• Rafters on the Alganak Wild River

    Alagnak

    Wild River Alaska

Fish

Salmon drying racks
Salmon drying racks
NPS Photo
 

Fish species on the Alagnak include king salmon, silver salmon, red salmon, chum salmon, rainbow trout, char, grayling, northern pike, Aleutian sculpin, slimy sculpin, Alaska blackfish, three spine stickleback, Japanese lamprey, round whitefish, and nine spine stickleback.

Sport fishing, commercial fishing, and subsistence fishing all occur on the Alagnak. All types of fishing are reliant upon the success of the salmon life cycle. The life cycle of salmon vividly expresses the significance of one element within an ecosystem.

Salmon are born in freshwater and remain there as long as 2 years until they are large enough to begin their long journey downstream to ocean waters. Salmon reside up to 3 years in the saltwater where they grow to be large fish with a silver sheen. Each summer, the five species of Pacific salmon return to their birthplace in the Alagnak River to spawn and die. As they migrate upstream by the hundreds of thousands, the salmon undergo incredible morphological changes. By the time a male sockeye salmon reaches its destination, it has turned a brilliant red and developed a distinctive humped back. Through this remarkable journey, salmon provide nutrients to support virtually every animal and plant species that call the Alagnak home. For example rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, char, and arctic char eat salmon eggs, juveniles and decaying salmon. As the carcasses decompose, they supply nutrients causing insect populations to thrive. Consequently, even the arctic grayling, a fish that eats primarily aquatic insects, benefits from the presence of salmon. In addition, many other species along the Alagnak such as the bald eagle and the Alaskan brown bear flourish as a result of the salmon's extraordinary migration. Therefore, salmon populations must be carefully managed to ensure a healthy future for the Alagnak Wild River.

The large salmon runs in Bristol Bay are subject to a carefully managed commercial harvest prior to their arrival in individual rivers including the Alagnak. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game allows commercial fishing only when there are enough fish to meet sufficient population numbers for spawning populations, subsistence, and sport fishing. The Alagnak's extraordinary rainbow trout, char, grayling, and abundant salmon are some of the most attractive sport fish in the world, and the river has become the most popular fly-in fishing location in all of southwest Alaska. Although the fishing is exceptional, these prized sports fish are still vulnerable to overfishing. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game carefully monitors the populations to ensure that the present regulations maintain the long-term stability of the Alagnak sport fishery. Subsistence fishing on the Alagnak is for local rural residents only. During the summer camps are set up on the river and fish are gathered for smoking, salting, canning and freezing. Salmon harvested in the summer is the primary food source for subsistence users year round.

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