By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Denied: Chitina dipnetting delayed until Monday

Ice blamed for low fish count by ADF&G sonar at Miles Lake


Old man winter is not yet done frustrating Alaskans; ice conditions upstream from the Miles Lake was blamed for a low salmon count late last month for sockeyes returning to the Copper River. This caused a one-week delay in the long-anticipated opening of the Chitina personal use dipnet fishery.

The new opener for this uniquely Alaskan fishery is Monday, June 10.

“Late ice breakup on the Copper River has only allowed deployment of the Miles Lake sonar along the north bank of the Copper River,” the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game announced Friday. “The late breakup may also be delaying upstream migration of salmon.”

Delay in migration could be an understatement.

Fish and Game reported a measly count of 26 salmon during the week of May 20-26. The pre-season projected count was 78,071.

Tuesday morning, the department announced counts from the sonar for the week ending June 2: 72,521 salmon. The count is high enough for the delayed opener, but far short of preseason estimates.

“The preseason projection for this period was 126,282 salmon,” fish and game said Tuesday morning, “which results in a deficit of 53,761salmon.”

The emergency order is in place until June 16.

Fish and game recommends that dipnetters call its information line before planning a trip to Chitina.

“They expect that the first part of the week will be fairly slow,” said Rita Stadtmiller, wildlife program technician. “We’re waiting for more info.”

Mark Somerville, fish and game’s area management biologist, was out in the field Monday.

All Alaskans with a proper permit and fishing license are allowed to dipnet in the personal use fishery. Permits are free. Information on permit vendors can be found on the department’s website.

The king salmon fishery has been closed for personal use for at least four years. The sockeye fishery (red salmon) limits have not changed from previous years, but the department strongly recommends dipnetters check before harvesting, as bag limits may be restricted or upped, depending on the sonar count.

The current total annual limit is 15 salmon for a household of one, and 30 salmon for a household of two or more people according to fish and game.

The Chitina Subdistrict personal use fishery is restricted solely to the waters of the mainstem Copper River between the downstream edge of the Chitina-McCarthy Bridge and official fish and game regulatory markers located on an east-west line crossing the Copper River which are about 200 yards upstream of Haley Creek (in Wood Canyon) according to its website. It also says all tributaries of the Copper River in this area - including the Chitina River - are closed to personal use fishing.

Current information is available through the Chitina Fishery information line in Glennallen at 822-5224.


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