July 12, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 28

King return looks weak

Fish and Game sportfish biologist Rich Chapell this week said the Chilkat River king salmon run appears to be running short of escapement goals.

“We’re worried about meeting our escapement goals in the Chilkat River. We were hoping for a late run, but now it’s very late,” Chapell said this week. “We’re on track for not meeting the goal.”

The projected in-river run to date is 1,350 large kings, compared to a minimum, in-river run goal of 1,850 fish, Chapell said.

Only 63 kings had been caught in fish wheels and a test fishery in the river through midweek. That compares to an average catch by this date of 183 fish. The catch is the second-lowest ever, comparing to 57 fish by this date in 2007.

Sport harvest of kings was about average, but sport harvest is a poor indicator of total run strength, he said.

One option under consideration to conserve Chilkat kings is to extend the dates the fishing closure in northern part of the Chilkat Inlet and Chilkat River, Chapell said.

Because the king run appears to be late this year, there may still be a significant number of kings milling near the mouth of the Chilkat River and making their way up the river, he said.