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. 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 coded-wire tagged indicator stocks used to measure the exploitation rate by the Alaska troll fishery and to estimate the overall abundance of wild coho salmon available to the fishery. Timely 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 goals.
The Hugh Smith Lake coho salmon population has been the only long-term, continuously operated wild coho indicator stock project in the northern boundary area, with a record of catch, escapement, smolt production, marine survival, and age composition estimates dating from 1982. The proposal would continue to fund operation of a smolt weir to enumerate and coded-wire tag coho salmon smolts emigrating from Hugh Smith Lake to generate total population estimates, including total smolt production, marine survival, exploitation rate, and catch by area, time, and gear type. Coho smolt estimates and tag recovery rates in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery will be used to generate inseason estimates of marine survival and total adult abundance for fishery management. Estimates of brood year smolt production and adult return by age class will be used to evaluate and refine the biological escapement goal. Counts and samples of sockeye salmon smolts are also obtained at the smolt weir and have been used to evaluate escapement goals and effectiveness of sockeye salmon stock enhancement efforts. The proposed project will continue a core stock assessment program needed to manage fisheries for coho salmon in the northern Boundary Area.