Salmon runs in Prince William Sound are predicted to be average or below average in 2018.
For seiners, wild pinks are expected to come in about 20 percent under the 10-year average for even years, but Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Charlie Russell said hatchery fish are expected to pick up some of the slack.
“Pink salmon run to Prince William Sound right now is right around 35 million including wild stock and hatcheries,” Russell said. “You estimate about a 1 million pink salmon for wild stock escapement. That leaves about a 2 million wild stock harvest. As for the hatcheries, they’re expecting about 32 million fish back. Depending on cost recovery and brood stock needs, you would anticipate somewhere around 25-27 million fish potentially available for common property harvest.”
Wild runs during even years are typically about a fourth of returns during odd years, but Russel said wild pink numbers are also expected to be below even year averages around the state due to major run failures in 2016.
“That’s definitely driving the lower forecast for sure. 2016 was again a run failure in Prince William Sound and many parts across the state for pink salmon,” Russell explained. “So this wasn’t unexpected.”
The outlook for chum salmon is expected to be average. Fish and Game estimates about 390,000 chums to be available for harvest, comparable to last year.
The Prince William Sound Aquaculture Association is projecting a return of about 3.7 million fish, but harvest numbers for hatchery fish have not been set.
Copper River gillnetters can expect 2018 to be similar to last year. About 1.7 million wild Copper River sockeye are expected to return. Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Jeremy Botz said the Gulkana Hatchery is expected to add about 148,000 fish to that forecast.
“It’s very similar. I would anticipate a very similar management approach for sockeye if we have a run like last year. In saying that, that’s a run that came in well under forecast,” Botz added. “If it looks like it’s going to go similar to last year, we’re going to maintain a more conservative fishing schedule.”
About 950,000 sockeye will be allocated to the commercial fleet if sockeye return as forecasted. Total sockeye harvest between all user groups is estimated to be 1.2 million.
One bright spot for gillnetters on the west side of the Sound is the forecast for Coghill Lake. About 150,000 sockeye are expected to be available for harvest in that fishery.