Last week, I wrote about the life cycle of a coho salmon, and I mentioned cohos are the most aggressive species of Pacific Salmon. Their aggressive nature makes them a favorite target for anglers. Cohos can be caught in the ocean and their spawning streams. They hit a lure or a fly hard and are tenacious fighters, often leaping out of the water and running fast both away and toward the fisherman. Coho salmon are also an important commercial species, but there are not nearly as many cohos as there are pink, chum, or red salmon, so cohos are not as economically valuable to commercial fishermen as these other Pacific Salmon species. In this post, I will cover both the commercial and sport fisheries for coho salmon, and I will discuss the current status, threats, and trends of cohos in their native range.
Commercial Fishery for Cohos in Alaska
In most of the state, commercial fishermen catch coho salmon together with other salmon species by purse seining and gill netting. In Southeast Alaska, though, the majority of coho salmon are caught by the commercial troll fishery. In 2017, commercial salmon fishermen in Alaska harvested nearly 225 million Pacific Salmon. Five million coho accounted for 2% of the harvest, but due to their large size and a price of nearly $1.20 per pound, the commercial coho catch was worth 38 million dollars, or 6% of the total salmon harvest value.
Sport Fishery for Cohos in Alaska
The coho salmon is one of the most sought-after game fish in Alaska, and since the decline in king salmon numbers over the past few years, the sport fishery for cohos has become even more popular. Cohos are targeted by anglers in salt and fresh water from July through September in Alaska, and sport anglers catch nearly 1.5 million cohos every year in the state.
In salt water, cohos are mostly caught by trolling or mooching. Herring is a popular bait, and any jig that looks like a small fish works well. Cohos are not particular about the bait or the jig as long as the angler keeps the jig active. The biggest challenge of catching cohos in the ocean is finding them. They may be at any depth from the surface to eighty feet or deeper.
Cohos are more finicky once they enter their spawning stream when their bodies change shape and color, and they stop eating. They will still aggressively hit a lure or a fly even after they gain their spawning colors, but they often become shy of lures, especially on a sunny day. Popular freshwater lures for spin fishing include Pixee spoons, golf tees, and spinners.
Status and Threats for Cohos
Many coho salmon populations in California and the Pacific Northwest are threatened or endangered, but coho populations in Alaska are healthy. In the southern part of their range on the west coast of the United States, humans have altered much of the coho’s habitat by urban development, constructing dams, diverting streams and rivers for agriculture, recreation, mining, logging, and other human-related activities. Studies show that in most western states, 80 to 90 percent of the historic riparian habitat has been destroyed, and 53 percent of the wetlands in the lower 48 have been eliminated. California has lost 91% of its wetland habitat, and wetlands in Oregon and Washington have been diminished by one third. How can coho salmon with their complex lifecycle in fresh and salt water possibly thrive when much of the habitat they need to survive is gone?
Throughout their range, including Alaska, coho salmon will likely be impacted by warming ocean temperatures.
I am very excited to announce my new novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter, will be available at online booksellers on November 1st. I am nervous but thrilled as I await its release. I want to again thank all of you who pre-ordered my novel.
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