Across Alaska, an array of state budgets are being slashed. But one state resource that will remain constant over the next five years will be the fish the state puts in its waters.
In fact, the number of fish stocked is projected to grow by more than 200,000.
At least 6.5 million fish a year grown from eggs will be dumped into state waters annually through 2020, according to Andrew Garry, stocking coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The state on Monday released its stocking plan detailing what species will be dumped into what body of water at what stage of life.
"There are 200-plus release sites throughout the state, and during May and June, our stocking trucks are rolling nonstop," Garry said.
However, one fish previously stocked, arctic grayling, are being eliminated from the program. Grayling had mainly been stocked in Southcentral and Interior lakes, reared from eggs obtained from wild fish living in the Chena River.
"Due to budget reductions, we had to suspend the arctic grayling stocking program," Garry said. "Between (the Anchorage William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery) and Fairbanks (Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery), that's usually around 50,000 grayling."
While grayling are the smallest fish stocked, the gorgeous northern fish with a large dorsal fin has a legion of fans. Few are more diehard that Ceclia Pudge Kleinkauf, a well-know Anchorage fly fishing instructor and the author of "Fly-Fishing for Alaska's Arctic Grayling: Sailfish of the North."
"Of course, that bums me out," Kleinkauf said. "That's my absolute favorite fish. Always will be. How cooperative they are (to take a fly or lure), how delicate they are, how can they spend six to seven months a year under the ice before spawning. How do they do that?
"It's kind of a shame."
There will also be a 20 percent reduction of both fingerling and catchable-size rainbow trout coming out of the William Jack Hernandez hatchery in Anchorage, the biggest in the state.
Garry said the state stocks about a million rainbows annually across the state. That's about a quarter the number of king salmon stocked, but the chinooks head out to sea, where they face an array of threats. Biologists are happy if 2 percent of those released return.
Funding for fish stocking comes largely from two sources. One is the sport fish account of Fish and Game, which includes revenues from sales of sport fish licenses. But most of the money is federal funds, including the Federal Aid in Sport Fisheries Restoration program and federal taxes on some sporting goods as well as marine motor fuels.
In 2016, the state plans to stock:
• 33,252 arctic char.
• 4.2 million king salmon.
• 1.4 million silver salmon.
• 950,000 rainbow trout.
Contact Mike Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org