While trollers in Southeast Alaska provide Chinook salmon to markets nearly year round (their spring fishery got under way April 25), it is the runs of reds and kings to the famous Copper River that mark the official start of Alaska’s salmon season. State managers have announced May 16 as the first opener there, three days later than last year.
The Copper River forecast calls for a catch of 1.2 million sockeye salmon, 9,000 kings and 293,000 cohos this season. Fingers are crossed that the catch will come in on target, unlike last year when Copper River salmon catches were well below the 10 year averages. Sockeyes, for example, yielded a harvest of 636,000 fish, about half of what was expected.
Overall, last year’s statewide salmon catch of 171 million fish was valued at $534 million at the Alaska docks, the best showing in 18 years. (And that doesn’t include bonuses or other post-season price adjustments.) State managers predict even better salmon catches this year – nearly 204 million fish. If the catch comes in on target, it will be the fifth largest salmon harvest on record.
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