Humpy run into PWS forecast is above average

Fishing vessels docked in Cordova Harbor. (Jan. 2, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith

Forecasts for the 2020 fishing season show a robust run of pink and chum salmon into Price William Sound, along with a healthy run of kings and below average return of wild and hatchery salmon to the Copper River.

The area forecast released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Tuesday, Jan. 28, also put wild sockeye returns to Coghill Lake at slightly below average.

Data compiled by ADF&G concludes that wild salmon returning to the Prince William Sound will include some 4.4 million humpies and 604,000 chum, numbers which would put both runs at 19 percent above the 10-year average.

The run of wild Chinook salmon returning to the Copper River is forecast at 60,000 fish, which would be 20 percent above the 10-year average, while the forecast return of 1.4 million red salmon to the Copper River would be 33 percent below that 10-year average.

If the Gulkana Hatchery forecast for a run of 109,000 fish comes in as anticipated, it would be 62.3 percent below the 10-year average, ADF&G officials said.

The total common property fishery run is anticipated to be about 1.5 million fish.

State biologists noted that these forecasts are inherently uncertain and primarily used to gauge the magnitude of expected runs and set early season harvest management strategy.

The department will again this year continue to manage the Prince William Sound area commercial salmon fisheries in-season based on the strength of salmon abundance indices, including sonar counts, weir passage, aerial escapement surveys and fishery performance date.

State biologists said they had currently 55 years of harvest, escapement and age composition data, for the years 1965 through 2019, available for their analysis of the Copper River sockeye salmon harvest alone. The even-year wild pink salmon run into Prince William Sound was determined from thermal marked otolith recoveries from 1997 through 2018, coded wire tag recoveries for 1985 through 1996, or average fry-to-adult survival estimates multiplied by fry release numbers and estimated exploitation rates for 1977 through 1984.