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Thread: What's up with Sweetheart C. sockeye (SE fans)?

  1. #1
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    Default What's up with Sweetheart C. sockeye (SE fans)?

    Having made a date for my annual trek from Juneau down to Sweetheart C. for sockeye this week I was surprised by the overwhelming silence on the subject from all you Southeasterners. Well, I think I have a clue after yesterday's trip - not much to report. In fact this was the first time ever the whole trip was a bust for sockeye. Having been warned that as of late the humpies were in thick and so were the bears, come to find out it that it was true, except even the bears weren't in much abundance.

    We got down there tuesday night in the rain and fog to find only one boat anchored up - not a good sign to start. Then after a leisurely breakfast on board we hit the beach and slithered up the -4.0 tideflats in wader-sucking mud in front of the trail sign - bad stretch there on the minus tides I found out.

    We get to the creek and we had it all to ourselves and humpies were in so thick it would make an oldtime creek robber smile ear to ear. Going up the north side of the creek, we didn't even try the first pool, but the second one where they usually thin out pretty well probably had around a 1000 it looked. After sight casting the castnet to the one or two sockeye that got pushed to the edge of the humpy crowd 8 or 9 times, we gave up on that one too because it took too much time picking out the dozen or so pinks we ended up with in every cast and zip sockeye. In the final pool the flow was just too high to get out to cast out effectively where the sockeyes were flipping us off with their tails although my buddy can get our 6 footer out there quite aways. We finally gave up mid-afternoon, just as a brown bear sow and her two large cubs checked out the second pool (between us and the trail out). They were getting enough humpies on their own not to try and hold us up, not that we had anything for them anyway.

    I have one more trip already scheduled down there for next week, but unless my other buddy wants humpies, it looks like it's already too late for sockeye. Talking with the DIPAC manager for the Snettisham hatchery, the report for their returns is pretty dismal too. They've stopped their cost recovery harvest and the broodstock is barely dribbling in, so they don't even recommend stopping by for any snagging out in front of the broodstock area. So if you are planning a trip down don't count on any sockeye. It's still a beautiful trip to take for the scenery, the bear pictures and I understand that dungy fishing isn't too bad - maybe even halibut coming up to the creek for the humpies too. Would love to hear your reports on the matter. Hope you got in there early enough for a few reds.

  2. #2
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    went down right after you posted this and had a similar experience. lots o bear and no sockeye. there were three guys on the left side of the creek 2nd pool up who were having some luck with a cast net, but they were probably getting one sockeye to 30 pink. I left after half a day wrestling in pinks with out seeing a single sockeye. thinking about going down again this weekend with a cast net and maybe some spearfishing gear (if its legal, havent figured that out yet). Have you been back there yet? still trying to decide whether its worth the effort...

  3. #3
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    Here's an update for you. About 10 days ago the sockeye finally showed up at both Speel Lake weir and at Snett hatchery, though not in really great numbers. DIPAC's cost recovery at the hatchery is still going on, though below their low return projection at this point, and Speel Arm gillnet fishery is still going, so the fish are there, though late and below average return numbers at this point. Last weekend I heard reports of one group getting over 100, another group getting around 70, and another group zip like me due to humpies. It sounds like the humpies are still clogging the first two pools, so you have to fish the upper ones - that being problematic on creek level and type of gear/experience for the area.

    Spear fishing is legal, but the only time I've seen anyone in action was a guy wearing a dive dry suit, mask and snorkel working off the point on the first pool. He got fish, but one at a time and most were speared behind the head, so it looked like a pretty inefficient way to go with a guarantee of wasted meat. Another guy I know wears his dry suit to dipnet the lower pool from the middle, but I don't know how that'd work with the present abundance of humpies.

    I am seriously considering another trip down this weekend, so I'll give you an update later if I go. It's been a different year for me there, for sure.

  4. #4
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    Here's my last and final update for the season. I celebrated my birthday yesterday with a final fling at Sweetheart with a new fishing buddy that hadn't been there before and wanted to experience it. Water was pretty flat going down and a few sucker holes appeared as we pulled into the bay, so it appeared like an auspicious start. We were greeted at the beach by the sow with the two cubs that have been hanging out there all season, but they were off aways and just checking out the beach for breakfast - hardly even gave us a glance. We were the only boat in the bay and had the creek all to ourselves the whole day, so an obvious sign of end-of-season.

    The creek was the lowest I've ever seen it, about knee high on the riffles below the first falls, so our waders were definitely overkill. Humpies were probably at the peak of their spawning run and the first three pools were still plugged with them, so we headed up the the top pool. The sockeye were fairly abundant but dark - not fire engine red yet - so we gave it a go. Unfortunately I hadn't practised up on my cast netting as another buddy has been doing the honors the last few years with my other trips, so I was pretty rusty. By the time I got back into form again, the fish were spooked away into midstream out of my range and pretty much stayed that way the rest of the time we were there. We go lucky a few times in the deep cove on the right, but only came away with five sockeye. Even If I'd been throwing perfect circles from the git-go, I doubt that we would have gotten more than 20-30 as the fish densities were not that much.

    I think that it's just been a low year there for sockeye in general, so better luck next year.

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