Copper River sockeye fishery off to a good start

May 22, 2019

Sockeye.
Credit Photo by Daysha Eaton/KBBI

Alaska’s first commercial salmon fishery is off to a good start on the Cooper River in Prince William Sound. After two fishing periods, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Jeremy Botz said fishermen have caught nearly 74,000 sockeye and about 4,000 chinook.

“After the first two openings, it looks like the sockeye salmon harvest is tracking right near anticipated to meet the forecast. It’s kind of a tough read on chinook,” Botz said. “We had some pretty rough weather on the last fishing period. But so far they’re coming in it looks to be a little below anticipated, but it’s a tough read at this point after two fishing periods.”

Fish and Game’s forecast calls for an average sockeye return of about 1.9 million this season. Commercial, sport and subsistence users are expected to harvest of about 1.2 million fish. Prices at the beginning of this season were down slightly from last year with sockeye going for $10 per pound and chinook priced at $14 per pound on the docks.

Botz adds that over 41,000 fish have made it to up-river spawning grounds so far, well ahead of the minimum escapement goal of about 16,000 kings and sockeye at this point in the season.

“So that’s giving us a little bit of flexibility to kind of take on a little more risk during this next fishing period and see what’s going on out there,” he added. “We announced for a longer fishing period, so it should give us a good read on sockeye and chinook I think.”

Fish and Game will open the fishery up for a 24-hour period beginning Thursday morning.