Salmon pile up waiting to go upstream

Bristol Bay’s huge sockeye run of 53 million is winding down and it remains one of the few bright spots for Alaska’s 2020 salmon fishery. The Bay catch as of yesterday was nearly 36 million reds.

Overall, Alaska’s total salmon catch was approaching 53 million fish, or about 40% of the way to a projected 132 million salmon for the season.

And nearly 40 million of the total take are sockeyes, with fairly dismal deliveries trickling in from all other regions besides Bristol Bay.

There’s been no fishing at Chignik. Sockeye catches were down 45% at Cook Inlet, 55% at Prince William Sound, and the early run at Kodiak is the worst in 43 years.

“The harvest is as bad as it gets. But we did achieve our escapement goals, so there’s hope for the future.”

That’s Kodiak regional manager for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, speaking to KMXT.

The pink salmon harvest is plugging along with ok catches coming from Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula, Prince William Sound and Southeast.  The peak of the statewide pink harvest is typically the last week of July or first week of August.

The biggest bust for the season appears to be chum salmon.

This should be a peak time, but landings are way down in all regions but Kodiak – the statewide take of 3.6 million chums is down 66% from the same time last year.

Catches at Southeast were off by that same percentage. It’s especially disappointing at the Yukon, Norton Sound and Kuskokwim regions with chum catches so far off by 89%.

Statewide Chinook landings are about a third behind the 2019 pace, though Southeast production is relatively strong.

Cohos also are lagging behind recent averages although those catches should be trending higher and run through September.

The weekly salmon data is compiled by the McDowell Group for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.