As we pass the typical midpoint of late-run Kenai king and sockeye salmon runs, a quick rundown of the numbers highlights this year’s management challenges and expectations for the rest of the year.
Kenai Late-Run Kings
• Record low returns have required extreme fishery measures in an attempt to meet escapement goals.
• Thru July 22, just 7,909 kings have been counted by the Didson sonar.
• Counts are tracking well below the 17,800 fish minimum escapement goal identified in the management plan, even with the complete closure of commercial set net and in-river sport fisheries.
• Current Kenai king Didson numbers generally project out to somewhere in the 12,000 to 15,000 range based on run timing from old sonar and recent Didson data.
• These projections are highly uncertain due to historical sonar problems and just a couple years of Didson data to go on. We also don’t know what percentage of the total run is being counted by the Didson.
• Reported king salmon harvests in the central district commercial fishery to date are 505.
• Of these 150 were taken in the drift net fishery and 355 in the set net fishery.
• The set net opener on 7/16 took 265 kings.
• The drift net harvest likely includes a number of King stocks but the set net harvest is assumed to be predominately Kenai late-run kings.
• Before closure to retention on July 9, the Kenai River sport fishery harvested an estimated 103 kings.
• Between July 10 and 18 when the sport fishery was closed entirely, catch and release fishing likely accounted for fewer than 30 additional mortalities.
Late-Run Kenai Sockeye
• Almost 900,000 sockeye have been counted at the mile 19 Kenai River Didson sonar thru Monday 7/23.
• Sonar counts are tracking above the in-river goal targets of 1 to 1.2 million.
• Sonar numbers project to about 1.6 million at an average run timing.
• Corresponding escapements will be around the top of the OEG (1.4 million) when harvest above the sonar is factored in.
• Harvest and sonar numbers put Kenai sockeye on pace to meet or exceed the 4 million forecast.
• Sonar counts were 244,710 through Monday.
• Counts are tracking within the 160,000 to 390,000 escapement target range.
Commercial Sockeye Harvest
• After a late start, the sockeye run appears to be matching normal run timing as of the traditional halfway point. Despite a recent drop in the off-shore test fishery numbers, there are most likely still some sockeye yet to come.
• Through July 22, the commercial harvest of sockeye salmon in the Upper Cook Inlet central district totals about 2.37 million sockeye, of which only 80,000 was taken by the east side set nets.
• No set net fishing has occurred since Monday 7/16.
• The drift netters have fished nine straight days (and counting) from Monday 7/16 through Tuesday 7/24. Most EO openers have been restricted to the expanded corridor but the Saturday 7/21 opener included Area 1 and the expanded corridor.