Juneau Nature

Natural & cultural history of Juneau & Southeast Alaska

Juneau Nature - Natural & cultural history of Juneau & Southeast Alaska

Fish

Selected fresh and saltwater species

Although salmon get all the press, they are not the only keystone fish in our region. Here’s a few excerpts from what my coauthor Bob Armstrong wrote in his introduction to the fish chapters in The Nature of Southeast Alaska:

Together, our fresh and salt waters support millions of fish. A total of 521 fish species are known to occur in all of Alaska. Of these, 309 or 59% are in the waters of Southeast. . .

Freshwater and anadromous fish—Salmon, trout, char, stickleback, and sculpin complete the list for most of Southeast Alaska’s fresh waters. In freshwater systems with sea access, sculpin and stickleback may be the only true year-round residents.

A sampling of Southeast Alaska’s freshwater and anadromous fishes. Grayling are not native to Southeast, but have been introduced to some lakes. Not to scale.

A sampling of Southeast Alaska’s freshwater and anadromous fishes. Grayling are not native to Southeast, but have been introduced to some lakes. Not to scale.

Marine fish—In contrast to our fresh waters, the marine waters of Southeast  contain hundreds of fish species. The most common are flatfish, cod, rockfish, sculpins, skates, sablefish, herring, smelt, salmon, char, Pacific sand lance, and stickleback.

Southeast marine waters abound with huge schools of small, slim, silvery fish, often seen breaking the water’s surface when pursued by predators. Most often seen here are Pacific sand lance, Pacific herring, eulachon, and capelin. Collectively, they feed mature salmon, trout, and char. Humpback whales and marbled murrelets also rely on these fish as a food source. Pacific herring support a multimillion-dollar commercial fishery.

The cod family—Pacific cod, Pacific tomcod, walleye pollock—abounds in our marine waters. The Pacific cod is of major commercial importance along the North Pacific coast, where it is marketed for the fresh and frozen market and made into fish sticks. With global cod declines, walleye pollock has been increasingly targeted by domestic and foreign fisheries, especially for popular imitation crab (surimi). These fisheries impact many Alaskan marine mammals and seabirds. A cod look-alike is the commercially important sablefish, or black cod—so fatty it tastes like butter—caught in trawls, in traps, and on longlines

We have around 30 species of rockfish. . . , among the longest-lived and latest-maturing of all fish. Most Southeast species have a maximum age of over 60. As their name implies, many live in reefs and rocky areas.

Sampling of the marine fishes of Southeast Alaska. Not to scale.

Sampling of the marine fishes of Southeast Alaska. Not to scale.

Obviously, from Bob’s introduction, we can expect a much broader ‘fish story’ than what we called the Southeast entrée—pink and chum salmon (sidebar, page 195, Nature of Southeast Alaska). But they’re probably the most visible, especially to an opportunist videographer like me (eg, below).  For amazing underwater movies and still photos of a wide variety of species, visit naturebob.

spawntilyoudie from Richard Carstensen on Vimeo.

Mostly hatchery strays have taken over the natural run in Saturday Creek, at the Methodist Camp on Eagle River. When we visited for wetland surveys in late July, 2014, the creek was dewatered just above the footbridge. Probably due to beaver diversions in the headwaters.

So far, there’s just 2 subpages under Fish:

Salmonids, which includes trout and char as well as salmon, and

Groundfish, a term for groups like rockfish and cod.