Kenai sockeye counts continue to lag with just 516,562 counted thru Friday August 3. At the normal 86 percent point in run timing, it is now unlikely that the minimum inriver goal of 900,000 will be reached.
Current mathematical projections are for a final sonar count of around 600,000. With the fisheries closed to protect Kenai sockeye, sonar counts and projections are gradually creeping upward. It is hard to believe there will not be at least a small pulse of late fish, so a final number between 600,000 and 700,000 is most likely.
KRSA estimates just a 5 percent probability of meeting the inriver goal based on historical variation in run timing. It will take 19 days of 20,000 counts to reach the goal – there have been just two 20,000 counts in the last 10 days (although they came in the last 4 days). It is still theoretically possible to reach the lower goal of 700,000 with a very late push of fish. This will require about 800,000 – 850,000 sockeye at the sonar to account for an upstream sport harvest of perhaps 100,000-150,000. However, run timing late enough to achieve that minimum has happened only twice in 29 years (1994 & 2006).
At this point in the run, it is increasing difficult to get accurate sockeye sonar counts as pink salmon begin to flood the system. Attempts are made to apportion the sonar counts by species based on fish sampling at the sonar. However, corrections may be subject to significant error. For instance, species apportionment errors led to the previous retirement of the Susitna sonar as an index of sockeye escapement.
Current numbers and projections add up to a total Kenai sockeye run of under 2 million – perhaps under 1.8 million. This would be the lowest run since 2000’s 1.8 million. In only two years since 1985 has the run been under 2 million.
A total of 328,996 sockeye have been counted at the Kasilof sonar through Friday. At the normal 94 percent point in the run timing, current numbers project to an escapement of around 350,000. With the commercial fishery closed to protect Kenai sockeye, Kasilof numbers and projections are still trending upward. One can expect final numbers to be above the upper escapement goal of 340,000 and around the upper end of the optimal escapement goal of 390,000.