Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) strives to provide salmon fisheries for all users in the Cook Inlet watershed. Many fish caught in various systems around Homer and Seward are a direct result of CIAA releases. It is common for people to assume that all the fisheries are for the commercial fishermen, but the CIAA Board of Directors understands each user group plays a role in fisheries use and management, therefore many programs are designed to benefit multiple user groups.
The foundation of CIAA’s stocking programs is the hatcheries. Tutka Bay Lagoon and Trail Lakes hatcheries are owned by the State of Alaska, and operated by CIAA on behalf of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). Port Graham and Eklutna Salmon hatcheries are owned by CIAA, although the latter is shut down.
Tutka Bay Lagoon and Port Graham hatcheries are pink salmon hatcheries. Anticipated returns in 2019 are strong, and recent operational improvements will allow for continued success and consistency to the annual returns around Homer, allowing residents to harvest these fish in local waters. Total exvessel value of these returns is around 5 to 6 million dollars. That dollar value is just the tip of the iceberg because the fish must then be transported, processed, packaged, and again shipped out resulting in additional economic benefit.
Trail Lakes Hatchery located in Moose Pass, is primarily a sockeye salmon facility but also rears and releases coho salmon. Annually CIAA stocks 2.4 million sockeye fry in Bear Lake and releases 1.54 million sockeye smolt from net pens located in Resurrection Bay. Nearly 100% of the adult sockeye returning to Resurrection Bay are directly from the hatchery stocking program. In 2018, the number of fish returning from these stocking programs was over 200,000.
Both the commercial fleet and recreational users benefit from this stocking effort. These are the fish harvested by sport fishermen at the mouth of Resurrection Bay in May and June of each year. This season the bag limit was increased from 6 to 12 fish due to the strong return!
In addition to the sockeye salmon, the recreational users in Seward benefit from the coho salmon returning to the Bear Lake drainage. On average CIAA stocks 450,000 coho salmon fry each year into Bear Lake. In cooperation with Seward Chamber of Commerce, CIAA releases an additional 50,000 to 75,000 coho salmon smolt annually into Bear Creek. Many of the returning adults are caught in the Silver Salmon Derby.
The Homer area also has a number of stocking programs from Trail Lakes Hatchery. Each year, CIAA stocks Hazel and Leisure (also called “China Poot”) lakes just across the bay from Homer with 1.25 and 2 million sockeye salmon fry respectively. These systems do not have natural salmon runs because barriers impede passage to the lakes. These types of fisheries are called “terminal fisheries,” and therefore are managed to allow full harvest of the adult salmon in saltwater.
A popular dip net fishery occurs in China Poot Bay that is made up of returning hatchery adults from this stocking effort.