KENAI, Alaska — The Upper Cook Inlet had a scarce sockeye salmon harvest this year, but commercial fishers caught more coho, chum and pink salmon than expected, the Peninsula Clarion reported (http://bit.ly/2z1Fhm6).
The sockeye harvest was the smallest in 10 years, leading to this year’s overall salmon harvest being lower than average, according to a season summary released on Tuesday by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Fishers brought in about 1.8 million sockeye, according to the summary. Altogether, about 3 million salmon of all species were harvested, which is about 500,000 fewer than the recent 10-year average.
The larger than normal harvests of chum, coho and pinks were odd, especially since pinks are usually scarcer in odd years in Upper Cook Inlet. Given that harvests were above normal even with the commercial fishing restrictions, the numbers would have likely been even higher if sockeye had been plentiful enough to keep the fishery open, said Pat Shields commercial fisheries area management biologist.
The sockeye run was late, as well, which frontloaded the commercial fishery with most of its sockeye catch for the season before July 20.
Historical models showed that the Kenai River sockeye run should have been about 40 percent complete by July 20, when managers re-evaluated the run size, but it was still only at about 265,000 fish — although commercial fishers had harvested about 1.4 million sockeye.
The sockeye run has been late to show up in the rivers before, but the one this year was exceptionally late, Shields said.
Final calculations are still in the works, but Shields estimated it was between four and seven days late, which made it hard for managers to decide whether to open up commercial fishing with the expectation the fish would show up or close commercial fishing on the off chance the fish didn’t show up at all.
While Upper Cook Inlet experienced a slow year, most of the state had a strong year.
Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com