Salmon Numbers Down in Lower Cook Inlet


     The 2012 commercial salmon fishery in Lower Cook Inlet is now in the books. Taking a look back at the season, Glen Hallowell, management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game in Homer, offers up some numbers.

     “For Lower Cook Inlet the 2012 harvest overall was 497,000 salmon, which was lower than last year’s harvest of 787,000 salmon,” says Hallowell.

     He says sockeye salmon returns to the region were down this summer as were pinks. But yet there were some surprises.

     “We had a tremendous return of chum salmon to Port Dick early in the summer," says Hallowell. "The fleet picked up 50,000 chum salmon from Island Creek which was amazing because nobody can remember returns of that size going back to Island Creek.”

     Hallowell says in 2011 Cook Inlet Aquaculture collected 10-thousand pinks to use as brood stock for the Tutka Lagoon Hatchery.  From those, 8-million fry were released this past spring and they expect a good return next year, a portion of which will be used for brood stock.

     He says back in the 1970’s when pinks were fetching a good price they used a stream right next to the hatchery for breeding purposes.

     “They produced really good numbers of pink salmon through about 2004 when the salmon price crash occurred and it became hard to pay the bills, so they stopped for a while,” says Hallowell.  

     He says prices were as low as five to ten cents a pound but in the last year or two have gone up anywhere from about thirty-five to fifty cents a pound in some places.

     The salmon season in Lower Cook Inlet generally starts the first week in June with set gillnetters harvesting sockeye salmon.  Purse seiners follow suit, but Hallowell says the action doesn’t really pick up until the first week of July, when pinks starts appearing as well.  

     He says that this year, 16 out of 75 seine permits for Lower Cook Inlet were fished, and active set gillnet permit holders were down significantly to 15 this season from 21 last year.

     Although the salmon season is now over, Hallowell still has plenty to do—like preparing proposals that are due this April for the December 2013 Board of Fish meeting.  With any spare time Hallowell has he can always work on his post season annual management report, which outlines the history of salmon fishing in the region and hits on the numbers from this past summer.