Salmon Fishing Area — Southeast Alaska
Fish harvesters use hooks and lines, trailed behind their vessels at low speed, to catch salmon. The hooks are attached to lures that imitate the salmon’s food, such as herring and squid. Salmon are individually hooked and the lines are pulled in with a hydraulic winch. However, fishermen must haul in each salmon by hand for the last 20 to 60 feet (6 to 18 metres)—a struggle in which the skill and agility of the harvester is paramount.
Trolling is a slow and selective method of harvesting salmon. Vessels average 40 feet (12 metres) in length and have a small crew who are often family members. Some captains even fish alone. Trollers usually fish offshore and can stay at sea for a week at a time, searching for areas where salmon school or feed. The most distinct feature of a salmon troller is its long poles secured to its mast by a crosstree. When fishing, the poles are spread apart forming a v-shape. The poles and four floats prevent the many fishing lines and lures from tangling while trolling at about three knots (5.6 km/h). Fish harvesters can have as many as 120 lures in the water at once, at depths of 10 to 360 feet (3 to 110 metres).
In the spring, North Coast trollers catch Chinook or “Spring” salmon and in the summer they target sockeye salmon. They can also catch chum, coho and pink salmon depending on their annual allocations.
Trolling has a low impact on marine habitats and a low rate of bycatch (unwanted fish). A number of controls address conservation in the salmon troll fishery. These include:
Ocean Wise - Recommended
SeaChoice - Best Choice
Marine Stewardship Council - In Assessment
Seafood Watch - Best Choice
Jul 01 - Sep 30
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in conjunction with the Canada-US Pacific Salmon Commission, manages this fishery. Click here for the most recent Salmon Fishery Management Plans.
Salmon stocks are assessed by scientists in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. For the most recent salmon stock forcast, click here.
Troll-caught salmon are known for their high quality and freshness. The slow-paced and selective nature of trolling means that each salmon is individually hauled aboard by hand, cleaned, washed and either iced or frozen at sea. Troll-caught salmon also tend to have little or no scarring. For this reason, quality—rather than quantity—is the hallmark of troll-caught wild salmon.
Some trollers freeze their catch at sea. The salmon are dipped in a saltwater glaze and flash-frozen to a core temperature of -30 degrees Celsius. The glaze prevents dehydration and locks in freshness. Freezing happens within only hours of the salmon being caught so that when the fish is thawed it has the quality of being freshly caught. That’s why fishermen refer to their catch as “fresh-frozen” and why frozen-at-sea salmon are highly sought after by sushi chefs.