The Hugh Smith Lake coho salmon population is substantially exploited by mixed-stock fisheries in both the U.S. and Canada and is, therefore, a key indicator stock used to monitor total adult abundance and escapements, and the pattern and intensity of exploitation by these fisheries on populations in the northern boundary area. It is the only system in the southern portion of Southeast Alaska where a total count (with back-up mark-recapture estimate) of coho salmon escapement has been routinely collected since 1982. Its location 70 km southeast of Ketchikan makes it a particularly strategic indicator stock for boundary area fisheries. It has also been one of three key indicator stocks used to measure the overall abundance of wild coho salmon available to the Alaska troll fishery and to measure the exploitation rate by the fishery.
The Northern Fund has helped us to continue operation of a weir to enumerate adult coho salmon returning to Hugh Smith Lake, and supports helicopter surveys that broaden escapement assessment to 14 additional streams that have been systematically surveyed annually since 1987–allowing continuation of a core stock assessment program needed to manage fisheries for coho salmon in the Northern Boundary Area. Escapement projections are made from both the cumulative weir count and estimation models based on recovery of coded-wire tags to provide real-time information for management of fisheries for escapement. Peak helicopter survey counts at other Boundary Area streams provide an index with greater coverage that complements higher resolution assessment at Hugh Smith Lake.
2016 is year 1 of a proposed 2-year program.