ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state Department of Fish and Game is placing restrictions on fishing for king salmon in Ship Creek because not enough fish are getting to their spawning grounds.
The agency said Thursday it is restricting nighttime fishing in the popular downtown Anchorage fishery. The Ship Creek location will be closed to salmon fishing from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Monday.
Anglers have harvested an average of 3,200 king salmon every season during the past five years, while only about 500 fish have made it upstream, according to biologists. At least 750 kings need to make it upstream to sustain the fishery. As of Thursday, there were 46.
Some kings spawn in the upper reaches of the creek, and biologists use the eggs from others to fuel a hatchery operation that plants the stream with as many as 210,000 outgoing smolt each spring.
Area biologist Barry Stratton said he didn't know how long the restrictions would be in place. He estimated anglers are catching up to 90 percent of the returning kings in Ship Creek.
''It's not that people are doing anything wrong. They're having fun utilizing a great fishery and that is what it's there for. But the bottom line is, we're not getting enough eggs to keep this run going,'' he said.
The problem is worsened by immature fish and injured fish that get past the old Chugach Electric dam but don't contribute to the fishery. The immature fish can't spawn and some females that are injured in the run can't produce viable eggs.
The agency said it will manage the fishery from now on with the goal of having 750 kings above the dam upstream from Knick Arm. If that goal is reached, the nighttime fishing restrictions will be relaxed.
The agency said night closures have been effective in other northern Cook Inlet streams.
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