Copper River forecast: 928,000 sockeyes

ADF&G predicts even year PWS humpy harvest of 4,253,000 fish

State fisheries biologists are forecasting another challenging year for commercial harvesters of wild Copper River sockeye salmon, but a better than average even year harvest of wild pink salmon in Prince William Sound.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasts, delivered in early February, were presented with the cautionary reminder that salmon forecasts are inherently uncertain and are primarily used to gauge the general magnitude of expected runs and asset early-season harvest management strategy. State biologists said that in 2022 the department will continue to manage Copper River and Prince William Sound area commercial salmon fisheries in-season based primarily on the strength of salmon abundance indices including sonar counts weir passage aerial escapement surveys and fishery performance data.

For the Copper River biologists are predicting a run of some 1,379,000 sockeyes, plus a run of 53,000 fish to the Gulkana Hatchery, for a total Copper River sockeye rum of 1,432,000 fish, in a range of 905,000 to 1,959,000 fish. That would be 34% below the recent 10-year (2012-2021) average total run of 2,159,000 fish, with a total Copper River sockeye harvest of 928,000 fish, including 716,000 of commercially caught sockeyes.

The total harvest point estimate was calculated by subtracting the Gulkana Hatchery broodstock, hatchery surplus and wild stock escapement goal needs for the upriver and Copper River Delta from the total run forecast, biologists said. The commercial harvest estimate, in turn, was calculated by subtracting Copper River in-river goal categories and the lower bound of the Copper River Delta spawning escapement goal from the total run forecast, they said.

For Coghill Lake, the run forecast was for 414,000 fish in a range of 337,000 to 491,00 fish, which would be 110% above the 10-year (2012-2021) total run of 197,000 fish, with a harvest forecast of 384,000 fish, in a range of 307.000 to 461,000 fish, biologists said.

For even year pinks in Prince William Sound, biologists are calling for a run of 5,036,000 fish, within a range of 1,156,000 -11,910,000 pinks. That would be 36% over the recent 10 even-year (2000-2020) average run of 3,698,000 wild pink salmon in Prince William Sound, with a harvest estimate of some 4,253,000 fish.

The 2022 Prince William Sound wild chum salmon run estimate is for some 332,000 fish, in a range of 72,000 to 592,000 fish, biologists said. That would be 29% below the recent 10-year (2012-2021) average of 467,000 even year wild chum run, with a harvest of 132,000 fish, in a range of zero to 392,000 fish.

The total wild run of chum salmon by year was estimated as the total wild (non-hatchery) contribution to commercial harvests combined with the stream escapement index, biologists said.

The Copper River Chinook salmon forecast is due to be published later in February.