Sockeye salmon are pictured in this file photo. (File)

Sockeye salmon are pictured in this file photo. (File)

Fish and Game optimistic about 2019 sockeye run

After a poor sockeye return last summer, Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game is slightly more optimistic about 2019.

Six million sockeye salmon are forecasted to run through the Upper Cook Inlet in 2019, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2019 Upper Cook Inlet Sockeye Salmon forecast.

The forecast, released Friday, estimates a range of 4.8 million to 7.3 million for the total sockeye salmon run. Escapement is forecasted at 2 million while Upper Cook Inlet commercial harvest is estimated at 3 million and other harvest at 1 million.

The Upper Cook Inlet includes the Kenai, Kasilof and Susitna rivers and Fish Creek. To estimate the returns, Fish and Game examined the relationships between adult returns and spawners, adult returns and fall fry, adult returns and emigrating smolt, and sibling adult returns.

The Kenai River is forecasted to see 200,000 more fish than the 20-year average, according to Fish and Game’s release, with a run forecast of approximately 3.8 million sockeye salmon. Fish and Game puts the forecast at a range of 3.1 to 4.5 million. The 20-year average is 3.6 million.

Fish and Game forecasts escapement goals for the Kenai River to be between 1 and 1.3 million fish.

The forecast isn’t a guarantee, though, and last year’s sockeye run proved the unpredictability of the sockeye’s return.

Last year, the estimated total run was 3.1 million, 1.5 million fish below the mid-point forecast of 4.6 million. The estimated run to the Kenai River totaled 1.7 million. The Kasilof River saw about 697,000 fish, the Susitna saw 250,000 and Fish Creek saw 106,000.

The commercial harvest in 2019 is also forecasted 200,000 above the 20-year average. In 2018, the commercial harvest in Upper Cook Inlet of 800,000 was 1.1 million less than the forecasted 1.9 million.

Reach Kat Sorensen at ksorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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