ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska officials have forecast poor returns for Kenai River king salmon in the upcoming spring and summer fishing season.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game released the estimates Jan. 27.

“The 2020 forecast gives the expectation of a run in the below average category relative to the historical average,” the department wrote in its report.

This year’s forecast of salmon during the early run through June 30 is just 4,794 large fish, which would rank as the eighth lowest return in the last 35 years but higher than last year’s run of 4,216 fish, state biologists said.

The department classifies large fish as those greater than 34 inches (86 centimeters) in length.

The average return over the past 35 years is more than 9,100 king salmon in the early run.


The department predicts a similar result during the late run that lasts through August.

The department forecasts a return of 22,707 large king salmon, which would be the sixth lowest in the past 35 years and about half of the 35-year average.

The return would be about 60% larger than last year’s escapement of just 12,780 fish, which failed to meet the department’s sustainable escapement goal of 13,500 to 27,000 fish.

The Board of Fisheries defines optimum escapement as the number of fish allowed to escape fisheries and spawn to ensure sustainable runs and healthy returns for commercial, sport, subsistence, cost-recovery, and personal use fishing.

The Kenai River is famous for its large king salmon.