Salmon fishermen in the Kodiak Management Area are harvesting about 200,000 pink salmon a day, which, according to Fish and Game Area Management Biologist James Jackson, is right up there among the slowest of pink salmon years.
“We are having one of the poorest pinks runs we have seen in a very long time. Usually by the beginning of August we’ve harvested, about 4-million pinks. And we’re going to be at the end of the day, maybe a million and a half,” Jackson said Tuesday morning. “So we’re well behind what we’re usually harvesting and escaping this time of year.”
So, the question is, are the humpies late, or are they going to be a no-show?
“Yeah, that’s the trick, right? So it’s kind of hard for me to…. I’m hoping they’re late. But at the same time, I can’t bank on it. I have to kinda assume it’s a weak run. I mean my whole job is to ensure we actually get the fish into the streams,” he said. “So right now it looks really weak. And so we have to have longer closures. And that’s why the commercial fisheries have been so restricted lately.”
Jackson says the catch and the escapement is currently running at about a quarter the strength it should be at this time of the season.
“There are some notable places that look really, really weak. Pink salmon escapement to Ayakulik is the weakest it’s ever been since we had the weir there. Many of the westside streams were empty the last time we flew a survey. That’s why we had so many inner bays shut down,” Jacson said. “And then on top of that we’ve had so many closures. The east side’s weak, the mainland’s weak. Everything’s weak right now.”
Jackson said other areas of Southcentral and Southwest Alaska are also experiencing slow pink returns. But he also noted that the fish are coming back larger than usual.
“Yeah, I think overall average right now is four and a half pounds, but even that’s really large. I mean we’ve had reports of, on average five pound fish being delivered. We’ve had people bring in to the office 10-pound pinks. I’ve had some pictures of 14-pound pinks from tenders that they bring in,” Jackson said. “And usually that’s an indication of no competition out in the ocean, so (if) you don’t have any competition it usually means you have a weak run. That’s why the pinks are probably so big. Not always true. But, yeah, big pinks.”
He said most of the early sockeye runs around the archipelago were also fairly weak, but he said there’s been a pick up in red catches lately, and the escapement on the Karluk, Ayakulik and the south end has picked up, but he attributed that to the greater number of closures than usual.
“And of course, Karluk’s got a really descent late run sockeye forecast, and it looks like it’s starting to pick up around there as well. So hopefully what we’re planning on doing is having enough closures during the pink salmon fishery that when we get into that blended time frame, that middle of August time frame, where we’re managing a large chunk of the island based on both pink salmon and late run sockeye, we’ll be able to fish hard enough,” he said. “We’ll have our pink escapement by the time we get to that time frame.”
After Monday’s catch, Kodiak fishermen had delivered 3,381,789 salmon. That’s comprised of 1.5-million sockeye, 1.48-million pinks, 327,600 chum, 65,868 silvers and 6,212 kings.