Kodiak pink salmon: Overall, a summer success story

The Kodiak pink salmon harvest is slowing down, but not without an impressive finale in the Southwest District. And that’s important because pinks account for the lion’s share of the value of the Kodiak commercial fishery. In other words, they’re the “money fish.”

The cumulative pink salmon harvest for the Kodiak region has exceeded the forecast. Graphic, courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

James Jackson, Kodiak’s area biologist for commercial fisheries, says it’s already the third largest harvest in 50 years, thanks in large part to the bounty of the Karluk, Sturgeon and Ayakulik  river systems.

“We knew those three runs had really good escapement in 2018, particularly Karluk,” Jackson said. “I think Karluk in 2018 escaped around 2.2 million pinks, so we knew there was a potential for a really decent run coming back there.”

Jackson says the Sturgeon and Ayakulik systems were more of a surprise. Both met escapement goals, and not by much. But combined with the Karluk, the three fisheries produced a lot of fish.

“The pinks are beautiful, I’ve heard. They’re big this year. The quality is great, so hopefully fishermen will get a good product out of it, and get a decent price,” Jackson said.

It’s not a perfect world, though. In the Northwest District, salmon escapement has been met, but the runs haven’t been as strong. Jackson says their numbers have peaked and will likely decline this week.

The Kitoi Bay hatchery is currently tracking below average, but close to the forecast.

Pink salmon escapement in the Alitak {al-ih-tack} district is tracking as expected, and the gillnet harvest, is performing above average.

Overall, it’s turning out to be an above average year for pinks, even though 2020 is an even- numbered year. From birth to spawning, pink salmon have a two-year life cycle — and the runs are typically stronger in odd-numbered years.

Aerial surveys show the Kodiak Management Area has escaped more than four million pink salmon.

Management is now shifting to late run sockeye. From the early signs, the run appears to be above average in some areas.

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