Listen to this story;
The first sockeye salmon are beginning their run for the season, and commercial fishermen in one of North America’s largest fishing fleets will soon get a chance to fill their holds.
Forrest Bowers is the deputy director for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game Division of Commercial Fisheries. He says it should serve as kickoff for a strong salmon season.
“In the Kodiak area, we’re forecasting a harvest of about 19 million salmon of all species, around 3 million Sockeye and about 15 million pink salmon,” Bowers said.
This year’s run is similar in size to last year’s- which was considered to be a good year. The high-intensity pink run is when the season really gets started for many local fishermen. That’s still a ways off in July.
In the meantime, Inner and Outer Kitoi Bay, Duck Bay, Izhut Bay, Foul Bay Special Harvest Area, and Waterfall Bay Special Harvest Area will all open to commercial salmon fishing at noon on Thursday.
There will be a 33-hour commercial salmon fishing period in the Northwest Kodiak District, as well as Cape Alitak, Humpy-Deadman, Alitak Bay, Moser Bay, and Olga Bay. By regulation and based on early runs on the Karluk river, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game must have two 33-hour openings between the days of June 1 and June 15. Those will run from noon on Thursday to 9 p.m. on Friday.
While fishing forecasts look strong this year, the outlook for king salmon remains poor. But Bowers says there’s a glimmer of hope.
“We have very detailed information on smolt production or juvenile salmon production, as well as adult enumeration you know, indicate that at least in southeast Alaska, smolt production was very good. So A lot of juvenile salmon in the rivers that are migrating to the ocean- that’s a good sign,” Bowers said.
Many of the areas opening Thursday are open until further notice. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game monitors escapement and weir counts day by day, and announces closures through emergency orders. The commercial salmon season closes in mid-August.