King salmon are in dire straights in Southeast Alaska and most of Alaska. King salmon fishing in and around Juneau has been closed for the last two springs to protect the few wild king salmon that still survive. It was opened in June in a restricted area with the hope that only hatchery fish would be caught. And effective Aug. 1, the Department of Fish and Game prohibited the retention of king salmon by nonresidents. This isn’t to penalize nonresidents; it is because some wild fish will inevitably be caught, and there just aren’t too many of those around anymore.
The collapse of the king salmon fishery is not news to Juneau anglers. Many people tell stories like mine: I caught 17 kings in May 1992, my first year fishing in Juneau. I had no clue what I was doing but there were so many fish that even the clueless could catch fish. And big ones too. Two of those first May fish were over 30 pounds and the next year I caught my best ever — a fish that weighed 47 pounds, gutted and gilled. Fishing was like that for several years.
It’s not like that any more. People who catch 17 kings in the entire season are few and far between and a 30 pound fish is now a true trophy, not just a “nice one.”
So I was surprised and disappointed to read that the Territorial Sportsmen are allowing king salmon in this year’s Golden North Salmon Derby. Hundreds of people fish the Derby and thousands of fish are caught and donated to the scholarship fund. That’s good. What isn’t good that many of those fish will be king salmon and some of those kings will be wild fish. If the Territorial Sportsmen were true conservationists, they would not accept king salmon in the derby. I realize that even anglers targeting cohos will catch some kings — but they’ll catch more kings if they are targeting them. Too many in my opinion.
We need to do all we can do to protect the few remaining king salmon so that our children and grandchildren will have kings to catch. For me this means two things: I will not fish the Derby and I will not service salmon reels in my reel repair shop, Taku Reel Repair, until the derby ends.
Owner of Taku Reel Repair,
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.