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The Captain's Blog

What can we expect from the king salmon regulations?

By April 9, 20134 Comments

Every year, the king salmon regulations are released under the same theme: sustainability of the resource. When the 2013 king salmon regulations were released last week, we felt it was our duty to report the news as soon as we could.  We’ve almost had a week for the news to set in and we feel the regulations need some clarification.

US/Canada Treaty

King salmon are managed in Southeast under a treaty between the US and Canada with specific sharing formulas between the lower 48, British Columbia and Alaska. A Chinook Technical Committee works all winter to produce the abundance index (AI). This number determines harvest numbers in both countries and it triggers specific regulations based on the Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon plan.

In simple terms, a multitude of biological and harvest data points are gathered each year. The data goes into the computer and it spits out the AI. The number that comes out automatically triggers our regulations for the coming season. The salmon we catch in Sitka come from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

The chinook (king) salmon abundance index for 2013 is 1.2. That’s a relatively low number and triggers tighter king salmon regulations for both resident and non-resident anglers in Southeast Alaska.king salmon regulations

2013 King Regulations:

The bag and possession limit (resident and nonresident) is one king salmon 28 inches or greater in length;

  • January 1 through June 30: A nonresident’s harvest limit is three king salmon 28 inches or greater in length;
  • July 1 through July 15: A nonresident’s harvest limit is two king salmon, 28 inches or greater in length, and any king salmon harvested by the nonresident from January 1 through June 30 will apply toward the two fish harvest limit;
  • July 16 through December 31:  A nonresident’s harvest limit is one king salmon 28 inches or greater in length, and any king salmon harvested by the nonresident from January 1 through July 15 will apply toward the one fish harvest limit 

Note: The 2013 king salmon regulations are specifically designed to provide more king opportunity in May and June when, a time of the season when other species of salmon aren’t abundant. As the more coho, chum, and pinks move into the mix, the king salmon limits drop. This helps assure that anglers can keep plenty of salmon over the course of their stay.

Unregulated Fun and Excitement: 

For those fishing in May and June, the one king per day and three annually is a regulation we’ve fished under a number of seasons. For anyone signed up for three days in May and June, this regulation changes nothing.  If you’ve booked four days in May and June, we’ll just be a bit fussier about what to keep. The annual limit of two kings from July 1-15 followed by the annual limit of one after July 15 is well timed to be offset by the presence of other salmon: silvers, chums, and pinks.

Angling Unlimited brings 25 years of experience on the North Pacific to the table. We’ve seen challenging regulations before and we know how to provide a great fishing experience no matter what. We do this by targeting other species and by practicing responsible catch and release fishing. We provide the best equipment, great boats, highly experienced skipper, and the very best in customer service.

We know from over two decades of fishing Sitka that the AI doesn’t forecast the actual king action for the coming year. We’ve enjoyed spectacular king fishing in years with a low AI – 2008 comes to mind. We’ve also experienced lackluster king fishing with a high AI.  The fish don’t read the technical reports.

There is no limit on the fun, the challenge, the sport, the beauty, the camaraderie, and the excitement of fishing the saltwater wilderness.

Sustainable Fisheries:

Long term sustainability of the king salmon resource is the purpose of all this science and international bureaucracy. If we do it right – our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids will enjoy king salmon fishing as good as or better than what we have today. So, when abundance is low, harvest is ratcheted back to ensure enough king salmon return to their natal hatcheries and rivers to propagate good numbers of the next generation. All five species of salmon caught by Angling Unlimited as well as halibut are managed sustainably.

king salmon regulationsAngling Unlimited also supports sustainable practices in the sport fishery. We’ve pioneered the use of circle hooks to minimize mortality during catch and release salmon fishing. We decide which fish to keep based on the hook up. Fish that are hooked in the gills, eyes, or gut are kept. We release rockfish with deep water release devices so they can find their way back to the bottom.

The salmon we keep are bled, gutted and packed on ice immediately. All fish kept are processed back at our dock, vacuum packed and frozen, ensuring the best quality and maximum use. Our latest generation diesel boats burn less than half the fuel of twin outboards.

Bright Future:

The 2013 drop in the AI does not foretell the beginning of the end. We’ve seen indexes this low before followed by years with very high numbers. It’s very common for fish stocks to fluctuate as a result of environmental factors.

Ocean productivity has an enormous impact on king salmon stocks and can’t be controlled. It’s also hard to forecast. If the ocean is nutrient rich when juvenile salmon reach salt water, they can survive at levels hundreds of times greater than if they hit a sterile environment. Scientists have found associations between ocean productivity and El Niño, La Niña, and decades long oscillations in ocean currents referred to as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO.

The fresh water environment also has a big impact on spawning success and survival of juvenile salmon. Autumn floods can scour out spawning areas. Winter and spring floods can displace young salmon from off channel nursery areas. Droughts expose spawning areas or crowd juvenile salmon. The human induced changes in the environment brought on by dams, development, agriculture and climate change also impact salmon production.

When the impacts add up to a weaker year of production, harvest adjustments help assure we get enough fish back to the spawning areas. It’s all part of fishing sustainably and assuring future generations enjoy what we’ve come to value so highly.

We’re looking forward to another great season in 2013.


  • Les Sargeant says:

    I disagree with your comment that one king per day and three per season in the months of May and June is something that you’ve fished under for a number of seasons. We’ve been coming up for several seasons in May and more times than not the limit has been two per day and four per season in May.

    • Captain Chuck McNamee says:

      Hi Les,
      Thanks for your question. I looked into it as far back as 2006. The regulations have been 1/day and 3/year for nonresidents in the months of May and June for the following years: 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

      I hope all is well with you. We are trying to get rid of winter back here in MN. Higher temps in the forecast so it looks like we might get spring after all!

      Captain Chuck

  • Les Sargeant says:

    Hi Chuck,

    Well, you know they say two things happen when you get old. #1 is you lose your memory and I forget what #2 is!

    We missed you at the Hook It & Cook It dinner in Seattle on Saturday. Tom did a good job as always and we reconnected with an old friend Trig, hadn’t seen him in years. We’ll see you next month.


  • Ron Olson says:

    Phil see you in Aug. We still dont have the potato in the ground yet,

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