Snow Pass Coho Salmon

The unusual summer run of silver salmon that Whale Pass has become famous for is a very unique salmon run. There is no other place in Alaska with a run of this type where you can catch silvers on light tackle in the summer like you can at Whale Pass.

About 2 million eggs are collected and fertilized each year at Burnett Inlet Hatchery from adult fish. After the fry hatch about 1.6 million are moved by plane to net pens in Neck Lake on Prince of Wales Island while 200,000 are retained at Burnett Inlet as broodstock for the coming generation. All the fry moved to Neck Lake are reared in net pens through the summer and well into the fall of the year. The fish are taken off feed sometime in mid-November, at this point the water in Neck Lake is very cold and the fish enter a dormant state. As the water warms in the spring the fish in the pens are once again fed regularly for a short period prior to release. As the fish enter the smolting stage they are released from the pens. At this point the coho leave the lake over the small barrier falls at the outlet of Neck Lake and move to saltwater in Whale Pass and then Clarence Straits and points beyond.

After 14 months at sea these fish will return to Whale Pass and Neck Outlet where they left as smolt. As the fish return they will school off Neck Creek in the bay before they move into the stream. Dictated by the weather and tides they ultimately move in waves up the stream. Once in the stream the barrier falls below the lake prevent them from returning to Neck Lake. The fish that are not caught by sport fishermen and commercial fishing boats in the nearby waters enter a small raceway fed with Neck Lake water which guides the fish to holding pens. Here they are harvested, put on ice, shipped to the fresh fish market and sold under the brand name of Snow Pass Coho to fund the project. For more information about this special run of salmon visit the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association website.

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