PWS salmon harvest reaches 1.7 M

Still below forecast, there’s a long way to go on the sockeye run

Commercial salmon harvests in Prince William sound stood at nearly 1.8 million fish  on June 27, with the Chinook run about done and still a long way to go on the sockeye run.

The king salmon harvest for the Copper River drift district was close to average, but definitely above the preseason forecast, with a preliminary catch total of about 12,900 fish, while the sockeyes harvest, at some 411,000 reds, was still tracking below forecast, but within the bounds of what to expect, said Jeremy Botz, gillnet area manager at Cordova for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“We still have a long way to go on the sockeye run,” Botz said. “We will be fishing sockeye three weeks into July before it drops off.”

The good news continued to be that Chinook average weights are up by about two to three pounds, and sockeyes by half a pound, putting the overall average at 20.5 pounds for kings and 5.5 pounds for red salmon.  “Forage must have been better in the ocean to help with that overall gain,” Botz said.

The drift fleet in the Copper River included some 200 boats, with others headed for the Eshamy and Coghill districts. Both those districts look like they will come in below forecast for sockeye and chum salmon, but to what extent we don’t know yet,” Botz said. “It’s still too early and at least for the chum, there seems to be delayed run timing. Our sex ratios for chum and age composition indicate the run was later than normal timing wise, and we are now starting to see an uptake in the harvest.”

Cost recovery operations at the Wally Norberg Hatchery were somewhat delayed.

“Something is keeping these fish from coming in at their expected timing,” he said.

They seem reluctant to move in quickly to the hatchery.”

The Eshamy District drift and setnetters delivered 140,000 chum and some 9,000 red salmon, Prince William Sound general seine harvesters had 498,000 chum, 1,000 pink and 18,000 red salmon.

Overall statewide, other commercial harvests are growing, with nearly 9 million salmon delivered to processors.  That total includes some 5.7 million sockeye, over 2 million chum, 1.2 million pink  and 89,000 kings.

In the Alaska Peninsula, the nearly 4 million fish harvested to date, mostly from the South Peninsula, includes 2.4 million sockeye, 1.1 million humpies, 489,000 chum and some 4,000 kings.

Kodiak harvesters have brought in 668,000 fish, including 548,000 red, 78,000 chum, 40,000 pink and 2,000 kings. At Chignik the catch reached 462,000 fish, led by 394,000 reds, then 39,000 chum, 28,000 humpies and about 1,000 kings.

Cook Inlet had a total of 130,000 salmon, including 125,000 sockeye, 2,000 kings, 2,000 chum and about 1,000 pink.

Bristol bay numbers have reached nearly 1.6 million fish, mostly reds, but including some 7,000 chum. The Egegik district, with 1.4 million sockeyes, led, followed by the Ugashik district with 138,000 reds, the Naknek-Kvichak district with 37,000 reds and Togiak, with 10,000 reds.

Fishermen in the Lower Yukon, the only harvesting spot at this time in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, have brought in 97,000 oil rich Yukon River keta salmon.

Harvests in southeast Alaska stood at 267,000 fish, of which 163,000 were chum, 67,000 were kings, 33,000 were red and 4,000 humpies.

The good news for retail customers was that prices for fresh salmon were down.

At Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Copper River salmon were gone, but other fresh fillets of wild Alaska reds were $25.000 a pound and whole wild Alaska sockeyes were $89.95 per fish. Fresh wild king salmon fillets were $39.99 a pound and fresh whole wild kings were $25.99 a pound, but they were not Alaska caught.

FishEx, the online retail marketer in Anchorage, had fresh Copper River king fillets for $59.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye fillets for $29.95 a pound.

Costco stores in Anchorage were out of Copper River red fillets, but had other fresh wild Alaska sockeye fillets for $9.99 a pound.