Credit:  AK Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)

As salmon fisheries open across Alaska, the harvest is expected to be a big one with eager markets awaiting the wild fish.

Fishery managers are forecasting a statewide catch topping 190 million salmon, 61% higher than last year’s take of just over 118 million fish. The boost this year is due mostly to an expected surge of those hard to predict pinks.

In its Run Forecasts and Harvest Projections for 2021 Alaska Salmon Fisheries and Review of the 2020 Season, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides breakdowns for all species by region.

Projected catches for 2021 and comparisons to last year include a harvest of 46.6 million sockeye salmon, a 203,000 fish increase.

A catch of 3.8 million cohos would be 1.4 million higher than last year.

For chums, 15.3 million would be 6.7 million more fish.

A harvest of 296,000 Chinook salmon would be a boost of  4,000 and for pinks, a haul of 124.2 million humpies is a 63.5 million increase, or nearly 49% higher.

Bristol Bay is again expected to rule the day with a harvest of 36.35 million reds from the region’s nine river systems, 13% higher than the 10 year average.

At Southeast, the total all-species take for the region is projected at 40.2 million fish with “average” pink salmon catches pegged at 28 million.

The Copper River sockeye catch is projected at a meager 844,000 fish along with 13,000 Chinook salmon.

Prince William Sound’s total salmon harvest calls for nearly 60 million fish, of which nearly 55 million are pinks.

Upper Cook Inlet fishermen are projected to take just over 2 million salmon this summer, including 1.64 million sockeyes.

At Lower Cook Inlet the all-salmon forecast calls for a harvest of 3.2 million fish, of which 1.8 million are pinks.

 Kodiak fishermen are expected to haul in 25.6 million salmon, including two million sockeyes and 22.5 million pinks.  Fishermen at the South Alaska Peninsula could have an “excellent” humpy haul of nearly 13 million.

At Chignik, a catch of 3.1 million salmon is projected of mostly pinks.

For the Arctic-Yukon Kuskokwim region, managers predict below average fisheries across the board, including a catch of just over half a million chum salmon.

Meanwhile, at Norton Sound, pink salmon are returning at record numbers and Icicle Seafoods plans to send up to five buyers to the fishing grounds this summer. Icicle plans to bring a processing vessel as well as four or five fishing tenders to buy pinks from local fishermen. Icicle’s headquarters are in Seattle, but the company has roots in Alaska​, processing groundfish primarily in the Dutch Harbor area and herring in Kodiak and Togiak.

“In the last five years, we’ve had these incredible, all-time runs with pink salmon,” according to ADF&G area manager Jim Menard told the Nome Nugget. “We’re seeing well over 10 million returning. That’s the one species that’s sort of skyrocketing.”

All conditions point to favorable market conditions that include low inventories, a recovering food service sector, currency exchange rates that appeal to overseas sales and more customers opting for wild salmon due to its proven health benefits.