Mixed results for Alaska's salmon season thus far
The salmon season thus far in the U.S. state of Alaska has produced mixed results, though some areas will have to wait until more fish arrive to get a sense of how the season will shake out.
As of 26 June, 2022, total landings for all species of salmon tallied up to 7.75 million fish, of which 59,000 were chinooks, 1.6 million chums, 2,000 cohos, 1 million pinks, and 5.1 million sockeyes.
Copper River salmon made its annual debut with an opening on 16 May. The first fish to hit Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. brought retail prices of up to USD 125 (EUR 122) per pound for chinooks. There were various eight-ounce cuts sold at around USD 90 (EUR 88) per pound, making the price more palatable for diners waiting in anticipation. Copper River sockeye sold at retail for around USD 75 (EUR 73) per pound, but prices usually drop as other salmon fisheries fill the hungry supply chain for fresh product.
On the fishing grounds, that early-fish hype translated for fishermen to USD 16.50 (EUR 16.20) per pound for the chinooks and USD 11.50 (EUR 11.29) per pound for sockeyes.
As of 26 June, the Copper River fleet had landed 10,000 chinooks and 416,000 sockeye, and many had already made the move to fish favorite areas in Prince William Sound. Landings in the sound’s Eshamy District stood at 254,000 sockeyes on 26 June.
“The flats were good,” Justin Hansen, a crewmember on the Raging Bull salmon-fishing vessel, said. “Prices were high for everyone in the fleet.”
Prince William Sound seiners setting for early chums had landed 371,000 chums in the general seine category, with another 316,000 coming from hatchery harvests.
The last week of June, Bristol Bay gill-netters fish under a management program known as “free week.” Though it is difficult to determine if catches portend meager or monster sockeye returns, anecdotal reports from around the districts indicate that the bay may be on track for a harvest that could potentially hit a record 60 million sockeyes.
Southeast Alaska gill-netters got their first opener on 19 June, and Lynn Canal fishermen targeting early chums delivered an average of 1,000 pounds for the first opener. As of 26 June, the fleet had landed 10,000 chums.
Meanwhile, spring-season trollers in Southeast Alaska had racked up a harvest of 10,000 chinooks as of 26 June. The fishery management plan for non-terminal (not near natal streams) chinooks opens fishing periods by emergency order based upon an abundance index.
Kodiak Island kicked off its salmon season in early June. According to the most recent Alaska Division of Fish and Game blue sheet, landings there tallied up to 338,000 sockeyes and 72,000 chums.
South Alaska Peninsula seiners, drift, and set-gillnetters started their season in early June, and by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game blue sheet they had caught 3.9 million sockeyes, 353,000 chums, and nearly one million pinks.
Reporting by Charlie Ess
Photo courtesy of Maxim Gorishniak