Stormy weather and icy conditions got the Copper River wild salmon fishery off to a rough start, but by the end of the third 12-hour opener on May 27, commercial fishers had harvested an estimated 575,589 reds, 5,827 kings and 5,211 chums.
Those were the preliminary calculations of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at Cordova. The third opener alone yielded some 319,823 reds, 3,773 Chinook and 1,929 chum salmon, with average weights of 6.2 pounds, 14.7 pounds and 6.8 pounds respectively, biologists said.
The harvest from the third commercial opener was above anticipated, said Jerry Botz, area biologist with ADF&G at Cordova.
By weight alone, the grand total of the red, king and chum harvest was estimated at 35,885 pounds of wild fish.
In Anchorage, 10th and M Seafoods was retailing whole kings for $26.95 a pound and king fillets for $32.95 a pound, and sockeyes were priced at $7.95 a pound for whole fish and $11.95 a pound for fillets. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle meanwhile was offering whole Copper River kings for $35.99 a pound, king fillets for $35.99 a pound, whole Copper River sockeyes at $94.95 each and fillets for $28.99 a pound.
State fisheries officials said there are an estimated 450+ drift gillnet permits currently participating in the fishery, and no reports to date on processing capacity problems. Ice, however, has interfered with sonar counts.
Escapement monitoring at the Miles Lake Sonar Station for sockeye and king salmon returns to the Copper River began on May 16 from the north bank of the river, but persistent river ice and low water level precluded deployment of the south bank sonar where, a larger proportion of the run typically travels.
The commercial common property fishery for the Prince William Sound purse seine fishery begins June 1 with a directed fishery targeting the enhanced chum salmon run to the Armin F. Koernig hatchery. The 2013 pink salmon forecast for Prince William Sound is 40.7 million fish, of which 34 million are anticipated to be available for the commercial common property fishery. The Prince William Sound chum salmon forecast is for a total run of 3.99 million fish, the majority of which are coming from the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatchery.