USFWS
Fisheries & Ecological Services
Alaska Region   

 

Anchorage Fish & Wildlife Field Office - Fisheries Program

Current Fisheries and Habitat Assessment Projects

Investigating a site for a PIT tag antennae array in Meadow Creek Photo Credit: USFWS

Investigating a site for a PIT tag antennae array
in Meadow Creek Photo Credit: USFWS

Big Lake juvenile coho salmon study (2011-present)
The goal of this project is to model juvenile coho salmon migration and habitat use in Meadow Creek, a low gradient tributary of Big Lake near Wasilla. Meadow Creek provides significant spawning habitat for sockeye and coho salmon returning to the Big Lake drainage. Much of the drainage is being developed and has high road densities. Of concern is the ability of road culverts to provide adequate fish passage to upstream habitats.  Culvert replacement is expensive, and this project seeks to quantify the affected habitat value.  Fish outfitted with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags will be tracked to determine migratory patterns and habitat preference. Project Factsheet

Tracking radio-tagged salmon in Big Lake drainage Photo Credit: USFWS

Tracking radio-tagged salmon in Big Lake
drainage Photo Credit: USFWS

Big Lake Salmon Spawning Distribution (2009-present)
The project describes the migration run-timing and spawning distribution of adult sockeye and coho salmon and provides baseline data for fisheries and habitat managers in the Big Lake watershed. Radio telemetry is used to track these salmon to their spawning grounds, and the resultant data are being entered into a geographic information system. The project will improve our understanding of habitat use in the Big Lake watershed by spawning salmon and will inform fisheries management, fish habitat conservation, and land use planning in the Big Lake watershed and Upper Cook Inlet.

Releasing a tagged Chinook salmon on the Togiak River Photo Credit: USFWS

Releasing a tagged Chinook salmon on the
Togiak River Photo Credit: USFWS

Togiak River Chinook Salmon Spawning Distribution (2008-present)
The project seeks to improve estimates of Togiak River Chinook salmon escapement for subsistence fishery management in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. A drift gillnet is used to capture and tag Chinook salmon in the lower Togiak River. Radio telemetry is being used to determine distribution and run timing of Chinook salmon in the Togiak River watershed. A weir is operated in Geichak Creek, a tributary to the Togiak River, to estimate the abundance of adult spawners. Report

 

Setting minnow traps to document anadromous fish in the Jim Lake wetlands: Photo Credit: USFWS

Setting minnow traps to document anadromous fish
in the Jim Lake wetlands: Photo Credit: USFWS

Anadromous Waters Catalog Sampling (2007-present)
The Anadromous Waters Catalog (AWC), a database and atlas maintained by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), contains streams, rivers, or lakes specified as being important for the spawning, rearing or migration of anadromous fish. Currently the atlas contains less than 20% of mapped Mat-Su basin streams. This AFWFO is cooperating with ADFG to increase the coverage of the AWC for Mat-Su basin water bodies by identifying and mapping anadromous streams, and nominating them for inclusion in the AWC. This critical activity provides the information needed to protect and manage the freshwater habitats that support native anadromous and freshwater fish; management and regulatory tools cannot be applied to their full extent until the remainder of likely anadromous fish habitat in the basin has been surveyed. Report

Non-lethal electrofishing near a recently restored bridge in the Little Susitna River drainage Photo Credit: USFWS

Non-lethal electrofishing near a recently restored
bridge in the Little Susitna River drainage
Photo Credit: USFWS

Little Susitna Coho Salmon Habitat Use (2011)
The goal of this project is to model juvenile coho salmon habitat use in high gradient tributaries of the Little Susitna River near Wasilla.  While much of the drainage is being developed, the Little Susitna River still supports a significant run of coho salmon.  Of concern is the ability of road culverts to provide adequate fish passage to upstream habitats. Culvert replacement is expensive, and this project seeks to quantify the affected habitat value.  Non-lethal electrofishing is used to capture fish by habitat type. This project is being carried out by a University of Alaska Master’s student and Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with support from the Service. 

Weir at the outlet of McLees River Photo Credit: USFWS

Weir at the outlet of McLees River
Photo Credit: USFWS

McLees Lake Sockeye Salmon Escapement (2008-2011)
Sockeye salmon escapement has been estimated at the outlet of McLees Lake on Unalaska Island using a fixed picket weir since 2001. This project provides estimates of the abundance, timing, and age, sex, and length composition of the sockeye escapement. These data are used by fisheries managers to ensure sustainable subsistence harvests by the residents of Unalaska. Returns in 2008-9 were low and resulted in fishery closures.  This project will continue through 2011. Report

 

Crater lake in Mt. Chiginigak near Mother Goose Lake on the Alaska Peninsula Photo Credit: USFWS

Crater lake in Mt. Chiginigak near Mother Goose Lake
on the Alaska Peninsula Photo Credit: USFWS

Monitoring the Effects of Volcanic Activity (2005-2010)

In early May 2005, the acidic crater-lake at Chiginagak volcano catastrophically drained, sending sulfurous, clay-rich debris and acidic water down the south flank of the volcano. The discharge occurred during a rapid partial draining of a newly formed summit crater lake. The acidic waters of the flood inundated a prolific salmon spawning drainage more than 27 km downstream, acidifying Mother Goose Lake. All aquatic life was killed and salmon spawning runs were eliminated. In August 2006, over 1 year after the flood, Mother Goose Lake remained mixed and acidified to a pH of 4.1. The persistent acidification indicated that Mother Goose Lake was unable to recover from the acidic, high metal input resulting from the continuing drainage of the volcano’s crater-lake. This project on the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge will help determine if and how acidic water from the crater-lake drainage continues to impact Indecision Creek, Mother Goose Lake, and the King Salmon River. In 2010, sampling demonstrated that Mother Goose Lake had returned to life-bearing pH and aquatic life had recently recolonized. 

Tracking radio-tagged salmon on the Matanuska River.  Photo Credit: USFWS

Tracking radio-tagged salmon on the Matanuska
River Photo Credit: USFWS

Matanuska River Salmon Spawning Distribution (2008-2009)
This project was carried out to help identify migration run timing and spawning distribution and abundance of adult sockeye, chum, and coho salmon in the Matanuska River. This critical baseline information about what habitat is important for migrating and spawning adult salmon will not only inform fisheries management decisions, but also help local land managers and planners minimize impacts to that habitat from current and future development activities in the Matanuska River watershed and Upper Cook Inlet. The project will also provide fishery managers with baseline data regarding the relative abundance and timing for all species of Pacific salmon. Report

Sampling spawning rainbow smelt on the Togiak River Photo Credit: USFWS

Sampling spawning rainbow smelt on the Togiak
River Photo Credit: USFWS

Togiak River Rainbow Smelt Assessment (2007-2008)
While rainbow smelt are an important subsistence resource on the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, managers have little information about their life history and population dynamics. To fill these data gaps, fish harvested in the subsistence fishery during late winter were sampled for age, sex, and size data. Spawning rainbow smelt were sampled in the spring for spawning locations and timing; age, sex, and size data; and fecundity. Emigrating egg and larvae were sampled for relative abundance as a measure of spawning success.  These data are being modeled to see whether this approach can serve as a baseline for future assessments. Report

Spawning coho salmon as seen from an aerial survey near Perryville Photo Credit: USFWS

Spawning coho salmon as seen from an aerial
survey near Perryville Photo Credit: USFWS

Assessment of Coho Salmon Escapements near Perryville (2003-2008)
This project on the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge was done to monitor the escapement of sockeye salmon in the Clark River to prevent over harvest of these small stocks and to ensure escapement is maintained to meet subsistence needs for residents of the Chignik villages. Runs of coho salmon in the Kametolook, Three Star, and Long Beach rivers near Perryville have declined, and residents can no longer meet their subsistence needs in those rivers. Local residents are now taking coho salmon from streams outside the immediate vicinity of Perryville. With fishing effort spread out to other streams, managers need to ensure escapement is maintained to meet the subsistence needs of the Native Village of Perryville. Report

 

View more reports by visiting the Alaska Region’s Fisheries Program Study Reports page.