Alaska’s salmon season is winding down and while some catches have made the record books, the statewide take will fall a bit short of the 204 million fish forecast.
“We are within about 10 percent of the forecast, so that’s very positive and overall it’s been a pretty good season.”
Forrest Bowers is deputy director of the commercial fisheries division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The statewide catch has topped 198 million salmon. The shortfall stems from fewer pinks than expected. The forecast called for 142 million humpies; the catch so far is 20 million shy of that.
Still, the three big pink producers – Prince William Sound, Southeast and Kodiak have all produced within the forecast ranges.
A surprise winner is the Alaska Peninsula with spectacular catches for pinks, chums and sockeyes.
“Their sockeye harvest is going to end up being the second or third largest on record, pink and chum harvest also in the top five on record. So there are definitely some bright spots out there”
Sockeyes will again help offset any salmon shortfalls this season with a statewide take of about 52 million, 37 million from Bristol Bay.
“I think is the 10th time in history that we’ve harvested over 50 million sockeye salmon.”
Perhaps the biggest salmon surprise this year was the huge returns of chum salmon across the state.
“That was a surprise. I don’t think we expected that at all.”
Bowers says the catch so far of 21.5 million is one of six times it’s topped 20 million and is just shy of the all-time record of 24 million fish set in 2000.
Chum catches at Norton Sound, and cohos are in the all-time top 10.
At Kotzebue, the chum fishery has topped 400,000 for the second year in a row and could rank as the sixth best ever.
And on the Yukon River, a take of more than 1 million chum salmon is the best fall catch in history.
The only region that was a total bust was the Kuskokwim, where enough sockeyes and cohos salmon returned to allow for harvests, but no buyers meant no fishing.
Another big salmon downer was the complete king salmon closure in Southeast, the largest producing area. Catches there totaled just 165,000 kings.
Final catches and values for the 2017 salmon fishery will be released in November.