The 2022 Alaska salmon season has officially started, and that means our full-season coverage kicks off as well.
First up, as always, is the Copper River salmon season. The overall run of salmon is nowhere near as large as the hype.
This year’s catch in the Copper River district, however, is expected to be significantly better than last season, according to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), with sockeye harvests projected to reach 716,000 fish, a more than 75 percent jump over 2021.
However, the 2021 season isn’t a high bar to cross. Last year’s commercial Copper River sockeye catch of 408,000 was 68 percent below the pre-season forecast of 1.29 million, and well below the 10-year average.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Fishermen eager to get out there
Fishing is ramping up on Bristol Bay’s east side.
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ADF&G has only opened Bristol Bay’s eastside district–which includes the Naknek-Kvichak and Egegik/Ugashik area– for fishing. Together those river districts have seen a cumulative harvest of 196,362 sockeye, with the majority coming out of the Egegik.
On Monday ADF&G said it will keep the Nushagak and Wood rivers closed as the Bristol Bay west side remains short of the 100,000 sockeye salmon escapement target for the Wood River.
One fisherman told IntraFish he is”cautiously optimistic” that Bristol Bay’s Nushagak District sockeye salmon run could match the approximately 29.5 million fish forecast.
Friday, June 17, 2022
Genetic stock compositions coming in
While it’s still too early to tell whether or not the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run is on track with preseason forecasts, genetic data from the Port Moller test fishery, which experts say typically is a good indicator of run strength, is already showing large abundances of Egegik, Wood and Nushagak river sockeye.
Port Moller is a migration pathway for salmon headed to Bristol Bay.
The Egegik stock remains dominant at 35.5 percent, followed by the Nushagak at 34 percent.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
How big will fish get in Bristol Bay this year?
Data has started trickling in from the Port Moller Test Fishery (PMTF). Every year the test fishery help processors, fishermen, and fishery managers assess the timing, composition, and abundance of sockeye salmon returning to commercial fishing districts in Bristol Bay.
Overall, the average sockeye caught in the test fishery is around 4.6 pounds, according to Port Moller’s Scott Raborn with the environmental research firm LGL.
The 2021 average was just 4.5 pounds, according to the McKinley Research Group. The 2020 average weight for sockeye was 5.1 pounds, reported Alaska Public Media.
Scientists started testing in the fishery around June 10.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Alaska salmon harvest numbers are starting to trickle in
While salmon harvest totals are below year-to-date figures, volumes are usually so low at this stage of the season that it is much too early to draw any conclusions about the overall strength of runs, according to a report produced by McKinley Research Group on behalf of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI).
In Prince William Sound, the harvest of 288,000 sockeye salmon through Saturday–most of it in the Copper River district–is up dramatically from the year-to-date harvests from 2020 and 2021, but still below the 5-year-average.
Fishing has been slower this year in the southern Alaska Peninsula, a region that has been an early-season hotspot in recent years.
ADF&G’s pre-season forecast predicted a harvest of 160.6 million salmon. The projections call for an especially large sockeye salmon harvest of 74 million fish largely in Bristol Bay, while other fisheries are expected to struggle.
Monday, June 13, 2022
With lots of fish, prices are dropping
The harvest timing for Copper River sockeye is significantly different from May through June of this year compared to last year, with sockeye harvests dramatically up. The influx of sockeye has been a boon to retailers in recent weeks, who continue to cut prices from their soaring highs when the fishery opened in May.
Adam Branin with QFC confirmed prices have dropped 68 percent for the fish since it was first sold at the Kroger retailer following the first opener May 17.
“Right now our retail is for $15.99 (€15.33) per pound on Copper River sockeye fillets,” he said, adding he expects that price to drop even further by Wednesday.
When asked what would prompt further price cuts, he responded: “It’s because they are catching a lot of fish.”
At 267,400 sockeye, this year’s harvest is currently up nearly 196 percent compared to last year, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Biologist Jeremy Botz told IntraFish.
The cumulative sonar count through June 10 was 302,226, a nearly 4 percent increase from what was projected by ADF&G by this time.
Copper River has seen six fishing periods so far, tracking slightly ahead of last year, when it only saw four by this time.
The harvest from the June 9 fishing period resulted in a catch of 392 king and 25,700 sockeye salmon with 257 deliveries reported. This compares to a projected harvest of 36,800 sockeye salmon for this period.
There were 90,500 sockeye salmon harvest by this time last year versus 267,400 sockeye salmon so far this year.
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Copper River keeps its streak
ADF&G said Wednesday cumulative sonar count through June 7 was 225,300 fish, whereas 253,337 fish were projected by this date.
Preliminary harvest estimates from the 12-hour fishing period that occurred on Monday, June 6, was 810 Chinook and 63,400 sockeye salmon with 411 deliveries reported. This compares to a projected harvest of 44,700 sockeye salmon for this period.
The fishery will have another opener Thursday.
Monday, June 6, 1:00 PM PST
Protecting chum salmon
Thirteen organizations representing subsistence and commercial salmon fishermen in Western Alaska have signed a joint letter asking a fishery along the coast of the Alaska Peninsula to shut down during the month of June to prevent it from harvesting chum salmon bound for Western Alaska rivers and the Bristol Bay fishery in particular, reports Alaska news site KYUK.
Chum salmon stocks crashed to record lows last year, and the letter writers fear that another low return this summer could push the chum past the point of recovery.
Thursday, June 2, 4:00 pm PST
Copper River continues its fishing streak
Copper River fishermen got a fourth opener today. The cumulative sonar count through May 31 is 37,136 fish whereas 144,085 fish were projected by this date, according to ADF&G.
“It is better than the previous years,” Bill Webber, a longtime Cordova fishermen, told IntraFish of conditions. “The hot water blob years in the Pacific are far enough behind us now. It almost feels kind of normal again, except it’s close to 70 degrees out.”
Tuesday, May 31, 3:00 pm PST
Here comes Bristol Bay
On Wednesday Bristol Bay’s Naknek-Kvichak, Egegik and Ugashik fishing districts will all come online.
ADF&G is estimating a harvest of 59.9 million fish in Bristol Bay, which is 75 percent greater than the most recent 10-year average harvest of 34.2 million, and 170 percent greater than the long-term average harvest of 22.2 million fish.
Monday, May 30, 12:00 pm PST
More sockeye, but not a lot of fish
After three openers, Copper River fishermen have harvested 69,300 sockeye salmon, which is nearly 36 percent more than was anticipated by this time. Fishermen also harvested 1,980 king salmon with 465 deliveries reported.
Fishing is closed however for commercial uses Monday. ADF&G reported a cumulative sonar count through May 28 at 6,808 fish whereas 81,600 fish were projected by this date. ADF&G added it has now deployed all of its sonar in the area.
Kroger-owned QFCS in the Seattle and Portland area are currently selling sockeye for $24.99 (€23.18) per pound.
The next opener is expected to occur Thursday.
Friday, May 27, 1:30 pm PST
Dropping prices ‘like a rock’
Copper River salmon prices have continued to drop throughout the week. Adam Branin with QFC confirmed to IntraFish prices there dropped by $10.00 this morning from even…