Alaska sees record commercial salmon catch

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The commercial salmon catch in Alaska reached a record 260 million for the 2013 season as of last week, up from 221 million in 2005, officials said.

During the last week of August, commercial fishermen netted about 24 million salmon, according to a state Fish and Game Department estimate.

Much of this year’s catch came from Southeast Alaska, with 98.4 million salmon, most of them pinks, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported (http://bit.ly/17oMSEq).

Statewide, the harvest of 209.5 million pinks nearly doubled the state’s forecast of 117.8 million. It also exceeded the department’s forecast of 178 million for all salmon species in 2013.

The coho harvest neared the forecast of 3.9 million, with an estimated 3.5 million fish caught. Alaska’s coho runs were continuing, though river dynamics were influencing returns at the northern end of Cook Inlet.

On Kodiak’s Ayakulik River, the run remained strong, with 10,180 cohos counted through Aug. 26, more than double the 2012 count by that time and nearly five times the 2011 number. On the Buskin River, 727 fish were counted through Aug. 26, nearly double the 2012 count by that point.

At Norton Sound, the department announced on Aug. 27 that the coho harvest was expected to reach or top the harvest forecast of 30,000 to 60,000 cohos, with 49,000 taken to that point. The coho catch is over for the Golovin Bay area, where the harvest of 5,353 was the second-largest on record. Commercial periods continued in Elim and Norton Bay.

Commercial fishing is largely complete for the Kuskokwim area, which saw an average chum harvest but below-average catch of kings, sockeyes and chums, according to the Fish and Game Department. Subsistence fishing remained open.

At Kotzebue Sound, more than 300,000 cohos were caught for the first time since 1988, Fish and Game said.

The Kotzebue fishery remained open, though the Aug. 27 period was below average, in part due to weather, and could be winding down.

Overall, chum and sockeye catches remained below predictions.

Southeast Alaska led in coho and chum catches, with about 2.2 million coho and 9.9 million chums.

In Prince William Sound, 87.6 million pinks have been taken so far. Officials said that for next year, purse seiners, who target large numbers of fish, will have exclusive access to the Port Chalmers subdistrict in that area.

A regularly scheduled period in the Chignik fishery closed Aug. 28, but commercial fishermen can contact the department if they’re interested in additional fishing. There have continued to be openings for Kodiak and Port Moller fishermen; the Sand Point fishery is winding down.

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