Tanis and I head out to the Akwe River tomorrow to open up the cabin and get ready for our commercial fishing season. As we flew home from Juneau last week, it was high tide – sun glare in my eyes – wind whipping whitecaps on the river, so I could not see any fish in the Akwe, or New Italio. That doesn’t mean there aren’t fish, but that I couldn’t see…
The Situk run is still going gangbusters though. The commercial fishery opened last Sunday there and it definitely took the edge off the number of fish in the lower river. Sunday was still great, but by Monday and Tuesday, the fish were few and far between. The best fishing right now is in the middle river from the cabins down. Although 33,000 fish have been through the weir as of Monday, they haven’t made it up to 9 Mile in any great numbers yet. So that’s 33,000 sockeye between the bridge and the weir… WOW!
I talked to the fish plant manager yesterday and he said the fish are huge. As in 10lb sockeye… He said loading fish boxes was like silver season. That plays into my delusional fantasy that last year’s dismal run is also coming this year… Sockeye can be a 4 year or a 5 year fish. Possibly if conditions were bad last summer, the 4 year olds could have decided to be 5 year olds… That’s my hope anyway, since last year’s Akwe run was horrible.
Last year, Tanis and I set our nets and immediately caught a nice big king (that I dropped and didn’t land). That was the only fish we saw for the week! Not even a dolly for dinner! I had never had a zero fish week before. The next two weeks, we managed to land about 1200lbs of sockeye total with both nets. Fish and Game shut us down for the season after that. The Akwe has been having issues in recent years anyway. The glacier no longer comes into Akwe Lake (it used to hang over a huge cliff and drain into the lake cooling the water). Now the Akwe is just foreland drainage. On an overcast day, the water is 73 degrees F. The majority of the sockeye just hang out in the New Italio/Akwe confluence hole for weeks and eventually they give up on the deadly Akwe temperature water an go up the Italio at a cozy low-40’s temp. Sockeye are extremely temperature sensitive, so they need cooler water.
The past couple years, we have had warm summers. In the Situk/Ahrnklin Inlet, the water along the edge warms more than the deeper center. The nets are usually along the edge, so we have seen decent weir counts only because all the fish bypassed the warmer edges of the inlet and swam past the nets. Not so this past week, where the commercial guys had a really good opening week. They also did really well out in the bay. Lots of fish out there in the ocean moving slowly up the coast.
I’ll have a proper first-hand report from out at the Akwe for the guy renting the Ryman cabin on Tuesday. In the meantime, spectacular fishing on the Situk with not a whole lot of people out fishing.