Pinks, sockeyes drive commercial catch well past forecast

Alaska’s commercial salmon catch continues to climb, with an estimated 143.9 million caught statewide through Aug. 26 according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

That surpasses the department’s preseason commercial harvest forecast of 132 million salmon.

Pink catches this summer have been strong, and an estimated 88.3 million were harvested through Aug. 26, compared to a forecast of 74.7 million. That’s largely the result of Southeast Alaska, which is based primarily on natural runs; there, about 32 million pinks were harvested through Aug. 26, more than the forecast of 22 million.

Purse seiners have taken the largest portion of the catch, about 30 million, with additional openings planned for Aug. 28.

Prince William Sound, where the pink run is mostly hatchery produced, has also exceeded expectations. There, 42 million pinks were caught through Aug. 26, well ahead of the 33 million pink forecast for the region, again with purse seiners making the majority of the landings.

Fishermen in Upper Cook Inlet also took almost double the expected pink harvest, with about 632,000 caught through Aug. 26, compared to a forecast of 338,000.

The pink fisheries are also still continuing, which means those numbers will continue to climb.

Sockeye fisheries, which have largely wrapped up for the year, were another driver behind the higher-than-predicted harvest, with an estimated 42 million landed so far this year, compared to an expected 33 million.

The Bristol Bay harvest was the largest component of the state’s sockeye catch, with about 28 million fish landed there, compared to an expected 17 million. Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound harvests, however, came in less than forecast for sockeye.

The statewide coho catch of 3.4 million through Aug. 26 is less than the 4.3 million harvest forecast so far, but some fishing for that species continues, so the numbers could still increase.

The Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Region has already exceeded its coho forecast of 295,000, with about 365,000 reported through Aug. 26, including about 201,000 from the Kuskokwim River and bay fisheries, and 94,000 from the Norton Sound region.

Bristol Bay fishers also exceeded the forecast for coho catches, with a bout 266,000 landed through Aug. 26, compared to a forecast of 85,000. The Chignik and Alaska Peninsula fisheries have also exceeded the coho expectation, offsetting slightly below expected harvests in Kodiak, with a total 648,000 caught in the Westward Region, compared to an expected 560,000.

Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound fisheries, however, are less than forecast.

Despite near record chum catches in Kotzebue, the entire Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Region has not met the prediction for chums, which called for a harvest of about 1.6 million fish. So far, the Kotzebue catch is at about 628,000 chums, with 104,000 taken in Norton Sound, 624,000 on the Yukon and 36,000 in Kuskokwim fisheries, for a regional total of 1.3 million through Aug. 26.

The Kotzebue catch is higher, however — through Aug. 26, it was tied with 1974 for the second-largest harvest, behind the 1981 harvest of 677,000, and participation has been strong, with 43 fishermen making landings during the Aug. 25 opening. Additional openings were planned there for Aug. 26 and 27.

The Central Region also came in below the forecast, with about 1.7 million chums caught so far, including 1.1 million in Prince William Sound, compared to a forecast of 4 million, with 2.8 million expected in the Sound.

The Southeast Alaska chum catch has also been about half of the forecast, with 5 million chums caught through Aug. 26, compared to an expected 11.7 million.

The forecast did not include Southeast Alaska kings, which have been strong this summer, with an estimated harvest of 419,000 fish. Overall, the king catches were lower than forecast, with 38,000 caught in the central region compared to an expected 41,000 and just 23,000 in the westward region, compared to an expected 37,000.

The Central Region includes Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound. The Westward Region includes Kodiak, Chignik, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians. The farthest north king catches came in slightly higher than expected, with an estimated harvest of 3,000 kings in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Region, compared to a 2,000 fish forecast.

11/22/2016 - 3:32pm