State biologists for Upper Cook Inlet are forecasting a run of 6.2 million sockeye salmon in 2012, with a harvest of 4.4 million reds by all user groups.
That’s about 0.4 million fish higher than the 20-year average harvest of 4 million reds by all user groups.
The fishing season for most of Upper Cook Inlet opens in mid to late June, but participation and harvests remain fairly low until early July, state biologists said.
For the Kenai River, the run forecast is 4 million fish, which is 6 percent higher than the 20-year average run of 3.8 million fish. Expectations are that predominant age classes in 2012 will be age 1.3, 50 percent; age 1.2, 8 percent and age 2.3, 35 percent.
On the Kasilof River the forecast is for a run of 754,000 fish, 21 percent below the 20-year average run of 950,000 fish. The forecast for age 1.2 sockeyes is 148,000 fish, which is 47 percent less than the 20-year average return of 280,000 fish for this age class. The predominant age classes here for 2012 should be age 1.2, 20 percent, age 1.3, 34 percent and age 2.2, 34 percent, state biologists said.
For the Susitna River, the red salmon forecast is for 443,000 fish, which is 50 percent less than the 20-year average run of 881,000 fish.
The total sockeye salmon run to Upper Cook Inlet in 2011 was estimated to be 8.4 million fish, or 31 percent more than forecast. The harvest, after all fish tickets were tallied, was 5.3 million commercially caught fish, compared with a preseason harvest estimate of 4.2 million fish.
Commercial harvesters also caught 11,000 kings, 95,000 silvers, 34,000 pinks and 129,000 chum salmon. In only one year since 1999, when the abundance based escapement goal to the Kenai River was developed, has commercial fisheries management ended up in the same tier as the preseason forecast, biologists said.