The vast majority of the fish caught in Alaska, or in the world for that matter, are caught by commercial fishermen. These are the guys who are out there catching and then selling fish to make their living. They catch their fish in many different ways. One of these methods of fishing is called trawling in which giant nets are drug along the ocean floor are essentially scooping up everything in their path. When the nets are brought in and the fish are brought onto the boat they then must be sorted. The boat is only allowed to keep the species it was targeting, normally pollock and cod. All halibut caught must be thrown back into the ocean even though many of these fish are already dead or won’t survive when they are thrown back. These extra fish are called bycatch.
By law these fish cannot be kept because they are out of season and over limit to the boats that catch them. Once a certain number of pounds of halibut have been caught, the season ends for the trawlers. This number has been 50 million lbs. since 1989 and is a cumulative total for all trawlers fishing in Alaskan waters.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council oversees the bycatch and set the numbers. This number was recently cut for the first time in over 20 years.
Pacific halibut numbers have been declining for the last several years. Limits to sportfishermen and to commercial fishermen who target halibut have been reduced, in some cases by over 50%, over the past few years. In many parts of Alaska we as sportfishermen who fish with a guide can only catch one halibut where just a few years ago we could catch two. During this same time the commercial fishermen who target halibut have had their limits reduced by up to 68%.
The trawlers have not had a bycatch reduction since 1989. This new reduction will cut 15% off of the 50 million lbs. limit. If my math is correct that amounts to a 7.5 million lbs. decrease in halibut taken as bycatch. This 7.5 million lbs. is far more halibut than the total caught by ALL sportfishermen in Alaska each year.
With the new quota in place, once the trawlers reach 42.5 million lbs. their fishing season will end. This new quota will phase in gradually over the next four years.
I believe that to maintain and even to improve the quality of halibut fishing, as we must do for future generations, we must all do our part. I feel the pain of the men and women who make a living from the fish that they catch. I know that earning a living can be a difficult endeavor and that we need all of the breaks that we can get.
I also know that we must all work together and do our part in preserving and helping good old Mother Nature to save her own.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, eco-responsibility, fishing, fishing policy, halibut, Jim Kell, saltwater fishing
Today’s post comes from some information that just recently passed across my desk. It has to do with an undesirable species of fish that is currently running rampant in Alaskan waters. The species of which I speak is the northern pike. Pike are top-level predators in aquatic food chains and are highly piscivorous (fish eating).
Northern pike are a native species in a big part of Alaska but they never existed in South Central and South Eastern Alaska until they were illegally introduced into these waters around 50 years ago. They have adapted very well and by 2010, they have been found in almost 100 different lakes and in over 30 different rivers and streams. They are decimating the native trout and salmon populations in these areas.
In the parts of Alaska that historically had the native northern pike, there are many species of fish and these species are more adapted to living with and being preyed on by the northern pike while in the new areas, trout and salmon are the main species found and they are being wiped out by the pike. The Alaska Fish and Game website goes so far as to say that the pike have totally wiped out the trout and salmon in some of these waters.
In 2010, Alaska declared war on these out of area pike by removing bag limits on them, adding new catch methods including spearing and bowfishing, and by creating public awareness about them. They have created brochures such as the one linked below and even have created a 34 minute video outlining catch methods and locations where pike may be found in abundance in South Central Alaska. They sell this video for $10 at Fish and Game offices in Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, and Homer.
Currently there are few options for getting rid of pike once they have invaded an area. The methods available are public fishing and netting. Netting is not an extremely effective method of control because the areas that pike prefer are the shallow weedy type areas that are hard to net. These two methods combined help to keep the numbers of pike low enough that the trout and salmon have a chance to compete.
The only other methods of control are to completely drain a lake which is almost never a possibility, or to use a chemical called rotenone which kills ALL fish in the water treated with it. This also is not a preferable option although it is used at times as a last resort.
All transport of live fish from one area to another has been outlawed in Alaska, including the use and possession of live minnows in all fresh water fishing. Herring and other non-sport fish may still be used as bait in salt-water fishing in the same water in which it was caught.
Use the links below for more information on these topics.
Over the past few years my interest in and fascination with Alaskan fishing has grown. I find that my attention is constantly caught by items in the news and on the internet that pertain not only to Alaskan fishing but also to Alaska in general.
I am interested in gold mining in Alaska. The glaciers interest and fascinate me. Whenever oil or petroleum in Alaska is mentioned, I always listen more closely to the news. My attention is also grasped by many of the scenic and nature related attractions of Alaska, some of which I have personally seen and many of which I have not yet experienced but someday hope to be able to see, experience and participate in.
I have experienced just a little bit of the beauty, grandeur, and of the vast natural resources (aka fish) 😉 that are to be found in Alaska and these things have touched me on a deeply personal level. While I will probably never leave my established home and life in the lower 48 to move and settle in Alaska, I have come to idolize what Alaska has to offer both to me and to other people. These are just a small part of the reasons for my website and blog. I love the parts of Alaska that I have experienced and have a great desire to help others to develop these same experiences and love for something so beautiful and bounteous and wild.
I should also state, for the record, that I am NOT an activist for any particular cause. Specifically, I am not against drilling for oil in Alaska or elsewhere. I am not against digging out the gold or other minerals that are found in Alaska or anywhere else. I am not against using any of the natural resources that our planet has. Etc., etc., etc. I believe that they were given to us to be used by us for our advantage and to provide the things that we need to survive and even to thrive during our time here on this Earth.
With that all said, I DO believe that we have a responsibility to do ALL that we can to protect and preserve these resources so that we don’t extinguish them and their ability to perpetuate themselves. We DO have the responsibility to pass these things on to our kids in as good or a better state than we received them. When we do things that could have a permanent undesirable effect on our environment, we have the responsibility to put safeguards and protections in place that will ensure the survivability and sustainability of our resources for the future.
I have been watching in the news lately as reports have started to come in about the arrival of debris from the Earthquake and tsunami that happened in Japan in March of 2011. All of this “stuff” that was washed away during that terrible natural disaster has been adrift in the ocean for many months. Now, the ocean currents have carried it North and East to the Alaskan coastline, where it is starting to wash up on the beaches of this pristine wilderness. According to a recent article in The Bristol Bay Times (www.thebristolbaytimes.com/article/1220arriving_on_the_tide_tsunami_debris_sightings), this debris includes everything from soccer balls and plastic water bottles, to glass ball decorations and even a 125 foot long derelict fishing boat.
The Alaskan coastline and the Inside Passage of Alaska contain thousands of miles of beaches and coastline, some of which never sees a human being for years at a time, if ever. The very thing that makes Alaska beautiful is now an obstacle in managing this disaster.
I well remember the cleanness and beauty of the oceans and rivers of Alaska. One could stand there and well believe that mankind had never set foot in that place. One could catch a fish and well believe that this particular fish had never been targeted by human hands before.
I can’t help wonder how this debris will affect the fish, wildlife, birds, and plants that call Alaska home. How long will it take for all of this plastic and man-made material to break down to its elemental beginnings? What will happen when the birds and fish and animals eat this stuff? Will it cause them harm? What about the possible effects of radioactivity on and among some of this floating garbage? What other poisonous compounds are in the bottles, cans, and barrels bobbing their way towards Alaska? The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/japan-tsunami-debris_n_1540581.html) quotes experts who speak of mass casualties already among the shorebirds who eat the washed up garbage.
What about the people who live there? How will their lives and livelihoods be affected by all of this. Most of them depend on the environment for life, whether it be for food, shelter, and sustenance, as in the case of the many native Alaskans who still live primitively, or whether it be the newcomers who work as fishermen, miners, or who make a living showing this wonderful place to the rest of us when we come visiting? How will these people cope with an estimated 1.6 million tons of garbage still believed to be heading their way?
I understand that this problem comes from an unforeseen natural event. I understand and sympathize with those who suffered and died in this catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. I just can’t help but wonder what we, as a human race, can do to ensure that beauty remains on the Earth for our grand-kids to see and experience. What can each of us do in our little sphere to do our part in saving this heritage for the future generations?
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan attractions, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan travel, eco-responsibility, ecology, family fishing, fishing policy, green, Jim Kell, nature, saltwater fishing, tsunami
When ocean fishing in Alaska, there are a couple of terms that you will hear that you may not understand. These terms are pelagic and non-pelagic. The non-pelagic may also be called Demersal Shelf Rockfish. These terms are used when discussing Alaska’s many species of rock fish.
What you need to know is that pelagic means in the water column above the bottom while non-pelagic means on the bottom.
Alaska has several species of rock fish. Some are pelagic fish that are found at varying depths while others are non-pelagic bottom dwellers. The regulations call for different bag limits for the two categories of fish. This requires that the angler be informed and able to know and identify which species of fish he or she is catching.
Non-pelagic fish are a matter of concern to biologists as their population numbers are smaller and they take longer to reproduce. They can live to extremely old ages, sometimes longer than the human life span.
When a non-pelagic fish is reeled to the surface, the pressure change can be deadly to the fish. It is common to see these fish with their stomach or swim bladder protruding out of their mouth when they are hauled into the boat. There are special methods that must be followed to release these fish back into the ocean. Look for another blog post on that topic soon.
While both species are legal to catch and both make great eating, we are encouraged to target the pelagic species. They reproduce at younger ages and their population numbers are higher. If we are careful not to over fish the bottom dwellers, they will be around for a long time to come.
The Alaska Dept of Fish and Game has a chart that will help you to identify which species of fish you are catching. I have included a copy of the pdf file below for your convenience.
Categories: Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan Rock Fish, fishing, fishing policy, Jim Kell, rock cod, saltwater fishing
The policies (and politics) that affect fishing regulations in Alaska can be complicated and difficult to understand. This is mostly due to the fact that the regulations are made by different entities. The State of Alaska is responsible for some of the species while NOAA is responsible for other species. Some of the species are regulated by agreements with other countries while other species are covered by US federal regulations. Still other species have only state regulations. Then there are different groups who all want the fish. The Native Alaskans, the commercial fishermen who fish for an income, and the sport fishermen who fish for fun, all want to have a share in the catch. It can make for a complicated mix of who has the say and who gets the fish.
I won’t get in to right and wrong or opinions of how it should be. My only goal with this post is to try to explain why the regulations are the done the way that they are.
Alaska has five species of salmon, five species of crab, Pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, lingcod, pollock, herring, several species of shrimp, several varieties of rockfish and flatfish,… all oceangoing species. In addition there are many species of trout, steelhead, dolly varden char, and others that are regulated in the rivers, lakes, and streams of Alaska. Just listing all of the species and who has a regulatory interest in them could make for a long list.
Basically, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is over all of the Pacific Halibut regulations while the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is over the most of the other fishing regulations within the state of Alaska and its offshore waters. That being said, the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game does have to listen to other groups who help in the decision making and have a vote on the regulations for many of the federally regulated species and species that are of interest to other countries.
Then, one has to consider what is best for the fish. They must be managed in such a way as to keep the species strong and their numbers growing. Their habitat must be protected and their food sources considered.
After all of this, there is the problem of who gets to have the fish that are harvested. The US government has made treaties with the Native Alaskans giving them rights to continue fishing as they have done for years. The commercial fishermen depend on catching and then selling their catch in order to make a living. The sport fishermen like you and I enjoy the chance to go and catch our own dinner. Each group has a legitimate argument and some claim on the available catch.
In all, it makes for a complicated set of regulations in order to give each group AND the fish a fair shake. The end goal is to give Alaskan fishing the best possible future.
Categories: Alaskan Tourism, Bottom Fishing, Fishing, Halibut, Salmon Tags: Alaska, Alaskan Bottom Fishing, Alaskan Crab, Alaskan fishing, Alaskan fishing regulations, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan Rock Fish, Alaskan salmon, fishing, fishing policy, halibut, Jim Kell, Lingcod, rock cod, salmon, Salmon Fishing, saltwater fishing, trout