PWS harvest tops one million fish

At 10th & M Seafoods in Anchorage salmon fresh from the waters of the Copper River, Kodiak and the Kenai Peninsula are filleted for customers. Photo by Margaret Bauman

Commercial harvests of red salmon reached 378,000 fish in the Copper River drift district through June 20, as the run and harvest continued to be below forecast, while Chinook catches were above expected.

The commercial harvest of sockeyes is still trending consistently below forecast, noted Jeremy Botz, who manages the state’s gillnet salmon fishery from the Cordova office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The good news is that both reds and kings appear to be in great condition and larger than average, Botz said. Sockeyes are weighing 5.6 pounds to 5.7 pounds, and the kings on average have weighed in at about 21 pounds, compared to about 18 pounds in recent years. “They are larger than we have seen in quite a while, by close to three pounds, he said.

Copper River sockeye fillets were selling at $14.99 a pound at Costco stores, $23.95 a pound at 10th & M Seafoods, and $29.95 a pound online at FishEx, all in Anchorage, while the famed Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle was temporarily out of all Copper River salmon.

On the sockeyes, as of June 20, the sockeye fishery was right on the front end of the Copper River Delta harvest and projections were that the run was coming in under forecast, and while indications are it will be a smaller run, the pulse of the run now seems more consistent, Botz said.

About 225 commercial fishing vessels were on the grounds, with a lot of boats heading for Eshamy or Coghill districts on the west side of Prince William Sound.

Preliminary harvest figures calculated on a daily basis by ADF&G show that Prince William Sound fishermen have delivered 1,021,000 fish to processors, including 458,000 reds, 549,000 chum and 13,000 kings.

Statewide, with new districts opening, the catch was at 4.2 million salmon, including 2.7 million red, over one million chum, 347,000 humpies and 75,000 Chinook.

Within the Prince William Sound area of the central region, the Copper River drift catch led in harvest, followed by an overall harvest of 276,000 fish in the PWS general seine fishery, including 265,000 chum, and another 224,000 chum were credited to the PWS hatchery.

In the western region, processors for the South Alaska Peninsula, which opened on June 7, have seen delivery of nearly 2 million fish, including 1.3 million red, 361,000 chum, 332,000 humpies and 3,000 kings.  In Kodiak there have been deliveries of 476,000 fish, including 430,000 sockeye, 39,000 chum, 6,000 pink and 4,000 kings

Cook inlet’s northern district, which opened on May 29, brought in 4,000 red and 2,000 king salmon, while the central district, which opened on June 19, has a catch to date of 17,000 reds.  In the eastern district of Lower Cook Inlet, 23,000 reds were taken and another 6,000 were caught in Lower Cook Inlet’s southern district.  Both Lower Cook Inlet areas opened on June 1.

Harvests on the Lower Yukon have delivered 51,000 oil-rich Yukon chum salmon to processors, and in Bristol Bay, where all districts opened on June 1, preliminary data showed the harvest at 193,000 sockeye.  The Egegik district brought in 182,000 reds, while the Ugashik added 7,000, the Naknek-Kvichak 3,000, and Togiak 1,000,  as Bristol Bay harvesters headed for Bay.

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.