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Fish and Game mishap at Anchorage hatchery leads to death of thousands of king salmon smolt

Dead King Salmon smolt at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game William Jack Hernandez Sport...
Dead King Salmon smolt at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage(ADF&G)
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 9:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Thousands of king salmon smolt were found dead at the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage this week.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game posted two photos of the dead smolt on Facebook explaining what happened on Thursday.

“There was an incident that occurred here early this week where we lost about 25,000 chinook salmon smolt,” ADF&G Statewide Communications Coordinator for the Div. of Sport Fish, Ryan Ragan said.

The king salmon smolt was being imprinted in the holding ponds near Ship Creek when Ragan says high water levels caused the pools to overflow. Ragan said they haven’t seen that high of water levels at Ship Creek since the 1960s and it caused poor water visibility.

“Our staff took action and was going to clean out that whole system,” Ragan said. “We didn’t realize due to low visibility in the water that there was still fish remaining in here. So the water was shut off and over the course of the day, the oxygen levels in the water depleted and a lot of those fish expired.”

On Monday, a person walking by the holding pools saw smolt belly up and notified Fish and Game. In total, Ragan said about 25,000 smolt died, which is about 4% of the total number of fish they stock in Ship Creek. He believes it won’t have a major impact on future fish returns for the stream.

“It’s unfortunate it does happen and we are assuring the public that we are taking steps now based on what this incident brought us and taught us that we won’t see an event like this occur again,” Ragan said.

Every year, Fish and Game stocks over 600,000 king salmon smolt into Ship Creek. The popular downtown Anchorage stream is open to king salmon fishing daily between 6:00 a.m. and 11 p.m. through July 13.

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