The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix Log 

Salmon numbers on the rise at BC weir


Tommy Wells

Seasonal Technician Kelli Palaka releases a salmon into a chute that enables it to pass through the weir on its way to Bear Lake. The weir guarantees a sustainable number of fish pass through to Bear Lake each summer.

Right now, the number of adult salmon and smolt making their way through the Bear Creek Weir is small and easily manageable. That could all change in the coming days, however.

The numbers are expected to increase dramatically over the next few days as more and more coho and sockeye return to Resurrection Bay and begin their trips to spawning grounds.

"It (the run) has really just started," said Kelly Palaka, a Seasonal Technician from upstate New York. "I think it'll be slow for another week and then it will pick up."

The numbers have been increasing well over the past month as far as smolt totals have been concerned. Since counting 9 on May 4, the weir has tracked more than 1 million sockeye as part of its enumeration process. The largest single day mark for smolt was June 2 when 92,500 were recorded. The coho numbers have also been solid. Through June 4, more than 33,000 have been collected, including a high of 5,516 on June 2.

Palaka said the smolts began running in late April.

The adult sockeye totals are also mounting. Through June 4, the weir has an escapement total of 9,503. The first fish came through on May 25. Since, about 50 sockeye per day have made their way through the weir and headed to Bear Lake.

No preliminary numbers have been reported for coho as of June 4.

As part of its operation, the Bear Creek Weir guarantees an escapement of 13,000 adults to Bear Lake. Once the escapement totals have been met, the remainder are harvested and sold to Icicle Seafoods as a way to fund the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association program.

In addition to guaranteeing a sustainable supply of sockeye and coho salmon to Bear Lake, the weir has also become an attraction for visitors. Palaka said the facility is visited by at least one bus every day as a way to allow visitors to get close to the fish.

"We get a lot of people coming out to see the fish," she said. "It is pretty neat if you are not from the area to come out and see Alaska salmon."

The salmon run at Bear Creek will continue through July before it begins to slow.


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