Alaska’s commercial salmon catch was estimated at 143.7 million fish through Aug. 6.
The August spike in fish caught was driven largely by strong pink harvests, with an estimated 98.7 million pink salmon landed statewide so far this summer according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, blue book commercial estimates.
Prince William Sound fishermen have taken the largest share of the pinks, with about 49.8 million estimated through Aug. 6, nearly all by seiners.
The Coghill District drift fleet has had the second-strongest Prince William Sound salmon harvest this summer, landing an estimated 2.9 million fish through Aug. 6, about 2 million of which were chums. There, chum and pink catches have pushed them ahead of the Copper River drift fleet, which has taken about 1.6 million fish, including 1.5 million sockeyes.
The Copper River sockeye count is done, with a total 1.26 million fish counted through July 27, similar to the 1.27 million counted in 2012.
Southeast Alaska has also had a strong pink harvest, with an estimated 34.4 million landed through Aug. 6, out of a total 43.9 million salmon estimated to have been caught in that region.
The majority of the pinks in Southeast were caught by seiners, who have also had strong, but smaller, chum catches.
The summer trollers have also had a strong coho catch.
In the westward region, which includes the Alaska Peninsula, Chignik and Kodiak, an estimated 22.9 million salmon were caught through Aug. 6, with pinks making up the largest portion of that total at an estimated 13.9 million caught.
In the Gulf of Alaska, Sand Point fishermen have received additional fishing time, as have Kodiak fishermen.
The sockeye runs are continuing, and at the Ayakulik River, on Kodiak, about 271,160 sockeyes were counted through Aug. 6, ahead of the 262,881 counted by the same day in 2012.
But the king run there, like other parts of the state, has not been as strong.
On the Ayakulik River, 2,356 kings were counted through Aug. 6, down from 4,733 by the same date in 2012. On the Karluk River, also on Kodiak, 1,787 kings were counted through Aug. 6, down from 3,183 in 2012.
In Cook Inlet, pink landings accounted for the largest proportion of the catch after sockeyes, at about 488,000 of an estimated 3.6 million fish landed through Aug. 6. The majority of the pinks were landed in the Outer District of Lower Cook Inlet.
In the Central District, commercial fishermen, who target sockeyes, have began taking a larger proportion of cohos, with 179,000 cohos estimated through Aug. 6 in the Central District, and 135,000 chums. The sockeye take remains the largest proportion of the Central District harvest, with about 2.6 million fish estimated.
The Kenai River sockeye run has slowed down, with about 1.3 million fish counted through Aug. 5, less than the 1.4 million counted in 2012. The late-run king count totaled 14,880 through Aug. 5, fewer than the 20,857 counted by the same day in 2012.
Cook Inlet’s Northern District fishermen have seen some reduced fishing in an effort to return fish to Matanuska-Susitna area streams, and the total salmon landing estimated there is 49,000 fish, including about 20,000 sockeyes, and 25,000 cohos.
The Mat-Su coho runs are mixed.
On the Deshka River, 711 cohos were counted through Aug. 6, well behind the 4,537 counted by the same day in 2012.
The Little Susitna coho run, however, appears much earlier than it was in 2012, with 4,072 fish counted through Aug. 6, well ahead of the 389 fish in 2012, although the weir is now farther downstream.
The Bristol Bay harvest is much slower, with an estimated 16.4 million fish landed through Aug. 6, including less than 1,000 pinks, but about 34,000 cohos and 765,000 chums. The vast majority, however, are sockeyes.
Chum fishing is driving northerly fisheries.
The Yukon chum catch was estimated at 574,000 fish through Aug. 6, nearly all of the 579,000 salmon caught commercially there.
At Kotzebue, an estimated 163,000 chums were landed through Aug. 6. ADFG has said the chum catch is on track to exceed the department’s forecast, and test fishery near Kiana, on the Kobuk River, is ranking as the fourth highest in the 21-year project history.
The Norton Sound chum catch is slightly lower, at an estimated 107,000 fish, and fishermen have also landed about 15,000 cohos and 8,000 pinks, with commercial coho opportunity expected to continue.
Kuskokwim bay and river fishermen have landed about 119,000 chums, and 26,00 cohos. On the Kanektok River, ADFG announced Aug. 6 that the king salmon aerial survey goal was not met, with just 2,340 fish counted compared to a goal range fo 3,500 to 8,000. The sockeye goal, however, was exceeded, with 64,790 fish counted, compared to a goal of 14,000 to 34,000.
At the Middle Fork Goodnews River weir, sockeye and chum escapement goals have been reached, while the king goal has not.
Salmon allocations in Cook Inlet remain a point of contention between user groups, and an Aug. 1 Anchorage Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting included several hours of public testimony from frustrated fishermen.
Ultimately, the committee took no major action, but decided it would resend a letter it wrote earlier this year, which called for an independent review of fisheries management in Cook Inlet, asking for a response from the state this time around.
More than 60 people attended the meeting, including Anchorage Democrats Rep. Les Gara and Sen. Bill Wielechowski and Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy, held at the William Jack Hernandez sport hatchery in Anchorage, most of whom were sport and personal use fishermen concerned about declining king runs, and upset about current management. Many blamed commercial fishermen for the issues.
The handful of commercial fishermen present noted that the declining runs have affected them, too, and offered some factual information to counter the concerns.
All sectors also raised questions about the sonar used to monitor runs on the Kenai, and how accurate the counts are there. An effort to write a letter asking for a review of the sonar did not come to fruition.
Molly Dischner can be reached at [email protected]