Fish Radio

Salmon harvest at  200 million, Alaska highlights

August 18, 2015

Salmon pile up waiting to go upstream Credit:

Salmon pile up waiting to go upstream

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Some ups and downs for salmon catches but still a good year. More after this –

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Alaska’s salmon season is a good one based on the numbers, but it won’t likely reach the forecast of 221 million fish.

 “It just depends on how these late returning pink salmon at Prince William Sound performs, and whether or not pinks pick up at Southeast.  It’s possible.”

Forrest Bowers  is Deputy Director of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Division.

Prince William Sound is on its way to 84 million pink salmon and could top the record of 93 million humpies set there in 2013.

Conversely, the much anticipated pink salmon boom at Southeast Alaska has yet to materialize with the catch just topping 23 million.

There’s still a bit of fishing time remaining and the harvest will continue to tick upward, but right now it doesn’t look like we’ll hit that forecast of 58 million pinks.”    

 The statewide catch forecast for pink salmon is 140 million; the take by mid-August was nearing 130 million pinks.

Of course, one of the biggest fish stories this season was the double runs of sockeye salmon to Bristol Bay.  When a mediocre late arriving first run petered out and the fishery was declared a bust, a surge of late reds caught everyone by surprise and pushed the Bay catch to nearly 36 million fish.

Another nice salmon surprise was at the Alaska Peninsula.

“The Alaska Peninsula has been another bright spot for reds. Fishermen have taken 5.2 million sockeyes so far, compared to 3.4 million last year. Also pink salmon are much stronger this year –  nine million compare to less than one million in 2014.  

 Cook Inlet’s sockeye harvest of 2.7 million is just slightly higher than last year’s.

Because king salmon returns to the Kenai River were stronger than they have been for the past several years we  were able to provide more fishing time for east side setnetters in Cook Inlet, which is a bit of a change in the management regime we’ve seen for the last couple years.   

 Kodiak’s salmon fishery has come up short on reds at 2.2 million, while pink catches of 14 million are above average.

Chum catches in the Kuskokwim systems are poor, Bowers says, but he calls sockeye catches so far  “reasonable.”

We are seeing better escapements for both sockeye and Chinook salmon into some of the systems on the Kuskokwim.   

 The Yukon is still seeing low chum catches.

Not so at Norton Sound which is having a back to back bumper run of chums.

Fishermen at Kotzebue also are enjoying a good plug of chums with more than a quarter of a million taken so far. Better yet, they have a buyer.

It’s encouraging to see harvests at North West Alaska ticking up. It’s an area that has had trouble with its salmon fisheries in recent years.  

Right now the total Alaska  \salmon catch is at 200 million fish.  Bowers calls it a good season.

“It’s been a season where we’re seen relatively large harvests but perhaps the perception is that it’s not been a great season.  I think it’s flown under the radar a bit.  We’re taking nearly 200 million fish is a large harvest and I think the timing of Bristol bay and maybe the ways the run have come in, either as protracted or different run timing we’ve seen in past several years or see normally, I think that maybe has skewed people’s perceptions a bit of what the season has been like.”

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Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch .