By Charlotte Westing and Jay Baumer
For The Cordova Times
Summer is starting to wind down. Salmonberries are gone, the fireweed has worked its way up the stalk, and a few cranes can be heard overhead. Perhaps the best way to tell though is the number of cars that can be seen parked near the Ibeck River. As you head out to wet a line and try to get some silver (coho) salmon of your own there are a few things to keep in mind.
You’re not the only one looking for salmon. Cordova is the home of both brown and black bears. They, like many of us, depend on the salmon as part of their diet. The majority of bears will avoid humans when possible unless they have become habituated.
When fishing in bear country there are a few things you can do to keep bears from becoming habituated and avoid a close or negative encounter.
- Make noise while hiking to avoid startling a bear.
- Be aware of your surroundings and stop fishing when bears are near. A splashing fish on your line can attract bears.
- Carry bear spray or other forms of deterrent and have it handy. Bear spray in the bottom of your pack doesn’t do you any good when you need it in a hurry.
- Bear spray can be very effective when used properly and can save you and the bear’s life. If you choose to carry a firearm, use extreme caution and be aware of others that may be just around the bend.
Being a responsible angler can make fishing safer for you, safer for the bears, and others that use the area. Avoid leaving fish, bait, and fish carcasses at trailheads and along stream banks that can attract bears. You may notice that there is no longer a cleaning station on the Ibeck River. Process fish and dispose of carcasses at designated cleaning stations (two at the boat harbor and one north of town by the burn pile) this will keep carcasses from stacking up in the river during low water. Leaving a mess attracts bears, and causes them to associate anglers with food. In the past bears have also figured out how to get fish stringers, open coolers, and get lunches from backpacks. Don’t give a bear an easy meal.
As responsible anglers, you need to know the fishing regulations for waters you are fishing. When you get your fishing license, pick up a sport fish regulation book and familiarize yourself with the ins and outs. For example, felt soled wading boots are not allowed for fishing or hunting in Alaska. Also, a snagged fish, (a fish hook elsewhere then inside the mouth), should be immediately released unless you are in an area that allows snagging as a legal method.
Below are a few reminders about the sport fish regulations for local popular hot spots.
The Copper River Highway streams:
- The limit for coho salmon is three per day and three in possession. That is not three fish from each stream along the highway. Once you catch your three fish, you are done for harvesting fish for the day unless you go to place that has a higher bag limit like the Cordova Terminal Harvest Area (six per day, 12 in possession). If you have already harvested three coho from the Copper River Highway streams you could catch three more from the Cordova Terminal Harvest Area. Although if you go to Cordova Terminal Harvest Area first and you catch three coho you cannot harvest anymore from any of the Cordova River Highway Streams.
- For those fishing with bait, once you harvest your bag limit of three coho salmon you are not allowed to continue fishing with bait for the rest of the day.
- Also a coho salmon that is removed from the water becomes part of your daily bag limit. So if you are not planning on keeping the fish, leave it in the water.
- Sport anglers are eager to catch fun, beautiful, and delicious fish. Obeying the regulations will keep fisheries healthy and sustainable for future generations.
For more information about fishing safely in bear country and sport fishing regulations pick up your handy sport fishing regulation summary or visit us online at www.adfg.alaska.gov or contact your local Fish and Game office at 424-3215.
Written by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service. Charlotte Westing is a wildlife area biologist for ADFG and Jay Baumer is a sportfish area biologist for ADFG.