Fisheries and Watershed Management

Tongass employee Jessica Davila in full snorkeling gear
Fisheries biologist Jessica Davila snorkeling Twelvemile Creek on Prince of Wales Island


The Tongass National Forest is water-rich, and our abundant waters provide spawning and rearing habitat for the majority of fish produced in southeast Alaska. Tongass rivers, lakes, and streams produce an estimated 22 percent of Alaska’s annual commercial salmon catch and 75 percent of the annual southeast Alaska commercial salmon catch (approximately 40 million salmon), with a dockside value of over $68 million annually. Additionally, from 2010-2019, southeast Alaska attracted 120,000 sport anglers annually who caught nearly 780,000 salmon each year.

Over 12,930 miles of stream and 3,432 lakes and ponds totaling 182,483 acres support and produce wild salmon on the Tongass. Protection of this habitat and water quality are a focal point of our agency, along with that of our partners, coordinating agencies, and stakeholders. We work to ensure healthy fish populations and clean water for future generations. Continuing to minimize stressors in times of rapidly changing climates will likely play a role in maintaining the resilience of salmon and ecosystems on the Tongass.

The Tongass National Forest works in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) who has an amazing tool box of fishing information, fishing calendars, fish timing charts, maps and species., broken down by areas to help you plan your fishing trip. Not sure which area and/or cabin on the Tongass NF to choose to match up with your trip? Our Recreation Fishing page can help you narrow down your choices.

Watershed Restoration 

The restoration of riparian ecosystems is a priority of the Tongass National Forest due to the valuable salmon fishery that is dependent on healthy stream habitat. Approximately 93% of 900+ watersheds on the Tongass are in near natural condition with the remainder potentially “at risk” for maintaining ecological function due to past management practices.  Restoration efforts are designed to complement protection measures and increase the overall distribution and number of healthy watersheds and the valuable resources they provide.  Analyses of watershed condition identifies critical actions necessary to improve proper ecosystem function, frequently including a suite of activities such as remediation of fish barriers at road-stream crossings, riparian and wildlife habitat improvements in young-growth forests, large wood placement to restore floodplain and stream functions, and road storage and decommissioning.  Partnerships are fundamental to improving watershed condition in the Tongass and across all ownerships, and the roles of partnerships will continue to grow and provide strength to the Watershed Restoration program in southeast Alaska. 

Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) Fish Passage 

The Forest Service is responsible for approximately 3,652 road-fish stream crossings across its approximate 5,000-mile network of roads. That responsibility includes maintaining and repairing/replacing crossing structures to ensure unimpeded fish passage.  Partners have been  key to meeting passage remediation objectives and strengthening relationships between communities, stakeholders, and land managers

Fish Pass Program

Culvert in place under road, above creek
AOP culvert restoration on Hoonah Ranger District

Fish passes are intended to bypass natural stream barriers that have prevented salmon and steelhead from using available adult spawning and juvenile rearing habitat. Only the most strategic and promising barriers are selected for fish pass installation, and currently the Tongass contains 64 successful modifications, resulting in 574 stream miles (nearly a 4% increase) and 5,531 acres of lake habitat (a 3% increase) made accessible for salmon production. The Forest annually prioritizes funds for maintenance, and also for retrofitting of existing structures on a planned and programmed schedule.

Landslide Monitoring

Soil Scientists completed a forest-wide landslide frequency analysis in 2020 based on a landslide inventory that covers 49 years. The inventory found that on average the forest experiences about 102 landslides a year impacting approximately 242 acres. Landslide frequency was driven by localized, high intensity storm events and that the frequency of storm events and landslides appears to be increasing. 

Stream Temperature Monitoring 

Forest Fish Program Manager Sheila Jacobson stands in Luck Creek on Price of Wales IslandForest Fish Program Manager Sheila Jacobson stands in Luck Creek on Price of Wales Island

The Tongass is an active participant in a region-wide stream temperature monitoring project that seeks to understand long-term trends in stream temperature, the landscape scale factors that influence it and the resulting effects on fish and the insects they eat. The project is led by the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and the data is managed out of the University of Southeast. Our role is to help maintain 25  of the 108 sites across the region.

Share Your Photos with Us

We'd love for you to share some of your photos of fishing around the Tongass NF with us. Not to worry, you don't have to give up the location of your lucky fishing hole, although you may if you wish. Use the tag #TongassFishing on Twitter and/or tag us in your photos @TongassNF for Facebook & Twitter. We invite you to peruse our photo library here.

A fisher with his king salmon A father and his two children fish on the banks near a tree Jessica Davila with her salmon