As new districts open, harvest nears 2 million fish

Total pink salmon run forecast for PWS is 67.13 M fish

A preliminary state count of commercially caught wild salmon indicates the statewide harvest will top 2 million fish this week, including upwards of 573,000 caught in Prince William Sound.

Through June 14, processors in Prince William Sound had received some 419,000 sockeyes, 140,000 chum and 14,000 Chinook salmon, with the bulk of that harvest coming from the Copper River drift fleet.

ASF&G’s latest inseason commercial harvest summary noted that Copper River water levels were low through June 9, but upriver runoff was increasing and water levels were consistently rising. The fifth and sixth Copper River District fishing periods were of short duration, just 12 hours, to reduce potential for king salmon harvest.

In the Southwest District of Prince William Sound, the Armin F. Koernig Hatchery, Hatchery Terminal Harvest Area and Special Harvest Area opened to commercial fishing and a regular schedule of two fishing periods a week is anticipated until further notice.

The 2017 pink salmon total run forecast for Prince William Sound is 67.16 million fish, of which 58.92 million will be available for common property harvest.

The forecast includes 21.10 million wild stock fish, of which 58.92 million will be available for common property harvest. 18.75 million Valdez Fisheries Development Association fish, and 27.40 Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatchery fish,

With the opening of Upper Cook Inlet’s Northern District on May 29, plus Kamishak Bay and the Southern District of Lower Cook Inlet on June 1, processors there have received delivery of 37,000 fish, including 35,000 red salmon.

The South Alaska Peninsula, which opened for fishing on June 7, has produced a harvest of 899,000 salmon so far, including 637,000 reds, 144,000 chum and 117 pink salmon, while the Kodiak area of the westward region, which opened June 9, had delivered 1.3 million fish, including 996,000 sockeye, 163,000 chum and 118,000 humpies.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game noted on its daily harvest update, that the commercial salmon harvest has now expanded beyond Prince William Sound to most of Cook Inlet, all of Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula.

As of June 14, processors had received 1,904,000 wild salmon from commercial harvesters, including 1.4 million sockeyes, 303,000 chum, 118,000 humpies and 66,000 Chinook salmon.

Bristol Bay districts, all open on June 1, have delivered just 25,000 sockeyes, with 22,000 of them coming from the Egegik District.  Bristol Bay harvests are known for peak runs in the first week or so of July, when the run gets so strong that processors sometime put their fishermen on limits, just to keep up with processing.

Concerns over the potential shutdown of many functions of ADF&G if legislators don’t produce a state budget by July 1 have not slowed efforts of commercial harvesters stocking their vessels, hiring crew and getting dockside exams from the U.S. Coast Guard before heading for the fishing grounds.

With more fisheries delivering, retail prices are dropping. Costco warehouse stores in Anchorage were offering fresh Copper River sockeye salmon fillets for $9.99 a pound. Fresh Copper River salmon kings were for sale on Pike Place Fish Market’s online website, for $42.99 a pound, and whole kings for $27.99 a pound. The popular fish market was no longer, however, showing the availability of whole or fillets of those Copper River reds, but did have fresh halibut fillets for $29.99 a pound and whole halibut at $18.99 a pound.

Anchorage retailer 10th & M Seafoods had fresh Copper River sockeye fillets for $23.95 a pound. FishEx, an online retailer also in Anchorage, was offering Copper River king fillets for $59.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye salmon fillets for $29.95 a pound.

The rule of thumb for shoppers seeking Copper River fish remains, as always, to catch while available, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.