Taking stock

Community raising funds for stocking of late-run cohos in Homer Spit Lagoon

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

The Fishing Hole on the Homer Spit is one of the most unique fisheries available to anglers in Alaska, but the salmon in this lagoon come with a price -- $25,000 to be exact.

That's the price community members and organizations are trying to meet, in order to buy 100,000 surplus silver salmon smolt available from the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association.

"Contributors have already donated more than $16,000 as of April 1," said Nicky Szarzi, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer.

The Fishing Hole, also called the Homer Spit Lagoon, is what is known as a terminal fishery -- terminal because salmon released as part of the stocking program will eventually return to spawn, but have no place to do so. That means nearly all returning fish are available for sport harvest.

The king salmon stocking program at the lagoon has been ongoing since 1984, and most years anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 kings are harvested in and around the Fishing Hole, with some fish exceeding 40 pounds. The silver salmon stocking program is a much more recent development, but returning silvers averaging 7 to 10 pounds can provide plenty of angling excitement.

"We see around 30,000 angler-days there," said Szarzi.

The chance to purchase these surplus smolt comes at an opportune time for anglers since Fish and Game discontinued their stocking program for late-run silvers in 2002. That makes this the last year Fish and Game's hatchery-reared late-run silvers will return.

"We don't have room in (Fish and Game) hatcheries to stock early and late-run silvers," said Szarzi.

These surplus silvers will come from the Trail Lakes hatchery in Moose Pass.

Szarzi also said late-run silvers weren't returning in high enough numbers to collect eggs for restocking.

However, despite discontinuing the late-run silver program, Fish and Game will continue to raise, stock, and pay for early run king salmon and early run silvers.

"These silvers would be released around mid-May," said Szarzi. "These late-run silvers would then start to return in mid-August through September of 2004."

So far contributions have come from Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Inc., City of Homer, Homer Chamber of Commerce, Homer Charter Boat Association, The Sports Shed, Kachemak Gear Shed, Snomads, South Peninsula Sportsmen's Association, Ulmer's, and numerous individual contributors.

Contributions to the Spit Lagoon Silver Salmon Stocking Program can be made in person at any Wells Fargo Bank branch to account No. 62522278929. Checks also can be mailed to South Peninsula Sportsmen's Association, P.O. Box 1999, Homer, AK 99603.

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