Fishery enhancement projects can provide unanticipated research opportunities to reveal fundamental aspects of the biology of species being produced. Although Pacific salmon are well known for their abilities to migrate home to freshwaters for spawning, homing to marine release sites is not widely known or understood. For more than three decades, juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and coho salmon (O. kisutch) have been released into and subsequently homed back as adults to a nondescript semi-natural saltwater lagoon in Homer, Alaska, supporting a popular sport fishery. Through a case study of the fishery enhancement project at the “Homer Spit Fishing Hole”, also known as the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon (NDFL), we illustrate a rare example of homing to marine release sites by Pacific salmon. Our goals are to briefly review the history of the NDFL sport fishery and provide evidence of homing through patterns of release, angler harvest, and coded-wire tag recoveries. We discuss the potential for olfactory imprinting to marine-derived environmental cues in conjunction with geomagnetic imprinting and navigation that may be underpinning the ability for adult salmon to home to this marine release site. Although the proximate factors that allow homing to the NDFL remain unclear, we suggest that this peculiar fishery represents a serendipitous opportunity to explore patterns of migration, imprinting, and homing by Pacific salmon.
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Vol. 91 • No. 3