Lower Cook Inlet Sockeye run average as pinks begin to show up
Commercial fishermen in lower Cook Inlet are having a mostly average season so far this summer. Seiners have hauled in roughly 34,000 sockeye, which sits between the 2016 and 2017 harvests.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist, Glenn Hollowell said most of those fish are comprised of hatchery stocks.
“While we haven’t looked at the otoliths (ear bones marking the origin of the fish) from those sockeye yet, I would anticipate that a very large percentage of those are hatchery fish, most definitely above 50 percent,” Hollowell said. “It may be as high as 80 to 90 percent.”
Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, which raises and releases those fish, has harvested about 15,000 fish for cost recovery near Kachemak Bay this season, and the personal use dipnet fishery in China Poot Bay has been reported to be excellent.
Delight Lake on the outer coast has been a bright spot for seiners with daily openings in that fishery. While things have been looking good for the seine fleet, set gillnetters have had a slow season.
“As of last week, they had about 8,000 sockeye that they had harvested, and that’s versus about 23,000 for this time last year and a five-year average of about 21,000,” Hollowell explained.
Hollowell said commercial fishermen are just about a third of the way through the sockeye run and the season could turn around for gillnetters.
Some pinks are beginning to show up around lower Cook Inlet as well. Hollowell said there have been reports of pink salmon schools near Port Dick on the outer coast.
“It appears that we may have a pretty good return of pink salmon and hopefully not a repeat of 2016, which was a pretty bad return for pink salmon pretty much across the north Gulf,” he said.
Commercial fishing for pinks typically opens the last week of July. Fish and Game is forecasting a modest run of about 240,000 pink salmon across lower Cook Inlet.