State salmon harvest surpasses 104 million as season winds down

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Thursday, August 7, 2014 9:29pm
  • News

The statewide commercial salmon catch has topped 100 million fish.

Through Aug. 5, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, or ADFG, estimated that commercial fishermen had landed 104.7 million salmon, including 40.7 million sockeyes, 54 million pinks, 1.5 million cohos, 8 million chums and 401,000 kings.

Sockeye catches have slowed —about 40.1 million sockeyes were caught through July 29 — and the climbing salmon catches are driven largely by pinks. Between July 30 and Aug. 6, commercial fishermen reported landing about 16 million pink salmon, as well as 1 million chums.

Prince William Sound fishermen have landed the largest portion of the state’s pinks, about 35.4 million. Those were caught primarily by seiners, who have also harvested about 347,000 chum, 49,000 sockeye and 12,000 cohos. The total Sound salmon harvest through Aug. 5 was 39.9 million salmon.

At Bristol Bay, fishermen have landed about 98,000 pinks, and a total 29.3 million salmon.

Kodiak fishermen have harvested about 5.6 million pinks, slightly edging out the region’s total sockeye catch of 5.3 million fish.

The chum catches came largely from Southeast Alaska and the northernmost fisheries.

Southeast Alaska fishermen have harvested a total of 18.3 million fish, including 11.8 million pinks, 4.3 million chums and 1 million cohos — the largest coho catch in the state. Those were caught primarily by the summer troll fleet, which landed about 292,000 cohos between July 30 and Aug. 5.

The troll fleet was scheduled to close from Aug. 10-13, although trollers would still be allowed to fish for chums. The entire fishery was set to reopen Aug. 14 for a two-day king retention period.

ADFG managers said in an update that they planned to keep areas of high king abundance closed during the openings, as the remaining available harvest was estimated at about 36,051 kings.

The Southeast chum catch was about 652,000 fish from July 30 to Aug. 5; about 285,000 salmon were for hatchery cost recovery.

In the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, commercial fishermen have harvested about 1 million chums, 77,000 sockeye, 235,000 pinks, 38,000 cohos and just 3,000 kings.

Yukon River fishermen have taken the majority of the chums, about 583,000 —mostly from the lower river fishery.

Alaska will likely meet its treaty obligation for kings swimming to Canada this year.

As of August 5, 62,896 kings had passed the sonar near Eagle, about 16 miles from the Alaska-Canada border.

That’s more than in any recent year — the 2013 count by that date was 26,993, in 2012 the number was 28,104, in 2011 it was 47,585, and in 2010 it was 31,082.

Under the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada, at least 42,500 are expected to pass the border each year. This would be the second time in the last five years that goal was met.

Farther down river, an estimated 137,468 kings swam past the Pilot Station sonar through Aug. 5, more than 117,159 by the same date in 2013 and 106,731 by that date in 2012.

At Kotzebue, fishermen have harvested a total 355,000 chums, more than double the 124,000 caught through July 30 — and bringing the season total so far to the seventh-highest in the fishery’s history, according to an update from ADFG.

According to the update, 68 permit holders caught more than 20,000 chums on Aug. 5, with additional openings planned for Aug. 6 and 7, and the season’s commercial chum harvest in Kotzebue will likely be the best since at least 1985. The ex-vessel value has already topped $1 million for the first time since 1988.

Norton Sound fishermen have harvested about 96,000 chums. Fishermen there are also targeting cohos —through Aug. 5, about 27,000 cohos were landed.

Kuskokwim area fishermen have harvested about 2,000 kings — all in the bay fishery — as well as 35,000 chums and 9,000 cohos, split about evenly between the bay and river fisheries.

According to a Aug. 5 update from ADFG, chum salmon escapements are below average for all survey and counting projects, but within historical averages. King salmon escapement goals are unlikely to be met at some projects, while one so far has met its goal, and it is still uncertain if the Kuskokwim River goal will be met. Sockeye escapements are generally at or above average, and coho estimates are not yet available.

Cook Inlet remains focused on sockeye

Cook Inlet fishermen have also harvested some pinks — about 278,000 from July 30 to Aug. 5 — but the fishery remains largely focused on sockeye.

Eastside Cook Inlet setnetters received a few final chances to harvest sockeye, with 12-hour openings Aug. 2, Aug. 4 and Aug. 6. Those were allowed under a provision in the Upper Cook Inlet salmon management plans that allows managers to offer setnetters up to 36 hours of fishing opportunity between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15 if the Kenai River late-run king salmon escapement goal was projected to be between 16,500 and 22,500 fish. Kasilof setnetters were not opened Aug. 6 because the Aug. 2 and 4 catches were less than 1 percent of the season’s harvest in that section.

Through Aug. 4, 15,489 late-run kings were counted on the Kenai River, with daily counts of between 300 and 700 fish for the first several days of August. That’s slightly more than the 14,605 fish counted by the same day in 2013. That same day, managers estimated that the final escapement of Kenai kings would be about 17,500 fish, within the escapement goal range of 15,000 to 30,000 fish.

According to an Aug. 5 announcement opening the fishery, the Upper Subdistrict setnet fishery closed for the season at the end of the Aug. 6 fishing period unless reopened by emergency order later.

Through Aug. 5, the Upper Cook Inlet sockeye catch was about 2.27 million fish, the majority of Cook Inlet’s 3.45 million salmon harvest so far this season.

On the Kenai River, about 1 million sockeyes were counted through Aug. 4, and on the Kasilof River, about 434,879 were counted through Aug. 5. The Kasilof count is more than the escapement goal of 160,000 – 390,000 sockeyes, but the count does not represent the final escapement estimate, which will come later in the year and will not include fish harvested in-river. The Kenai count is within the escapement goal range of 1 million to 1.2 million fish, but the final escapement will also come later after in-river harvest is removed.

Lower Cook Inlet fishermen have also continued to harvest sockeye, with about 211,000 sockeye caught through Aug. 5, up from 179,000 through July 29. Fishermen there have also seen increasing pink catches — about 41,000 were caught between July 30 and Aug. 5.

Molly Dischner can be reached at

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