U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Gard, Richard, and Richard Lee Bottorff. 2014. A History of Sockeye Salmon Research, Karluk River System, Alaska, 1880–2010. U.S. Dept. of Commer. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/SPO-125, 413 p.


doi: 10.7755/TMSPO.125


One of Alaska’s most famous runs of sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, returns each year to spawn in the pristine waters of the Karluk River drainage on Kodiak Island. The sheer magnitude and long duration of the run are remarkable. Within recorded history, this run has, in peak years, exceeded 4,000,000 fish, a wondrous spectacle of nature. This abundance is particularly striking since, physically, the Karluk River is relatively small when compared with other notable salmon-stream systems of Alaska and the Pacific Coast. Such vibrant profusion has riveted human attention for as long as people have occupied Kodiak Island, an interest most often centered on the high value of these salmon as human food, for both direct subsistence and commercial profit. This species also has been intensely scrutinized by scientists for well over a century, with the goal of understanding all features of its life history and biology that help to sustain healthy runs. Likewise, attention has been focused on these sockeye salmon for aesthetic and spiritual reasons, to appreciate the untold intricacies and innate diversity of life that so superbly thrives in the beautiful Karluk River ecosystem.