Kenai River sockeye count hits 246,396 in a single day


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Southeast Alaska’s fisheries are going strong. In this July 31, 2006 photo, a tote of salmon is lifted from the hold of the F/V Providence at the Icicle Seafoods plant in Petersburg, Alaska. Southeast Alaska fishermen have landed more than 9 million pounds of salmon so far this year.

AP Photo/Klas Stolpe

The Kenai River sockeye run hit 246,396 fish July 16, more than have been counted in a single day in the past several years.

That brought the cumulative total for the river this year to 489,937 sockeyes.

Elsewhre in the state, sockeye and chum salmon runs are strong, but king returns throughout the state are persistently low, although better than 2012 levels.

The statewide commercial salmon catch hit 56.6 million July 15, including 24.5 million sockeyes.

In Cook Inlet, the Kasilof hit a season high so far with a return of 43,316 sockeye July 15. That same day, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was projecting that both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers would meet their sockeye escapement goals.

On the Kenai, a cumulative total of 243,541 sockeyes were counted through July 15, more than the 228,034 that returned by the same date in 2012. Through July 15, 301,792 fish had returned to the Kasilof, more than double to 2012 return through that date.

The personal use fishery on the Kenai opened July 10, and commercial fishermen were also receiving fishing opportunity.

Upper Cook Inlet drift net and setnetters received a four hour extension to the commercial fishing period in the Kasilof and East Forelands sections.

The Cook Inlet commercial catch through July 15 was 945,000 salmon — including 880,000 sockeye, most from the central district of Upper Cook Inlet.

Kings aren’t faring as well, with about 2,709 counted through July 11 on the Kenai, more than were seen by the same date in 2012, but below the 2011 and 2010 counts.

On the Deshka River in the Matanuska-Susitna area at the north end of Cook Inlet, the king count has slowed down, with a cumulative 18,128 kings through July 15 that is well above the 2012 total of 13,478.

Farther south, the Anchor River hit just more than 4,000 kings counted through July 15, outpacing both the 2011 and 2012 runs.

In Kodiak, sockeye runs are slowing down.

The Karluk and Ayakulik rivers are well ahead of their typical sockeye counts through this date, although those runs have slowed down significantly.

Through July 15, the Karluk had seen a return of 232,936 sockeyes compared to 186,810 by the same date in 2012, and the Ayakulik had 214,936 fish, just more than 213,501 by the same date in 2012.

The return to Dog Salmon Creek is behind the 2012 run, with 111,156 fish through July 15 compared to 123,930 in 2012, but that’s not far off from other recent years.

The king count on each of those waterways, however, is below the 2012 number.

In Southeast Alaska, the king run is coming in much stronger.

The commercial king catch there was 203,000 fish through July 15, much of that coming from the summer troll fishery, although the spring troll and hatchery fisheries also contributed.

Other salmon fisheries are also continuing in the region. The area’s combined commercial salmon catch is 8.8 million fish, the largest portion of which is 5 million chum salmon. Those were caught largely in the Lynn Canal and Taku-Snettisham gillnet fisheries and by the hatchery terminal seine fishery.

The Point Gardner test fishery has shown an above-average pink catch per set, and a below average chum catch per set.

Bristol Bay fishermen are seeing somewhat liberalized fishing periods as area runs meet escapement goals, but catches are slowing down, with just about 2 million fish caught in the last week.

The commercial catch in the Bristol Bay region was about 15.3 million sockeyes through July 16, as well as 644,000 chums and 17,000 kings.

Most of the kings, or about 15,000, came from the Nushagak region, where the king return was strong.

By July 11, the escapement goal was in range for the Ugashik and Egegik districts, and liberalized periods were planned until the fall fishing schedule was implemented.

Escapement goals were also met on the Naknek and Kvichak rivers, and fishing has slowed down in that district.

Escapement goals on the Nushagak, Igushik and Wood rivers will also be met. The Prince William Sound commercial catch was at 16.8 million pinks, about 2.1 million sockeyes, and a combined of total 22.2 million salmon through July 15.

The escapement to the Upper Copper River was 13,875 sockeyes July 14, for a cumulative total of 1.1 million.

Northern chum runs strong

Chums are returning to Norton Sound, allowing for fishing opportunity there.

For all of Norton Sound, the commercial chum catch was at about 58,000 fish, with another 1,000 pinks caught, through July 16.

In Norton Bay, fishermen had harvested nearly 24,000 chums by July 15, breaking the previous record of 21,973, which was set in 1978. According to an ADFG announcement, the escapement into Norton Bay drainages have been strong, and more than 3,000 fish had been counted at the Inglutalik River tower by July 15. The current pace of the run should allow users to meet subsistence needs and also meet escapement needs in the river. Fishermen in the bay were also slated for another commercial opening July 16 to 19.

The Nome Subdistrict is also on pace to meet its chum escapement goal. At the El Dorado weir, more than 11,000 chums were counted by mid-July, more than the escapement goal range of 6,000 to 9,200 fish. The Nome and Snake rivers are also projected to meet their chum escapement goals.

July 15, ADFG also announced additional time for subsistence setnetters west of Cape Nome. Beach seines can also be used for subsistence fishing in the Nome subdistrict.

In the farthest north fishery, the Kotzebue commercial chum catch has been average so far this season. That fishery opened July 10, and about 7,000 chums had been caught through July 16.

Kuskokwim Bay commercial fishermen had caught about 49,000 chums through July 15, and 38,000 sockeyes.

On the Yukon River, the chum run is transitioning from summer to fall management. Numbers at the Pilot Station sonar will report fall chum beginning July 19, while the fall management plan went into effect for the lower river districts July 16.

According to a July 15 announcement from ADFG, fishery managers are forecasting a run of more than 800,000 fish, which should be enough to allow for escapement, subsistence and commercial fishing.

Total, the commercial chum catch on the Yukon hit about 380,00 fish through July 15.

Yukon king runs remain weak.

As of July 15, just 114,000 kings had passed the Pilot Station sonar, well below the historical average of 142,000. ADFG is currently projecting that the current run will be better than 2012, but only slightly.

King test fisheries are showing lower than average catch per unit efforts, and weirs are largely showing lower numbers of kings.

At the Eagle Sonar, 200 kings were counted between July 6 and 14, significantly below the historic average of 3,700 fish by this point in the summer.

The low king returns mean subsistence fishing is being reduced on the upper river, in District 5. As of July 16, subsistence fishing was closed in Venetie, Fort Yukon, Circle and Eagle.

Those closures help protect the first pulse of kings, which were also protected from fishing on the lower river.

According to genetic stock analysis done on fish taken at the Pilot Station sonar, the first pulse was about 72 percent Canadian-orgin.  Just half of the next pulse was Canadian, and subsequent runs have shown a combined 27 percent Canadian origin.

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