FAIRBANKS — It’s almost time to dig out the dip nets.
The first opening of the 2010 Chitina dip net fishery is tentatively scheduled for June 3, though that can change depending how the Copper River red salmon run develops.
According to a preseason schedule released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the first Chitina opening will be from 6 a.m. June 3, a Thursday, to midnight on June 6, a Sunday.
“If the fish come through (the Miles Lake sonar counter) as projected, it will open on June 3,” said Glennallen area biologist Mark Somerville. “It depends on what we see at the sonar.”
The preseason schedule is based on projected daily sonar counts at the Miles Lake sonar and is subject to change based on those counts. If counts are below the projected numbers, fishing time might be reduced, and if the counts come in above the projected numbers, fishing time might be increased.
The Department of Fish and Game is hoping to have the sonar counter installed at Miles Lake, which is about 70 miles downstream of Chitina, by the end of next week, according to Glenn Hollowell with Division of Commercial Fisheires in Cordova.
“We snowmachined most of our hardware out there last week, and the crew should be heading out early next week,” he said.
The first opening of the Copper River commercial fishery is scheduled for today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which will give fish managers the first inkling of how this year’s run is shaping up.
The department is projecting a Copper River red salmon run of almost 2.2 million fish, which would be the 10th largest red salmon run in the Copper River since 1980.
The forecast for the Copper’s king salmon, however, is not as optimistic. Biologists predict only 49,000 kings will return, which would be the second-smallest king run since 1999 and only slightly higher than last year’s run of approximately 44,000, which resulted in restrictions on kings for commercial, personal-use and sport fishermen.
Last year’s dip net harvest at Chitina was one of the lowest on record. The department issued approximately 8,000 dip net permits and dip-netters caught an estimated 91,000 salmon.
The estimated harvest per permit was 11.5 fish, which was down from the 20-year average of 14 fish per permit but higher than the average of 10.8 in 008.
Contact outdoors editor Tim Mowry at 459-7587.