ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Copper River sockeye salmon run has improved in Alaska, but levels have not increased enough in the commercial fishery for managers to allow normal fishing levels, officials said.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists had predicted there would be a reduced number of the sockeye salmon in the river during the 2020 season, The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.
The number of sockeye passing sonar equipment in the Copper River at Miles Lake was about half the level expected by managers, Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Jeremy Botz said.
State biologists forecast a Copper River sockeye run of 1.5 million fish this year compared to a 10-year average of 2.1 million.
By June 1 there were 79,482 sockeye counted by the sonar. More than 220,000 salmon were counted there last year despite additional fishing.
Commercial fishing operators who use drift gillnets were unlikely to be allowed to fish for a regular 12-hour period beginning June 4, Botz said.
The low sockeye figures have continued despite managers closing the 12-hour fishing period on Thursdays during the second and third weeks of the fishery.
The Copper River District normally opens in mid-May with 12-hour fishing periods on Mondays and Thursdays.
“We’re just going to be watching that sonar real close and hoping to get a few days of 20,000-plus (sockeye),” Botz said.
Fishing improved for the gillnet fleet in the May 25 and June 1 opening periods, with 33,777 and 31,522 sockeye taken during the respective periods.
The larger numbers of fish taken followed a drastically low catch of only 6,071 sockeye earlier in the season, which led to restrictions on fishing time.