Plan calls for releasing 7.2 million fish next year

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state's fish stocking plan calls for releasing 7.2 million fish into Alaska waters next year and more than 35 million over the next five years.

The 2003 draft sport fish stocking plan was recently released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and makes few changes over the 2002 plan.

The plan calls for the release of five different kinds of fish: king salmon, silver salmon, Arctic char, grayling and rainbow trout.

The plan recommends releasing the same number of fish in 2003 as in 2002. Under the plan, 4.3 million king salmon will released, 1.4 million silver salmon, 89,850 Arctic char, 43,900 grayling and 1.4 million rainbow trout. The numbers are down from 7.6 million fish in 2001 and up slightly from 7.1 million in 2000.

The plan will be revised and finalized in late January or early February after receiving feedback from the public, said fisheries biologist Diane Loopstra, who compiled the plan. The deadline for comment is Jan. 20.

In 2001, more than 432,000 anglers fished approximately 2.3 million days and caught nearly 6.8 million fish and harvested less than half, according to the Division of Sport Fish.

Loopstra said the numbers of fish released each year remains pretty much the same because the state has no more hatchery space to grow more fish. Additions anywhere in one part of the state require subtractions somewhere else.

That's the case at the Eklutna Tailwinds fishery north of Anchorage. Area biologist Dave Rutz in Palmer is recommending an increase at Eklutna that requires a decrease at Deception Creek, which provides king salmon for the Willow Creek fishery.

Rutz said the idea is to develop Eklutna Tailwinds into a hot spot for king salmon anglers to provide an alternative to Ship Creek in Anchorage and take pressure off wild stocks.

Eklutna is ideal because hatchery fish for the most part should not be introduced where there are established wild stocks. Eklutna has never had wild salmon, Rutz said.

About 105,000 king salmon smolt were introduced into Eklutna for the first time last year. Plans call for increasing that number to 205,000 in 2003. The increase in Eklutna will require decreasing the Deception Creek number near Willow by 100,000, Rutz said.

He said fishing pressure on the Little Susitna River north of Palmer could require fishing restrictions in the future for the Little Susitna River north of Palmer.

''It is pretty much saturated,'' Rutz said.

The state's annual stocking program and related projects are paid for mostly from the sale of fishing licenses and federal taxes on fishing gear and marine motor fuels.

If additional funding can be secured, the Eklutna Tailwinds area could receive a $416,000 makeover, said Paul Cyr, sport fish access program project manager with the Division of Sport Fish.

Cyr plans to submit a grant proposal for federal funds early next year.

Plans call for more than doubling the number of parking spaces and improving the parking lot with hardened gravel; building three-sided brick screens to prevent portable toilets from being dumped in the water; installing two information kiosks, two handicapped-accessible fishing docks and a pedestrian bridge; and adding picnic tables. A trail system also might be developed.

Cyr said preliminary work could begin on the project as early as next summer.

''It is a great place to develop a fishery and is close to major population centers,'' he said. ''It is getting more and more used. We need to do something.''

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On the Net: www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/statewide/html/sf--home.htm. E-mail comments can be sent to diane--loopstrafishgame.state.ak.us or mailed to 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, Alaska, 99518.



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