Lower Cook Inlet pink season was a mixed bag for fishermen
The fishing season is wrapping up in lower Cook Inlet, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Glenn Hollowell says it was a mixed bag for pink salmon. Still this year’s pinks, which are the progeny of the disastrous 2016 season, came in mostly as expected and most escapement goals in the area were met.
Hollowell said more fish made it up streams on the outer coast because commercial fishermen mostly focused their efforts in the southern district near Homer.
“There was not a lot of commercial pressure on the outer coast, and we had reduced opportunity in a lot of places out there,” Hollowell said. “But a lot of the guys went out there and looked around, decided there weren't a lot of fish out there and came back. So the fish just came in and went up the creek."
He adds that was also a function of the weather this season. Spotty periods of rainy and dry weather meant that fish did not stay very long in salt water and moved rapidly into fresh water.
But Hollowell said gillnetters in the southern district did especially well.
“I believe they harvested about 50,000 pink salmon in the southern district, whereas the seiners I think picked up around 400,000 pink salmon, which is pretty good for both gear groups, but it's actually a bit more than the gillnetters usually get,” he said.
He anticipates most of those fish are hatchery fish returning to the Tutka Bay or Port Graham facilities, but he says the department has yet to confirm the split between hatchery and wild fish harvested.
Hollowell adds that sockeye in the Lower Cook Inlet also did well with most systems meeting their escapement goals. However, chum did not increase this year, ending a multi-year trend upward. However, Hollowell says it may be just a temporary lull.