit will be 1 per day/1 per season with a slot limit of 30 inch minimum and 35 inch maximum. The trophy regulation will remain in effect during the open seasons allowing retention of a second ling of 55 inches or longer.
5 pelagic rockfish per day (black rockfish, aka sea bass), 2 non-pelagic per day of which only one can be a yelloweye (aka red snapper) and an annual limit of two yelloweye.