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CIAA and Sport Fishing: A Relationship That Helps Alaskan Communities Thrive

CIAA and sport fishing go hand-in-hand. Find out how sport and personal use fishing is supported by salmon aquaculture enhancement programs.

by | March 22, 2022

China poot personal use fishery
Dip netting during the 2021 China Poot fishery. Don Pitcher

Throughout Alaska, the state and other groups stock lakes, streams, and other bodies of water with fish for sport fisheries. In Southcentral Alaska, the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) provides salmon for popular sport and personal use fisheries. Learn more about the important relationship between CIAA and sport fishing — and how both are funded by Alaska commercial fishermen.

Resurrection Bay sockeye and coho sport fisheries

Resurrection Bay sport fishery
The 2021 sockeye fishery at Resurrection Bay. Rebecca Hereford

The sockeye salmon runs in Resurrection Bay have been historically weak. The popular sport fishery there today is a direct result of salmon enhancement activities. Beginning in 1964, the  State of Alaska conducted the first fisheries enhancement by releasing juvenile coho salmon into Bear Lake, located near the community of Seward. 

In 1988, the state allowed CIAA to take over the Bear Lake coho program and start a sockeye fisheries enhancement program. CIAA’s goal was to maintain the popular coho sport fishery while creating a new commercial sockeye salmon fishery.

For more than 30 years, CIAA has used its Trail Lakes Hatchery to incubate sockeye eggs taken from returning Bear Lake adults. The resulting fry and smolt are released back to Bear Lake or Resurrection Bay, where they return after two to three years out at sea. 

Every summer, Alaska sports fishermen flock to the beaches of Resurrection Bay to snag sockeyes. The state estimates annual catches but recognizes that these estimates are underreported. With a daily bag limit of at least six salmon, happy fishermen post many photos showing off their Resurrection Bay sockeye stringers each season. 

Nearly 100% of sockeye returns to Bear Lake and Resurrection Bay are from CIAA hatchery programs. In 2022, CIAA projects a return of 78,000 adult sockeye salmon available for cost recovery and common property fishing. 

When the sockeye season winds down, anglers look forward to the cohos returning to Resurrection Bay. The coho fishery is provided through hatchery operations by the state at its William Jack Hernandez Hatchery and by CIAA through the Bear Creek Weir and the Trail Lakes Hatchery. These cohos are the bedrock of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby, now in its 67th year.

China Poot sockeye personal use fishery

Hatcheries have released sockeye salmon into Leisure Lake—also called China Poot—for 46 years and into Hazel Lake for over 30 years. Both lakes are near Kachemak Bay southeast of Homer. The returning adult sockeyes cannot reach the lakes because of waterfall outlets that prevent passage. The state originally initiated this program, and CIAA took it over in 1993.

Using its Trail Lakes and Tutka Bay Lagoon hatcheries, CIAA rears sockeyes to the fry stage and then releases them back to Leisure and Hazel lakes. They return as adults to be harvested in the commercial, sport, and personal use fisheries. Although CIAA may also license a portion of the run for cost recovery, CIAA did not do that the previous two years, allowing ample harvest opportunity for common property users. 

The China Poot run is important to salmon fisheries in Kachemak Bay. Multiple generations of Alaska families take part in China Poot dip netting as well as sport fishing. In 2022, CIAA expects a return of 76,000 sockeye salmon for China Poot fisheries.

Economic benefit

Sport fisherman at Resurrection Bay
The fisheries at Resurrection Bay draw hundreds of fishermen each year. Jeff Longley

The sport and personal use fishing opportunities provided by CIAA also bring economic benefits to Homer and Seward. Anglers use local campgrounds and other lodgings, book charter boats and water taxis. They spend money in local businesses while pursuing hatchery-provided sockeyes and cohos. 

The Resurrection Bay and China Poot fisheries are provided by commercial fishermen for all users. The commercial salmon fishermen of Area H (Cook Inlet) voluntarily elected a two percent Salmon Enhancement Tax that helps support these programs. 

Learn More About CIAA

Want to learn more about the relationship between CIAA and sport fishing? Visit the Salmon Hatcheries for Alaska booth at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show in Anchorage on April 1–3, 2022. You can talk to CIAA’s Executive Director, Dean Day, about CIAA’s contributions on April 1

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