Days past the anticipated surge of salmon into Bristol Bay, the reds came en masse, filling drift gillnets so quickly that a few processors put limits on how much of the sudden abundance of sockeyes they could deliver.
It has, by all accounts, been a strange year for commercial salmon harvesters in Alaska, where the statewide harvest through July 14 stood at a little over 53.5 million fish, including 30.6 million sockeyes, 17.3 million humpies, 4.9 million chums, 388,000 Chinooks and 293,000 silvers.
Of that preliminary harvest estimate, 23.4 million salmon came from Bristol Bay, including 22.8 million sockeyes.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Bristol Bay daily run summer summary through July 13 showed that some 1,664 permit holders had delivered 22.8 million salmon to processors out of a total run of 33.7 million fish. That included 8.9 million fish from the Naknek-Kvichak, 6 million fish from Egegik, 4.2 million fish from the Nushagak, more than 3.5 million fish from the Ugashik, and 82,494 fish from Togiak.
Cumulative escapement stood at 9.8 million salmon.
If catch and escapement continue as expected the run could push upwards of 40 million sockeyes, said Chuck Brazil, area research biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at King Salmon, Alaska, in an interview on July 12. That given, biologists anticipated that sockeye harvests would go to more than 20 million fish. An average run of red salmon into Bristol Bay is about 29 million fish, so this would put the 2015 run at above average.
“The fishing has picked up substantially,” said Dave Harsilla, of Seattle, president of the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association, who was fishing in the Naknek-Kvichak District of the Bay, and delivering to Alaska General Seafoods. “The size has gotten quite a bit bigger.”
“Nice, big fish,” said Shawn Dochtermann, a Kodiak harvester in Egegik, who delivers to Ocean Beauty Seafoods. “For the last few days they’ve been an average of 6.2 pounds.”
No prices had been posted as of July 14.
On the Lower Yukon, the harvest of keta salmon reached an estimated 337,000 fish by July 13.
“The fish are great, good size,” said Jack Schultheis, sales manager for Kwik’Pak Fisheries in Emmonak. “At this time of year, the summer run should be tailing off, but it built up. It has helped us tremendously getting back on track. We are getting close to being tied for last year, which was a record for us.“
The Cook Inlet salmon harvest climbed from 388,000 fish through July 7 to 790,000 fish through July 14.
For Prince William Sound, the salmon harvest total reached more than 19 million salmon, including 14.3 million pinks.
In Southeast Alaska, the harvest total rose to 2.8 million salmon, including 1.3 million chums and over one million humpies.
In the Alaska Peninsula the harvest has reached 4.4 million salmon including 3.4 million reds.
At Kodiak, salmon deliveries to processors rose to 1.7 million salmon. ADF&G posts daily updates on salmon harvests, online at www.adfg.alaska.gov