2017 Snow Pass/Klawock Coho Update

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production: 

2 October 2017

As we have noted for the past month, the 2017 returns from SSRAA’s traditional (Chickamin River) fall coho releases – all of the releases – will be well below average this year.  The season is over but for a few end-of-season fisheries.  Generally the harvest of SSRAA fall coho peaks in early September and decreases through the final two weeks and into October.  The 2017 season was different in that the harvest, such as it was, increased through stat weeks 36 and 37. The return was a little later than usual.

There are still a few fish entering Neets Bay and some of these will be held for broodstock. The coho run and associated fishery are done but for these stragglers.  Like the pink salmon in southern SE, there were far fewer than normal coho returning to these waters in 2017.

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

25 September 2017

The 2017 returns from SSRAA’s traditional (Chickamin River) fall coho releases – all of the releases – will be well below average this year. It is too late in the season to expect this situation to change.

The pattern of the fall coho return has not been normal the past several weeks. Generally the numbers drop off through the last part of September.  This year there was a slight increase in the harvest of these fish in the past week.  This was not a large number, but it was greater than what was harvested the previous week…so, whatever is coming back, and it isn’t a lot of fish, is a little later than usual

There is some troll opportunity to catch these fish through the end of the month in Districts 103 and 104. The drift fleet will harvest some of these coho in D101/Nakat and D106/108/Anita Bay fisheries as they are normally scheduled.

 

 

 

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

18 September 2017

The 2017 returns from SSRAA’s traditional (Chickamin River) fall coho releases – all of the releases – remains well below average. It is too late in the season to expect this situation to change.

The troll season was not extended in southern SE inside waters, reflecting relatively poor survival of coho in this area which includes all of SSRAA’s traditional release sites except Nakat. While the Nakat release also didn’t do well, these fish survived better than those released at Anita, Whitman Lake, or Neets Bay.

There is some troll opportunity to catch these fish through the end of the month in Districts 103 and 104. The drift fleet will harvest some of these coho in D101/Nakat and D106/108 fisheries as they are normally scheduled.  They can also be harvested in the Anita Bay and Nakat THA’s.

It appears that the near shore marine environment in the spring of 2016 was not a good place for a juvenile pink or coho salmon, particularly in southern SE. In some circumstances – but not always –  those fish released closer to the open ocean can more quickly escape the near shore predation (of all kinds) that is always the primary cause of juvenile salmon mortality.

 

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

10 September 2017

The 2017 returns from SSRAA’s traditional (Chickamin River) fall coho releases – all of the releases – are well below average at this date. The difference from normal is dramatic.  It is too late in the season to expect this situation to change.  We are at or past the point where these fish peak in troll fisheries…and it is not happening.

There were a good number of Klawock River Coho in the fishery, though that return is not as strong as what came back in 2016. We think the Klawock return is in the range of “average”, but don’t have enough years in the database, related to current hatchery practices, to know the real “average”.  Regardless, the Klawock releases had a measurable impact on the troll fishery.

The magnitude of the Chickamin Coho situation is obvious in the graphics. Graph (1) illustrates the relative harvest of SSRAA coho by the different gear groups.  The Klawock fish are almost entirely caught by troll while the net harvest, and it’s often significant, is comprised of Neck Lake summer coho and the Chickamin fish released at Neets Bay, Nakat Inlet, Anita Bay, and Herring Cove.  Of course trollers also harvest Chickamin fish, but the distribution of Chickamin fish between fleets is more toward 60% troll/ 40% net.  There have been very few SSRAA coho harvested in net fisheries this summer.

The lack of the late-run Chickamin fish in 2017 is even more evident in graphics (3), (5), and (6). The Klawock fish drive the harvest through about stat week 29 when the Chickamin fish begin to come into play (note 2014 when Klawock was not part of SSRAA’s production).  The 2017 harvest begins to go flat as the Klawock run tapers off.  This is even more evident in graphic (5) of the Neets Bay return…it pretty much simply isn’t there.  Graphic (6) illustrates the same situation as graph (3) which is just troll harvest.  (6) is comprised of the ‘all gear’ harvest and the difference is even more pronounced.  For comparison, prior to 2015 almost all SSRAA coho were Chickamin fish.  The Klawock fish became part of SSRAA’s production for the first time with the 2016 return.

There are two other things that can be pulled from the graphics. Nakat appears to have the best survival among traditional SSRAA releases.  Nakat and Klawock fish are released further “outside”, closer to the open ocean, than the other SSRAA production.  And, the Crystal Creek fish have done relatively well this year.  This is a small release at Crystal Lake Hatchery that is generally the smallest return among SSRAA coho.  Crystal Creek is the furthest north of all SSRAA releases.

It is likely that the near shore marine environment in the spring of 2016 was not a good place for a juvenile pink or coho salmon, particularly in southern SE. In some circumstances – but not always –  those fish released closer to the open ocean can more quickly escape the near shore predation (of all kinds) that is always the primary cause of juvenile salmon mortality.

These Chickamin fish are generally very large late-run coho. There is always a chance there will be a “pop” in the next two or three weeks, but it is unlikely this will be a loud pop.

 

 

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

3 September 2017

As noted previously, the 2017 returns from SSRAA’s traditional Chickamin River fall coho releases are well below average at this date. This can change, but considering they entered the same environment that produced this year’s poor pink salmon return in southern SE, this will likely continue as it now appears.  There is a fair number of Klawock River Coho in the fishery, but that return is also not as strong as what came back in 2016.  We think the Klawock return is in the range of “average”, but don’t have enough years in the database, related to current hatchery practices, to know the real “average”.  We are now at the point where the Chickamin fish generally peak in troll fisheries, and are not seeing that many fish.  To add perspective; there are only 1/3rd as many Neets Bay fall coho in the harvest as we saw last year, and last year’s return was poor.  There are only 1/10th the number of Neets Bay coho we saw at this date in 2014, which was a strong return. We will better understand the fall coho return in the next few weeks…we are running out of time for this to happen.

At this point the 2017 total SE coho return, primarily the troll harvest, seems average to strong. Noting the comparative survival of NSRAA and AKI releases, there is a north/south difference in survival this year; the same situation we are seeing with pink salmon. Southern stocks did not do well.

Note: Coho coded wire tag data does not resolve as quickly as thermal tags in SSRAA chum or coded wire tags in chinook. Because of the volume of tags recovered, coho tags take longer to process, read, and expand to represent harvest.  The numbers “settle” through two or three weeks after the harvest with continual changes in tag expansion estimates:  coho graphics will usually lag one stat week.

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

21 August 2017

As noted last week, at this point none of the returns of SSRAA’s traditional stock (Chickamin River) look particularly strong – they look poor. This can change, but considering they entered the same environment that produced this year’s southern SE poor pink salmon return, this could continue as it now appears.  A small bright spot, the return of Crystal Creek fish to Crystal Creek in Petersburg has been average or better than average.  It is probably important to note these fish are released further to the north than any of the larger releases of Chickamin fish.  There have been goods numbers of Klawock River Coho in the fishery, but the return is not as strong as what came back in 2016.  We think the Klawock return is in the range of “average”, but we don’t have enough returns resulting from current hatchery practices to know the real “average”.  It is possible the return to Klawock is also lower than normal, though they did make a lot of fish.  The summer coho returns to both Neck Creek and Burnett Inlet Hatchery have also been quite a bit below the historic average.  We will better understand the fall coho return in early September when that run peaks in troll and drift harvest.

At this point the larger 2017 coho return, primarily the troll harvest, seems strong. Noting the comparative survival of NSRAA and AKI releases, there is a north/south difference in survival this year; the same situation we are seeing with pink salmon.

Coho coded wire tag data does not resolve as quickly as thermal tags in SSRAA chum or coded wire tags in chinook. Because of the volume of tags recovered, coho tags take longer to process, read, and expand to represent harvest.  The numbers “settle” through two or three weeks after the harvest with continual changes in tag expansion estimates:  coho graphics will usually lag one stat week.

 

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

14 August 2017

At this point in the season, which is early for SSRAA fall coho, none of the returns of SSRAA’s traditional stock (Chickamin River) look particularly strong. This can change, but considering they entered the same environment that produced this year’s poor southern SE pink salmon return, this could be as it now appears.  The return of Crystal Creek fish to Crystal Creek in Petersburg has been average or better than average.  It is probably important to note these fish are released further to the north than any of the larger releases of Chickamin River fish.  There have been goods numbers of Klawock River Coho in the fishery, at this point the return does not look as good as what came back in 2016, but it is in the range of “average”.  The summer coho returns to both Neck Creek and Burnett Inlet Hatchery have been quite a bit below the historic average.  We will better understand the fall coho return in early September when that run generally begins to peak in troll and drift harvest.

Coho coded wire tag data does not resolve as quickly as thermal tags in SSRAA chum or coded wire tags in chinook. Because of the volume of tags recovered, coho tags take longer to process, read, and expand to represent harvest.  The numbers “settle” through two or three weeks after the harvest with continual changes in tag expansion estimates:  coho graphics will usually lag one stat week.

2017 Harvest of SSRAA Coho, Including Klawock Hatchery Production:

First Report, 29 July 2017

The return of fall run Chickamin and Crystal Creek fish continues to be stronger early in the season than in 2016 while there have been goods numbers of Klawock River Coho in the fishery, at this point the return does not look as good as what came back in 2016. The return summer coho returns to both Neck Creek and Burnett Inlet Hatchery have not been quite a bit below the historic average.

It is still too early in the fishery to project the size of fall coho returns, but from the early numbers of Chickamin and Crystal Creek fish in the troll harvest are better than the past several years, while harvest of Klawock fish has been less than last year.

Coho coded wire tag data does not resolve as quickly as thermal tags in SSRAA chum or coded wire tags in chinook. Because of the volume of tags recovered, coho tags take longer to process, read, and expand to represent harvest.  The numbers “settle” through two or three weeks after the harvest with continual changes in tag expansion estimates:  coho graphics will usually lag one stat week.

First Report, 22 July 2017

SSRAA now uses four distinct stocks of coho. The Chickamin River stock of fall coho is used at most of SSRAA’s sites, Neets Bay, Nakat Inlet, Anita Bay, and Whitman Lake. Summer coho, originally from Reflection Lake, are released in Neck Lake/Whale Pass and at Burnett Inlet Hatchery (will be moved to Whitman Lake in 2018).  The fall coho released at Crystal Lake Hatchery are from Crystal Creek.  Klawock Lake coho are used at Klawock Hatchery.  Each of these stocks is unique from the others.  The Chickamin fish are late-run coho with the majority of the fish harvested from August through September – sometimes into October in the terminal areas.  The fish are larger than average fall coho, often averaging well over 10 pounds in the terminal fisheries.  The summer coho at Neck Lake and Burnett Inlet are early run fish, entering the fishery in mid June with some fish harvested into mid-August. The summer fish are smaller, averaging from 5 to 7.5 pounds.  The Crystal Lake release is relatively small, primarily to replace the fish in Crystal Creek when the hatchery program blocked the creek to anadromous fish.  The run is earlier than the Chickamin fish and the fish are smaller.  The Klawock Coho also return earlier than the Chickamin fish – early July through mid August.  These fish are smaller, usually averaging 6 pounds plus or minus.  The coho harvest shown on the graphics at this date is a mix of all four stocks.

To date this year the Chickamin and Crystal fish runs have been a little stronger than in 2016 while the Klawock and summer coho returns have not been as strong. The summer coho return is well below historic levels. It is far too early in the fishery to project the size of fall coho returns, but numbers of Chickamin and Crystal Creek fish in the troll harvest are greater than the past several years, while harvest of Klawock fish is substantial, but less than last year.

It is always the case that coho data does not resolve itself as quickly as thermal tags in SSRAA chum or coded wire tags in chinook. Because of the volume of tags recovered, coho tags take longer to process, read, and expand to represent harvest.  There is some frustration as the numbers “settle” through two or three weeks after the harvest with continual changes in tag expansion estimates:  coho graphics will lag one stat week.

Snow Pass “Summer” Coho Harvest 10 July 2017:
There were an estimated 7,000 cohos harvested by the drift fleet in D106 at this time last season. This summer’s estimate is half that number. Generally most of the coho harvest in D106 at this time of the year is from SSRAA releases of summer coho at Neck Lake and Burnett Inlet. Because processing of tags can take several weeks, it takes some time to determine how many were harvested from each site, or if different stocks are involved in the harvest. We don’t have the tag information in hand, but should have these numbers in hand next week.
Participation in the fishery was usual with 45 to 50 boats. But, the harvest at this date may be the smallest since these returns began in 1998. It is important to note that these fish did not do well in 2016, so half that harvest is not a good number. Historically from 6,000 to 12,000 coho are harvested in D106 during stat 27, the harvest estimate this past week was 2,000.
We will do a small cost recovery harvest this week from the raceway on Neck Creek.
Though there are small scattered schools, fish have not built up in large numbers in Whale Pass. At this point it isn’t possible to determine whether the run is waiting for weather, or weaker than usual. At this time it is hard to be optimistic about this return, but it’s always possible to be surprised.
We will update this information weekly.