Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wild Alaska Salmon Run Picks Up Speed

Cold, nasty, rainy weather hovered over Alaska’s famed Bristol Bay salmon fishery on the eve of Independence Day, as the commercial catch began to pick up speed – with some four million sockeyes harvested just from June 29 through July 2.

Still, state fisheries biologists said they don’t know yet how it will all add up. What they were saying, from their offices in King Salmon and Dillingham, is that it’s too early to tell yet whether the run is going to be late and whether it will come in overall as weak or strong.

Area management biologist Slim Morstad at King Salmon described the weather as nasty and raining, with temperatures in the low 40s, but he said that through July 2 the bay-wide harvest had reached some six million sockeyes. That’s quite a jump from June 29, when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game calculated the preliminary overall Bristol Bay salmon harvest at 2,038,000 fish.

The overall statewide harvest figures have taken a small leap since the June 29 report which had a total harvest of 9,449,000 salmon, including 7,133,000 reds, 1,971 chum, 265,000 pink, 69,000 kings and 10,000 silvers.

At Emmonak, on Western Alaska’s Lower Yukon River, Kwik’Pak’s Jack Schultheis said the commercial harvest that began June 29 was strong and the summer run of the famed oil-rich Yukon chum salmon looking good, although they were probably a little bit past the mid-point of the run. Schultheis said fishermen manning about 150 small boats in area Y-1 harvested some 16,000 chums on June 29, another 13,000 chums on July 1 and another 14,000 chums on July 2. A little further up the river, in area Y-2, harvesters in another 93 boats brought in an additional 7,000 chums.

The Copper River district run, now past its peak, was still attracting an estimated 75 to 100 drift gillnet permit holders. The cumulative Copper River harvest as of June 29 stood at 1.32 million sockeye and 11,4000 Chinook Salmon. That compared with a historical 5-year cumulative harvest average of 782,107 sockeye and 17,107 kings for that date.

For Prince William Sound overall, the preliminary catch data showed a harvest of 3.1 million salmon, including more than two million reds and more than one million chum, plus some 12,000 kings.

The harvest for the Alaska Peninsula stood at 2,042,000 salmon, including 1.5 million reds, 343000 chum, and 203,000 pink, while at Kodiak, fishermen had harvested 852,000 salmon, including 661,000 reds, 163,000 chum and about 3,000 kings. In the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, the harvest stood at 2 million salmon, including 1.5 million reds, 343,000 chum and 203,000 pink, plus some 7,000 Chinooks.

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