Red salmon pile up at the weir on the Buskin River.

This weekend will see what is likely to be Kodiak’s last opener for early-run sockeye salmon, before the Alaska Department of Fish and Game begins managing for pink salmon. 

While escapement is likely to be met for most of Kodiak’s systems, those seining weren’t able to catch many of the early reds. Contrarily, gillnetters had a good start to the season due to a high level of escapement at Dog Salmon Creek, prompting ADF&G to leave the Dog Salmon Flats section open for over a week. 

On Wednesday, ADF&G announced a 57-hour commercial salmon fishing period from noon today to 9 p.m. Sunday in the following areas: The Cape Alitak, Humpy-Deadman, Alitak Bay, Moser Bay, and Olga Bay sections of the Alitak District; the Outer Karluk Section of the Southwest Kodiak District; the Central, North Cape, and Inner Uganik Bay sections of the Northwest Kodiak District; and the Southwest Afognak Section of the Afognak District.

“This westside opening is probably the last early-run sockeye opening,” ADF&G Kodiak Area Management Biologist James Jackson said. “The early sockeye harvest was very weak. We probably got enough to get our escapement in most areas, aside from Ayakulik … when the westside opens up on July 6, we’re going to be managing for pinks.”

Jackson said that the past month has given many a fisherman hope for the humpy runs, given that far more pink salmon were caught than sockeye in June. This, he said, was likely just a taster of the bumper pink salmon harvest forecast of 27 million.

While the seiners wait for the pinks to start running, a small number of gillnetters have had a veritable field day in the Dog Salmon Flats section. Following a 72-hour extension, ADF&G announced a further 48-hour extension to the current commercial salmon fishing period in the Dog Salmon Flats Section of the Alitak District from 9 p.m. today to 9 p.m. Sunday. The section has been opened for gillnetters since noon June 20.

Jackson explained that there are two runs in the Alitak District: Upper Station and Frasier Lake. While the reds have flocked to Frasier Lake in huge numbers, escapement at Upper Station hasn’t been as strong. As such, the department just opened up the bay area around Dog Salmon Creek to gillnetters, to allow for a sockeye harvest while simultaneously trying to hit escapement goals for Upper Station.

“We wanted to take a larger bite out of that run,” Jackson said. 

Due to the fact that all deliveries have been made to just one cannery, those harvest numbers are confidential. Speaking broadly, however, Jackson said: “Technically speaking, overall for the island, the early run sockeye harvest is well below average –– but the gillnet sockeye harvest in Alitak is above average.”

Closed waters are currently reduced in the Dog Salmon Flats section until 9  p.m. Sunday, to the ADF&G markers located at the stream terminus of Dog Salmon Creek.

Closed waters are currently expanded near Horse Marine Lagoon, until 9 p.m. Sunday in the Dog Salmon Flats section, east of a line bounded by a point from 57° 07.24’ N lat., 154° 00.30’ W long, to a point at 57° 06.495’ N lat., 154° 00.30’ W long, to a point at 57° 06.38’ N lat., 154° 00.00’ W long.

The following areas will remain open to commercial salmon fishing until further notice: the Foul Bay Special Harvest Area; and the Waterfall Bay Special Harvest Area.

Closed waters are currently reduced until further notice in the following locations: Foul Bay to the stream terminus at Hidden Lake Creek; and in Waterfall Bay to the stream terminus at Little Waterfall Creek and to the stream terminus at Big Waterfall Creek. 

Cost recovery fisheries began in the Spiridon Bay Special Harvest Area at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and the Spiridon Bay SHA will remain closed to common property fishing. Fishery opportunities in the Spiridon Bay SHA will be dependent on the ability to meet KRAA cost recovery needs. Cost recovery information can be obtained by calling 486-6559.

Fishermen are reminded that in the Kodiak Area (including the Mainland District) until further notice, Chinook salmon 28 inches or greater in length may not be retained by purse seine gear in the commercial fishery and must be returned to the water unharmed. 

Recent salmon fishery information may be obtained by calling the ADF&G’s 24-hour record-a-phone at 486-4559.

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