The 2017 season began with Hook It and Cook It in mid-May and finished nearly four months later on September 10. A run down of various stretches of the season are available by looking through this year’s fishing reports. Here’s the high-level summary of the season and the grades earned:
Kings Salmon: D
We strive to report honestly and there really isn’t a way to candy coat the king run of 2017. The preseason abundance index was on the low end of normal, the numbers of fish seemed to be lower than that. Additionally, the kings were considerably smaller than in previous seasons. Lastly, the king season was shut down by emergency order on August 10 (it has since reopened). What happened to the run? The best guess is “the blob”, a warm water dome that formed for about 18 months in the North Pacific. That dome, along with other oceanographic challenges, capped upwelling of deep water nutrients – all of which is a fancy way of saying the kings returning in 2017 didn’t get enough to eat. There were periods of excellent king fishing and there is no reason not to expect a return to normal in coming seasons. That said, 2017 was lackluster.
Coho Salmon: A+
They arrived early with the first limits landed in the second week of June, our earliest ever. And, the early arriving fish weren’t a fluke. After a brief dip toward the end of the second week in June, the silvers became very abundant and easy limits were the rule right up to the last 10 days of August. The early run fish were bigger than normal for June, some well over 10 pounds. As the season progressed, the silvers put on weight and we saw fish as large as 18 pounds. The late season coho are always the biggest as was the case in 2017. The numbers of silvers began to dwindle a little early, but they didn’t dry up, they leveled off at concentrations that yielded half to full limits on most days in September. We’ve seen lots of great coho years since the early 1990’s, but never one that reliably produced for 3 months like this year.
The halibut abundance continues to increase. To find an era of easy, fast halibut comparable to 2017, you’d have to go back to the halibut bubble years of the mid-1990’s. From the beginning of the season to nearly the end, limits of halibut in the sweet spot of the legal range were nearly guaranteed and sometimes unbelievable fast. We had a few stretches in a few undisclosed locations where the moment the bait hit the bottom a halibut was on the hook.
Pelagic rockfish – blacks, duskies, yellowtail et al were forever available in the kelp gardens near shore and over rocky structure offshore. The offshore black rockfish ranged from big to enormous for the species. Non-pelagic rockfish were readily available but there was a 3-week closure in early August to keep the sport fleet within allocation. These are very slow growing, long lived fish and we support a conservative approach to management.
Lings remain a perennial C not for lack of abundance but because the “slot” limit of 30 to 35 inches is such a narrow target. We can catch lots of monster lings on offshore structure, but they are all over 35 inches. Targeting lings within the slot is something that is typically saved for when all other limits are landed.
AU Crew: A+
We’re always proud of the crew we assemble but this year we had a certain synchronicity that got better and better as the season progressed. AU is blessed with a spectacular location, a world class fisher, but it’s our people that set us apart. This year’s crew did just that, and more.