Humpy harvests in Prince William Sound jumped from 3.4 million to 7.4 million, as the overall wild salmon harvest for the Sound rose to over 14 million fish.
Along with the growing pink salmon harvests, area processors have received 4,386,000 chum, 2,120,000 sockeye, 18,000 Chinook and about 1,000 cohos through July 16, according to the latest preliminary Alaska commercial salmon harvest report updated daily during the season by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It’s been a good season for setnetters and drift gillnetters, according to Jeremy Botz, gillnet area management biologist at Cordova with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The sockeye harvest to date for the Copper River, estimated at 1,150 fish, is above forecast, he said. The sockeyes are larger than they have been for the past few years and the chum salmon are smaller, he said.
During the recent heat wave, the fish weren’t moving around much; seems like they were holding offshore in deeper water, but now, with the weather a bit cooler, the area is getting another bump in the harvest, mostly sockeyes, but some chum.
The largest sockeye harvest in the Sound to date has been 1.2 million fish in the Copper River district, followed by 532,212 reds at Eshamy Main Bay and 289,779 fish in the Coghill district.
The largest humpy harvest is 5.6 million fish in the Prince William Sound eastern purse seine district. The Copper River gillnetters also have the most kings to date, some 17,803, with the second highest Chinook catch being 103 fish in the Bering River.
The preliminary statewide harvest total as of July 16 reached 70,824,000 salmon, of which there were 42,091,000 red, 21,460,000 pink, 6,833,000 chum, 255,000 coho and 185,000 kings.
Sockeye harvests were closing in on and expected to exceed ADF&G’s forecast of 42 million fish, said Garrett Evridge, who produces in-season salmon harvest reports for the McDowell group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
With about four weeks until the peak of the fishery, year-to-date pink landings are nearly one-third higher than 2017, but the strength of the 2019 harvest comes from record-breaking early season volume. Last week’s slower fishing in Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska have dampened this year’s pace, while landings in Kodiak the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim and Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands continue to beat 2017’s record, he said.
Based on the five-year average, last week was the peak for keta production, which is 25 percent behind 2018 and 19 percent below the long-term average, Evridge said.
Excluding Prince William Sound, all areas in Alaska are below year-to-date 2018 harvest levels of ketas, Evridge’s report said.
The peak of coho landings is still roughly seven weeks off, but early indicators are slow, with year-to-date harvest volume one third lower than last year and half of the five-year average, and harvests of kings is 15 percent lower than a year ago at the same point in the season, Evridge said.
Bristol Bay’s harvest has reached over 37 million fish, of which 36 million are red salmon.
The biggest catches of sockeyes were 14 million in the Nushagak, 12 million in Egegik and 9.7 million in the Naknek-Kvichak district. Usually warm water in the Ugashik district, where some fishermen said tenders were pulling in water at 68 degrees, has been an issue. The Ugashik has been closed since July 8 because of low escapement numbers, said Aaron Tiernan, the Ugashik area management biologist for ADF&G at King Salmon.
Likewise on the Igushik River within the Nushagak district on the west side of Bristol Bay the water temperature has been so warm that there is a thermal barrier, said Tim Sands, ADF&G management biologist for that area. The Igushik section, which is one small part of the Nushagak district, is currently closed and won’t reopen until there is an escapement, Sands said. The Igushik had a thermal block back in 2016, but that one did not last long, and the fishery was not closed then he said. Still, the Nushagak district has had the second largest harvest in its history this year and the catch in the Igashik is well above average, probably the sixth best harvest in the last 20 years, he said.
On the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region, small boat fishermen have delivered to processors some 395,000 fish, including 312,000 keta salmon and 77,000 humpies. Harvesters on the Lower Yukon have brought in 209,000 chums and 11,000 pinks. In the Norton Sound area, the catch includes some 84,000 chum and 65,000 pink salmon, and Kotzebue area harvesters have caught some 19,000 chum and 1,000 humpies.
In the Westward region, fishermen on the Alaska Peninsula have caught 10.3 million pink, 2.3 million red, 774,000 chum, 138,000 coho and 23,000 king salmon, for a total of 13.6 million salmon. At Kodiak, processors have received 17.5 million fish, including 13.5 million humpies, nearly 3 million sockeyes, 915,000 chums, 158,000 silvers and 27,000 kings.
Southeast region harvests to date include 936,000 fish, of which 392,000 are chums, 285,000 humpies and 107,000 kings. The catch also includes 79,000 red and 73,000 coho salmon.