Early snowmelt and low precipitation have led to low river water levels on the southern Seward Peninsula. Low water levels may be a contributing factor in observations of poor fishing, and poor fish health, along the western coast of Alaska.
Observation by Leigh Takak:
Elim commercial fishing is poor this year, hardly any salmon. I monitor the Tubutulik River as a Watershed Coordinator. This past month the water level is low. The deepest part of our transect was only 2 feet deep. The temp and dissolved oxygen was better than last year though.
Rick Thoman, Climate Scientist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, writes:
Low rain for sure: it was the driest July-August at Nome since 2002 and the second driest in the past 40 years. Early snowmelt (and unlike the previous couple of springs, not an excessive snowpack on the Seward Peninsula) started the rivers off low, and then the lack of rain kept them that way. Nome lucked out and the biggest rain of the summer came in late June, just in time to raise river levels and cool off the water just as salmon were returning.
Comments from LEO Editors:
This summer, two other LEO members have commented on how low water has affected fishing and fish health. In Nome, low water has prevented people from traveling to usual fishing areas. Low water may have also contributed to stress that caused eggs to die in a coho salmon caught near Quinhagak.