Commercial fishing resumed in Upper Cook Inlet this weekend.
The Department of Fish and Game made the announcement Friday after fishing had been closed for the prior week. Commercial fisheries manager Pat Shields says the numbers of sockeye entering the Kenai river have been ticking up all week.
“We’ve been continuing to closely monitor sockeye salmon passage into the Kenai river. The last few days have seen increased passage. It came down a bit Thursday, but 72,000 on Wednesday. Friday's count in the Kenai through 7 a.m. is the highest morning count we’ve had this year. So we expect simliar passage (as) the last few days. We now can project that we’re going to end up in the goal range for Kenai river, which is 900,000 to 1.1 million. And in fact, some of the models that we use to assess the run in-season are now suggesting that the run may be a couple days late and we may end up at the higher end of that escapement.”
He says the run is showing some good numbers even further south, where test fishery boats have been picking lots of fish.
“We fish a test fish vessel, it’s a drift gillnet vessel at some stations at the southern part of the Upper Cook Inlet area which is aligned across Cook Inlet from Anchor Point. And it fishes six stations every day for the month of the July and we convert our catches into what we call indexes and we relate that to how many fish are coming into the Inlet. Over the past five or six days, that test boat has been seeing a large index which indicates we’re seeing a lot of new sockeye salmon come into the Inlet. We expect those to be hitting the Kenai and Kasilof river, they actually have already begun to do that, we expect that trend is going to continue over the next few days and this increased passage we’re seeing is going to stay with us for a few days.”
So, while the big push of reds into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers might not have fit squarely into the traditional dipnetting season, the overall run appears to be healthy and should show up sooner or later.
King salmon numbers on the Kenai are still strong, with nearly 12,000 fish tallied as of Thursday. That run is slightly ahead of where it was at the same point last year.
Things ares still slow up on the Russian River, however, with just 6,600 sockeye making their way through the counters there.