Much of Juneau's king salmon fishery will be closed this summer due to a landslide in 2020

Salmon fills a tote bag in Juneau in August 2022. (Clarise Larson/for the Juneau Empire)

Sport fishermen in Juneau may be disappointed Monday because Chinook salmon are largely off limits this summer. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced an emergency closure of most nearshore fishing areas around Juneau.

The limits of the closure of the Chinook salmon hatchery near Juneau. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish)

Douglas Island Pink and Chum, or DIPAC's executive director Katie Harms, said fish hatchery yields are expected to be quite low this year. That's because most of the Chinook salmon that were supposed to return were killed when a landslide cut off the fish hatchery's freshwater supply from Salmon Creek during an atmospheric flow in December 2020 that caused flooding and mudslides across the town.

“We had to prematurely release all the Chinook salmon that were in the canals at the time,” Harms said. “They entered the saltwater before they were biologically able to process saltwater and probably mostly died.”

Most farmed salmon return at around five years of age, so the low population this summer was to be expected, according to Harms.

The closure includes Auke Bay, Fritz Cove, Gastineau Channel and areas around the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. Starting at midnight Monday, all Chinook salmon caught in these areas must be immediately released. This rule will remain in effect until the end of August.

The closure of the sport fishing operation will allow more adult Chinook salmon to congregate in Fish Creek Pond, one of the local hatchery sites. Most of these five-year-olds will be missing from the pond, but some six-year-olds should return.

“This year, we plan to clean the pond with trawl nets in mid to late July, when the vast majority of the fish have returned. They should then hang around in the pond and wait to spawn,” said Harms. “And we will bring them back to the fish farm. We have done this in other years in the past, so we know that it can be successful if there are enough fish.”

Most of the Chinook salmon Juneau finds in the summer come from hatcheries, while most wild Chinook salmon make their way through the area up to the Taku River in the spring.

DIPAC intends to replenish the fish farm's broodstock with fish from the pond and thus sustain summer Chinook salmon production into the future.

“I'm not sure if we'll reach our full breeding population despite the closure, but we're getting a little closer to our goal,” said Harms. “That in turn would mean better fishing opportunities for those who want to fish in five years.”

Anna Harden

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