Rainfall offers relief as PWS humpy harvest climbs to 46M+

Statewide catch of all salmon, at 192M+ fish, still below forecast

A leaping chum salmon leaves us wondering why do fish jump? Photo courtesy USFW

Long sought rain and cooling weather over the past week helped boost the Prince William Sound pink salmon harvest to 46,290,000 fish, and the area’s overall salmon catch to 54,525,000 fish.

The week brought delivery of another two million humpies and 146,000 coho to processors, and by Tuesday, Sept. 3, the preliminary total catch for Prince William Sound included 46,290,000 pink, 5,318,000 chum 2,552,000 sockeye, 347,000 coho and over 18,000 kings.

The pink salmon harvest, now winding down, came on late, but has been improving, said Jeremy Botz, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Cordova office.

The coho run so far has been below anticipated and water temperatures remain warmer than normal, but the rain has helped and is opening up more habitat for the cohos, which are looking good, he said. The coho fishery should go through the third week of September, and markets should be available through the end of the month, but if it remains behind in escapement, there will have to be further restrictions, he said.

The largest total catches of pink salmon to date have been in the Eastern District, Southwestern District, and Northern District of Prince William Sound, with purse seine harvests of 20,259,342 fish, 9,614,902 fish and 8,945,798 fish respectively. For chum, Montague District drift gillnetters lead with an overall catch of 1,522,625 fish and Coghill District drift gillnetters had 1,029,960 fish. For the coho fishery to date, the Eastern District of Prince William Sound had 232,185 fish, followed by the Northern district purse seiners with 31,861 fish.

The overall statewide harvest through Sept. 3 was 192,688,000 salmon, including 119,902,000 pink, 54,972,000 sockeye, 14,977,000 chum, 2,585,000 coho and 252,000 Chinook

The 2019 forecast called for a robust harvest of 213,200,000 salmon, including 41.7 million sockeye salmon, which fishermen have already exceeded, a pink salmon harvest of 137,800,000 pink and a record harvest of 29,000,000 chum.

Fresh Copper River coho salmon went on sale at Costco stores in Anchorage at $5.99 a pound on Friday, Aug. 30, just in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend. Seafood employees at Costco were busy packaging up whole headed and gutted fish for customers at the Costco store on DeBarr Road. Photo by Margaret Bauman/for The Cordova Times

Commercial harvesters in the state’s Westward Region overall have brought their catch to near 61 million fish, including 52,274,000 pink, 6,485,000 sockeye, 2,012,000 chum, 978,000 coho and 38,000 kings. Harvesters in Kodiak have delivered 32,469,000 fish, including 29,786,000 pink, 1,922,000 sockeye, 505,000 chum, 249,000 coho and 7,000 Chinook. On the Alaska Peninsula, the catch has reached 26,092,000 fish, including 20,252,000 humpies, 3,949,000 sockeye, 1,354,000 chum, 510,000 coho and 27,000 kings.

Chignik fishermen have delivered 3,226,000 salmon, led with a catch of 2,236,000 humpies, plus 614,000 red, 219,000 coho, 153,000 chum, and 4,000 Chinook.

Fresh sockeye salmon fillets remain a popular retail market item, available at $10.95 a pound at 10th&M Seafoods and $9.95 a pound at Costco stores in Anchorage.

Fresh wild caught headed and gutted whole coho salmon have been selling for $5.99 a pound at Costco stores in Anchorage, while Fred Meyer stores in that city had fresh wild caught coho fillets for $10.99, subject to fishing and weather conditions.

Online retailer FishEx was still offering Copper River king salmon fillet portions at $86.95 a pound, and Copper River sockeye salmon portions for $37.95 a pound, plus Copper River king tail portions for $54.95 a pound and Copper River sockeye tail portions for $19.95 a pound.