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Thread: Copper River Water Level

  1. #1

    Default Copper River Water Level

    As reported in my 2012 Trip Report v1.0 the water level rose dramatically before the opener Thursday. When we arrived at Salmon Point on Monday night, the rock looked like it did in the picture below (from a previous trip).



    Sock and Chin were streaming up that gap heading for the ilk of Grayling Slayer above the bridge. It was way better than TV and cheered us greatly.

    The weather Tuesday and Wednesday was so gorgeous, I had to stick my head in the fish pool to cool off. Consequently, there was an immediate and rapid rise in the river level, debris load, and sediment. Water color went from grey to brownish grey. Debris went from occasional sticks to a steady stream of trees.

    The actual level of the river was not a problem for fishing. In fact, I was hoping for an even slightly higher level to get the back eddy in the cove around the corner to work correctly. I have fished and limited out there many times - nay - every time with equal or higher water levels in that location.

    So I'm thinking that it was NOT the level of the river, but the rapidity of the physical and chemical changes that stopped our target species in their tracks and sent us packing back to our urban caves fishless. Methinks they're getting acclimated to the new chemistry and sniffing out traces of their home waters before continuing on with their mission.

    What think you?

  2. #2

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    I agree with that theory, it seems like when there has been a major change in water level, either rising or dropping, the fishing slows. I wouldn't doubt that the influence of glacial and snow melt throws off the chemistry in the water a little which messes with their senses. I expect a lot of fish are holding up and will start pushing through again during the next couple of days now that the water level has stabilized. I'm just hoping by Thursday no major changes are on the way, and the fish don't book through like the first surge did. I'm ready for some finominal dipping.

  3. #3
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    What is the time estaminet of when the fish will be passing through again, and does anyone know what the current fish report it on the river?

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    Member killer instinct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrizzlyMike View Post
    What is the time estaminet of when the fish will be passing through again, and does anyone know what the current fish report it on the river?
    Sounds like now! Just got a report in from a friend's fishwheel - had 200 this a.m.

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    What about the dipping in from shore how are they doing. I don't have a boat or a fish wheel but I have a net that I would love to load up with fish. Need to feed the family, so how is the dip net fishing doing from the shore?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrizzlyMike View Post
    What about the dipping in from shore how are they doing. I don't have a boat or a fish wheel but I have a net that I would love to load up with fish. Need to feed the family, so how is the dip net fishing doing from the shore?
    Crappy; would sum it up! lol...... Dipping period is slow right now. I'm hoping for this weekend.

  7. #7

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    "What thinks me?" Me thinks dipping last weekend was the most pathetic attempt at filling the freezer in my Chitina history!! The next time I get tempted to go in June someone please kick me in the *(#$^&#%! I'm sticking with late July or early August from now on because 600+ miles twice a summer SUCKS. Oh well, good look to everyone.

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    dipping above the bridge sunday was a joke

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    I thought the joke was the people filing into obrien Thursday evening when we were leaving with our fish who had no clue what to do and their coolers in this 100 yd line.

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    River still coming up... Stay home.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaskan XL View Post
    River still coming up... Stay home.
    You just get back? If the fish are in, will the high water keep someone from getting them (either boat or shore)? Thinking about a road trip to Klutina and Copper this weekend, but if it's a sure bust at Copper I might just save my fuel.

  12. #12

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    Clarifying the Water Level discussion:

    Seems to me, that the conflict this year between our expected outcomes from the huge early escapement numbers and what we experienced the opening weekend needs to be postulated.

    I'm thinking that it wasn't the height of the water level at all that was the problem. In fact, many of us have done great with higher water levels in the past than we saw during the opener.

    I'm thinking that so much crud from early season snow melt eroding banks, dumping inorganic and organic matter into the river so quickly that it radically changed the water chemistry. Anybody notice the color of the streams on the drive to Chitina? I stopped at the Little Nelchina and it almost looked muddy brown.

    So with the water chemistry suddenly and radically different, that huge slug of salmon heading upriver to the DZ just stopped in their tracks, maybe even disoriented from losing the sense of their home waters.

    Many of the fish we encountered last weekend in the lower reaches of the DZ looked like they had been in fresh water a long time. Signs of decay on dorsal fins, tails, and even heads was pronounced. These may have been some of the fish we were expecting further up the pike, but were hanging out waiting for the right scents.

    We also encountered a disproportionate number of fresh females on Thursday and Friday, and I noticed a much higher percentage of fresh males on Saturday when the catch rate had slowed way off in the same area we'd been. I'm no salmonologist, but I'm thinking that those fresh fish were a new bunch on the move that we happened to encounter the forward and trailing edge of.

    Just my $0.02 worth.

  13. #13
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    Disagree - I think the monster pulse of fish early on smoked up the river in a hurry, with a large amount of fish just squeaking thru prior to the PU opening. Combining (A) very early return, (B) low water levels at the time (and thus less velocity/easier traveling) and (C) reports of wheels far up river getting slammed first week of June in unheard of numbers = they beat us to the punch. Without sonar running upriver there's really no empirical way to tell or compare...

    All the sockeye except ONE we caught this past weekend were all chrome - quick moving fish. We usually see about 50-70% of the sockeye being blush or starting to turn. Even the kings we observed were in excellent shape, instead of the usual blush/beat up looking fish.

    We all have our mojo methods for predicting run timing on how to schedule the trip... There's so much variation out there the best thing is just to plan for a leisurely 4-5 day trip, put in your time, and if you slam then head home a bit early. Watching folks do the quick 36 hour marathon power trip makes me realize how old I'm getting

    What this all adds up to is a killer escapement which means 3-5 years out we should all be fishing early again.

  14. #14

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    You could be right. As mentioned in the first post on this thread, we witnessed a steady stream of fish at Salmon Point when we arrived on Monday night, the 4th. They could easily have been from the huge mob taking advantage of the low water and going for home in a hurry.

    What I don't understand, though, is that the numbers were still plenty high for an excellent opener Thursday 12:01am on, and the water level wasn't high like I've seen it at the point before. Catch rate went from slow to zero.

    If the Board of Fish hadn't changed the opening date to the from the 1st to the 7th, we'd have been done and gone that weekend. Not complaining or whining, now, but a new entry has been written on my list of "Things that don't make sense."

  15. #15
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    Yeah, it's really hard to say; I suspect you're right about your observation on the 4th - boy I bet that was frustrating to watch them just keep coming and then peter out.

    When did the date get changed? Are you referring to historical opening dates, or was an EO/etc released changing it with short notice? I didn't catch that event... As we usually don't go this early anyway, I don't track it that closely until nearing game day.

    On a related note - has anyone ever tried to detect/measure fish presence with a good old fish finder on the Copper? I've only had them in my salt boats over the years, never put one on a jetboat yet. Wonder how well it would work with high silt load, turbulence, rough bottom, etc?

    Anyone tried this and have any reports? Curious to see if you could watch all those kings sneaking by....

  16. #16

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    BOF changed it in December 2011. The announcement is here: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishingSportFishingInfo.NR&NRID=156 9&year=2012

    Pertinent text is:
    A proposal was adopted that changed the opening date of the Chitina Subdistrict Personal Use Dip Net Fishery. The fishery can open on June 7 and must open on or before June 15, previously the fishery could open on June 1 and had to open on or before June 11. This action was taken in conjunction with the Board allowing only one fishing period within the inside closure area in the Copper River District commercial fishery during the first two weeks of the season. The Board also ruled there was no new information and no errors in previous rulings in the C&T determination for the Chitina Subdistrict. As a result, the Chitina Subdistrict remains a personal use fishery.

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