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With a surge of salmon, Homer fishing lagoon opening to snagging

Mike Campbell
Jim Lavrakas / Far North Photography

A surge of silver salmon streaming back to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and nearby waters along the Homer Spit has allowed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to permit snagging beginning Friday.

The limit is six silvers, or coho, per day -- double the normal limit of three fish in most Southcentral Alaska waters.

Not since 2008 has snagging been allowed in the lagoon.

“It’s just exploded with fish,” said Jim Lavrakas, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce.  “I’ve never seen it like this before.”

He attributes the strong return to the 132,000 silver smolts planted May 2013. Silvers spend one year at sea before returning. By then, they’re far larger than the smolts, which weighed roughly 2 grams when they were released about 15 months ago.

“They fish stocked into the lagoon are robust and have had pretty good survival (in the ocean),” said Carol Kerkvliet, the Homer area fisheries biologist for Fish and Game.

That’s a sharp contrast to recent years. In 2012, just 58 silvers returned to the lagoon. “It hasn’t been very good in recent years, Kerkvliet said.  “That’s why this year seems dramatically different.”

Because the Homer fishing lagoon is a terminal fishery, with no opportunity for the silvers to spawn, Fish and Game hopes anglers can land the returning fish.

The area open to snagging goes from Homer City Dock northwest along the east side of Homer Spit, including the fishing lagoon, to a marker about 200 yards northwest of the lagoon.

“Stocked salmon in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon cannot be adequately harvested without snagging,” Kerkvliet said in press release.

Even though there’s no count of how many silver have returned, Kerkvliet said “we’ve had a lot of success and survival was huge.”

Fish can be visible in the lagoon and in waters adjacent to the Spit, and silvers aren’t shy about leaping out of the water.

“They’re putting on quite a show,” Kerkvliet said.  “A lot of people are getting a lot of enjoyment out of these fish, whether they fish or just watch the scene.”

Whether that will be repeated next year is a question mark -- not only due to the vagaries of what the silvers face during their year at sea.

Only 76,500 smolt -- 42 percent fewer -- were stocked this spring in the lagoon, as a result of lost brood stock due to heavy flooding during the egg take in Anchorage’s Ship Creek three years ago.

In future years, Fish and Game intends to stock 120,000 coho smolt a year in the lagoon. 

Contact Mike Campbell at mcampbell@alaskadispatch.com.