VALDEZ HATCHERY ANTICIPATES GOOD SILVER RUN
VALDEZ, Alaska – The Valdez Fisheries Development Association (VFDA) is a private non-profit salmon hatchery in Prince William Sound and has investigated the weak return of silver or coho salmon to the region that occurred last year. It marks the 2nd poor return to Port Valdez in the last here consecutive years.
According to a report published by VFDA, it takes three years for a silver salmon to mature and return to where it was hatches. Fish reared for the 2014 return were spawned in 2011. Silver fishing was great in 2013. Based on measured returns, 13 percent of salmon smolt released by the hatchery survived to later return to the Port that year. Only one percent of the fish released from the brood year 2011 returned in 2014.
A review of historic records shows the release weight of the silver salmon smolt for brood year 2011 was only 13.50 grams. Typically the hatchery tries to release fish that are at least 18 to 20 grams. Looking at historic marine survival rates for the lowest release weights recorded by the hatchery shows there could be some relationship between low weight and overall survival. That, by itself, does not necessarily dictate a low return as there are many other factors experience by salmon after release from the hatchery.
A closer look at the brood year 2011 age class shows they struggled through their initial rearing period. Mortality of the smolt was higher than average. Issues like water temperature and quality greatly affect the rearing of juvenile salmon. There are also unknown factors such as feed availability and predation that can lower the marine survival of salmon while out to sea. Hatchery Manager Rob Unger said they believe combining low smolt weights with a stressful rearing environment may have played into the poor return experienced in 2014.
So, the million dollar question (or $15,000 question if you catch the largest silver salmon out of Valdez and win the first place daily prize) is: how big were the smolt in 2012. Unger reports the smolt released in 2012 were well over 20 grams. Unger was careful to point out there are many factors involved in a good return, but he said the brood year 2012, the silvers that will be returning this season, were big and healthy when released. Hopefully that translates into a great silver run out of Valdez this year.
The halibut derby is currently underway in Valdez. Josh Hughes of Wasilla reeled in a 123.6 pound halibut aboard the Jaime Lynn to take the early lead in the derby. The Valdez Halibut Derby has weekly 1st and 2nd place prizes in addition to the overall 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place cash prizes. The Valdez Silver Salmon Derby will run July 18th through September 6th. Valdez Fish Derby tickets cost $10 per species per day or $50 for a season pass (halibut or silvers). In addition, Valdez will host a Kids Pink Salmon Derby July 18th and a Women’s Derby August 8th.