Scarce king salmon prompts Ship Creek fishing closure

Erik Hill

Ship Creek, Anchorage's popular downtown salmon fishing stream, will close to all sport fishing Sunday and remain closed until the July 14 silver salmon opening.

Beginning at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, fishing will be prohibited downstream of the Chugach power plant dam, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Friday morning.

It's the second year in a row and the third time in five years the king fishery has closed two weeks early, and once again muddy water is to blame.

State regulators have been unable to conduct escapement surveys because of floodwaters on Ship Creek, leaving biologists uncertain whether enough kings have returned to support future runs.

Only a few adult kings have been spotted at the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, according to a press release. The hatchery is an important source of brood stock for Southcentral Alaska king salmon, and 750 kings need to make it upriver for the stocking program to meet its needs, according to Fish and Game.

Despite last year's early closure, Ship Creek failed to achieve its escapement goal, and regulators hope to avoid a repeat of that this year.

Also contributing to the closure is weak king returns across Cook Inlet. Runs are not meeting projections so far this summer, prompting restrictions and closures on rivers both north and south of Anchorage -- and now in Anchorage itself.

When the king salmon season ended early in 2009 because of low escapements, Fish and Game issued citations to several anglers caught fishing illegally at Ship Creek.

Anchorage Daily News