Chignik River starts at Black Lake and flows southeast for 20 miles (32 km) to Chignik Lagoon, about 9 miles (14.5 km) west of Chignik, Alaska. The name was first reported in 1899 by Lieutenant Commander J.F. Moser, of the U.S. Navy, and captain of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries steamer Albatross, “after Chignik Bay”.
The Chignik Lake system is located on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula and produces the vast majority of salmon in the region. The watershed includes two interconnected lakes. The upper lake is Black Lake, with about 10,130 acres (4100 ha), that is extremely shallow, 10 feet maximum depth (3 m), and very turbid. Black Lake drains via the Black River into Chignik Lake that is smaller at 5,436 acres (2200 ha), relatively deep, 210 feet (64 m) and is surrounded by precipitous mountains. The outlet of Chignik Lake flows into Chignik Lagoon, a very large semi-enclosed estuary, and then into the Gulf of Alaska.
The salmon populations are tightly managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game primarily using data from the numbers of fish caught and escapement. The escapement is the number of fish that “escape” the fishery and return to their natal streams to spawn. In the Chignik system, the escapement is measured from aerial surveys and counts at a fish weir on the Chignik River using digital video equipment and acoustic sonar. Read more here and here. Changes in Black Lake may be causing the loss of this important salmon habitat. Read more here. Explore more of the Chignik River and lagoon here: