Kodiak’s commercial salmon fishery is set to kick off on Thursday. Kodiak Commercial Fisheries Management Biologist James Jackson said there will be a series of salmon openers starting at noon.
“We’re going to open up the majority of the Northwest Kodiak District, also the areas around the hatchery for there’s some early chum production that guys like to fish for up there. And then also we have some small put and take fisheries up on Afognak – those are those Foul Bay, and Waterfall Bay special harvest areas. Those areas will open up until further notice. We also opened up for commercial fishing the Southeast Afognak Section of the Afognak District because Litnik has some good escapement. We basically have good early sockeye escapements almost everywhere on the island.”
Like last year, Jackson said this is an earlier than normal opener. He said they traditionally hold off on opening up any fishing periods until after June 9.
“But when you get a large amount of fish past Karluk weir, or you have a large build up in the lagoon, that basically forces our hand and we have to start having early openings to try to stem the flow or control the escapement.”
He said the nice weather in May could have contributed to the early salmon runs, and Fish and Game is being cautious with this first opener.
“So we’re kind of threading that needle of is the run really early or is it strong. Typically when you have an early run it is strong. So we’re being a little cautious. We’re going to have an opening right now – it’s not open until further notice or anything. And we haven’t rolled those markers all the way into the mouth of Karluk. We’re just having an opening, we’re going to test the waters to make sure we have enough to get the rest of the escapement for the rest of the year.”
As far as the salmon forecast goes, Jackson said it should be a good season. About 2.2 million sockeye are forecasted, which he said is down from last year but still decent. He said most of those fish are expected to be caught on the west side of Kodiak and will be returning the major river systems.
He said it should be a decent year for pinks, though not as good as last year. About 15 million are forecasted, which is down from 28 million.
“But we have a really good wild stock forecast for this year and the only place that doesn’t really look good is up at the hatcher, at Kitoi. And after that chum and coho look about the same as the past few years.”
Folks can hear the full announcement for Thursday’s commercial salmon fishery openers by calling Fish and Game’s 24-hour record-a-phone at 486-4559.