FAIRBANKS — Not that it matters much because most anglers toss them back anyway, but silver salmon fishing in the Delta Clearwater River will be restricted to catch and release only starting on Saturday the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced on Wednesday.
The department said the silver run in the Delta Clearwater appears to be a weak one so far. On Friday, biologists counted only 305 silver salmon in the eight-mile stretch of river from the Clearwater State Recreation Site at 11 Mile Jack Warren Road to the confluence with the Tanana River. Normally, biologists hope to see at least 1,500 coho in that stretch of river at that time, Tanana River area management biologist Audra Brase said. The department’s escapement objective for the Delta Clearwater River is 5,200 to 17,000 fish, she said.
“There’s a chance more fish will be coming up, but in this case the number is so low and conditions were so good for counting that we decided to play it safe,” Brase said.
Commercial fishery harvests and assessment projects in the lower Yukon and Tanana rivers indicate the silver salmon run was slightly late and below average in size, Brase said. Anglers also have reported little action so far in the Delta Clearwater, she said.
While fishing for silvers in the Delta Clearwater River is a popular fall activity for anglers, not many fishermen keep fish because they are pretty used up by the time they swim 1,200 miles to reach their spawning grounds. Even so, Brase said some anglers do keep fish.
“There are people who like to keep them and smoke them up,” she said. “When we were doing our survey we saw a big one that had been filleted sitting on the bottom of the river.”
Anglers may still keep up to three chum salmon per day in the Delta Clearwater.