KODIAK — On the heels of a disastrous early sockeye run, the harvest during Kodiak’s first wild pink and chum salmon opener was also far lower than expected. According to James Jackson, Kodiak management area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the sockeye harvest remains very low, the pink harvest was far below the expected take, and chums came out about average.
Most of Kodiak’s commercial fishing sections closed at 9 p.m. Sunday night. So far this year, roughly 275,000 sockeye have been taken. Jackson said by this date last year, the expected catch was somewhere between 900,000-1,000,000 fish. For the most recent opener, the catch was expected to be around 150,000 fish, but only 60,000 were caught. He confirmed that this makes it the weakest sockeye haul by this date in nearly 40 years.
With regards to chum salmon, the first wild opener was expected to bring in between 50,000-70,000 fish. By the end of the weekend, around 50,000 chum had been caught.
For the pinks, it’s a different story.
Jackson said during the most recent opener, somewhere between 50,000-100,000 pink salmon were expected to be caught. Only 20,000 fish were harvested.
“With pink salmon, that was the real shocker,” said Jackson. “We didn’t entirely expect to catch a lot – but, that being said, those are very low numbers. More than likely, we’re going to keep Kodiak on a very restrictive two-days-per-week for the time being.”
A return for wild stock pinks was forecast by ADF&G, with a total predicted run of 11.6 million fish. The next pink salmon opener is currently scheduled for Friday July 13, though Jackson said a few areas – like those around hatcheries – may open sooner.
Jackson said that, though this is a slow start, it is unclear whether this is a bad omen for the rest of the season.
“Things can change rapidly,” said Jackson. “But most everything that started slow this year has turned out not very good.”
Later this week, ADF&G biologists will conduct aerial surveys to get a good picture of the entire Kodiak area. Jackson said they’ll fly out about once a week to study a couple of hundred streams, which gives the biologists an overall picture of how many fish are out there.
On the road system
Much like that of the Buskin and Afognak Rivers, sockeye escapement at Saltery Creek and Pasagshak has so far been incredibly low.
As of July 8, 1,700 fish had passed through the weir at Saltery Creek. In comparison, by that date in 2017, 10,000 fish had been counted; by that date in 2016, roughly 15,000 fish had passed the weir. The current escapement goal for sockeye at Saltery is 15,000-35,000.
Likewise, just 221 fish have been counted passing the weir at Pasagshak by July 8, compared to 1,270 in 2017 and 2,300 in 2016. The escapement goal for sockeye at Pasagshak is a minimum threshold of 3,000.
“We’re getting to that point where, if it doesn’t improve in a short period of time, we’re going to have sport and subsistence restrictions,” said Jackson.