Statewide salmon harvest of 260M tops record set in 2005
The 2013 Alaska commercial salmon catch is a record total of 260 million as of Aug. 27.
Commercial fishermen landed about 24 million salmon in the last week of August, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s bluesheet estimate.
Much of the catch is coming from Southeast Alaska, where fishermen landed about 13 million pinks from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27, for a total of 85 million pinks and 98.4 million salmon total.
Statewide, the harvest of 209.5 million pinks nearly doubled the state’s pink forecast of 117.8 million fish, and also exceeded ADFG’s forecast of 178 million for all salmon species in 2013. The salmon fisheries have also exceeded the 2005 harvest record of 221 million salmon.
The coho harvest is also closing in on the forecast, with an estimated harvest of 3.5 million fish so far, compared to an expected 3.9 million.
The chum and sockeye catches remain below predictions, however.
Southeast also leads the coho and chum catches, landing abut 2.2 million of the 3.5 million cohos estimated so far in 2013, and 9.9 million of 17.5 million chums.
Prince William Sound has also been a driver of the strong catches, with 87.6 million pinks taken so far this year.
There, the harvest allocation so far this year has triggered a change for 2014, and ADFG announced Aug. 27 that purse seiners will have exclusive access to the Port Chalmers Subdistrict in 2014.
Elsewhere, a regularly scheduled period in the Chignik fishery closed Aug. 28, but in an ADFG update, managers said commercial fishermen contact the department if they are interested in additional fishing opportunities.
Openings have also continued for Kodiak and Port Moller fishermen, with the Sand Point fishery winding down.
Chum and coho catches were also strong in parts of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region.
At Kotzebue Sound, the commercial harvest topped 300,000 cohos for the first time since 1988, according to ADFG. The test fishing crew at the Kobuk River also reported the strongest catch index in the 21 years the project has operated, according to ADFG.
The Kotzebue fishery continues to have openings, although the Aug. 27 period was below average, in part due to weather, and could be winding down.
At Norton Sound, ADFG announced Aug. 27 that the coho harvest is expected to reach or exceed the harvest forecast of 30,000 to 60,000 cohos, with 49,000 taken so far. The coho catch is over for the Golovin Bay area, where catch of 5,353 cohos was the second-largest on record. Commercial periods are continuing in Elim and Norton Bay.
At Elim, the commercial coho harvest of about 5,400 fish was the seventh-best in the last 51 years, and likely to finish the season as the fourth- or fifth-best harvest, and the Norton Bay catch of nearly 5,400 cohos so far this season is a new record.
Commercial fishing is largely complete for the Kuskokwim area. According to ADFG, the area saw an average chum harvest but below average landings of kings, sockeyes and chums. Subsistence fishing there remains open.
The state’s coho runs are also still continuing, although river dynamics are influencing the returns at the northern end of Cook Inlet.
On Kodiak’s Ayakulik River, the run is continuing strong, with 10,180 cohos counted through Aug. 26, more than double the 2012 count by the same date, and nearly five times the 2011 number.
On the Buskin River, the count through Aug. 26 was 727 fish, nearly double the 2012 count by the same date.
The coho count at the Russian River weir hit 649 fish as of Aug. 27, more than the 169 counted by the same day in 2012, and also more than other recent years, despite getting a slightly later start than in some past years.
At Fish Creek, near the Knik River, the number of cohos returning each day has slowed down, but about 6,525 were counted through Aug. 27, several times more than the counts through that day in 2011 and 2012, and slightly more than the 2010 number. The single-day count, however, was lower than in prior years, at just 14 fish counted Aug. 27.
The Little Susitna River count has also tapered off, however that’s likely due to weir issues. According to ADFG’s count, the weir was underwater for several days, and water levels there have been high. The count through Aug. 27 of 13,050 fish remains higher than the total cumulative count for any recent year, however.
The Deshka weir has seen similar issues, with high water and a weir under water on some recent days. There, the count through Aug. 27 was 22,200 cohos.
The Deshka count hit 3,745 fish in a single-day Aug. 22, which was the second largest single-day count on that river this year, but recent days have seen lower returns due to the water issues.
Molly Dischner can be reached at [email protected].