Pink salmon populations are strong, despite high temperatures and the long dry spell, said Todd Anderson, Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant area biologist.
“The only question is whether the run will continue into September,” Anderson said Monday, noting that has been the trend in recent years.
Through Monday, 23,557,337 salmon have been caught, with pinks accounting for 21,132,397 of the total. This number of pinks harvested is above average, Anderson said.
If the dry spell were to continue, it could be worrisome, Anderson said. Nonetheless, current salmon numbers are decent. He does not have up-to-date information about where water levels are lowest.
“With the numbers of fish we’ve seen already spawning in certain systems, and as long as there is decent groundwater, and water continues to flow without major flooding, the fish that we usually have in the bank could produce a run just as strong as what we’ve seen this year,” he said.
The escapement level, in spring-fed rivers is above average, he added.
“Then again, if the systems go totally dry and there’s no groundwater flowing to the gravel (where fish eggs are deposited), certainly there could be reduced spawning success,” he said.
“We have a good pink salmon run right now. A lot of fish are in closed waters in protected areas, and/or in the rivers, so at the rivers escapement isn’t a problem,” he said.
He said pinks will spawn in any area with at least “a trickle” of water and in brackish water. Or, they will wait to spawn until there is more rain, as long as there is an area of closed waters protecting them, which many of the systems have. The fish eventually make it upriver.
In two years, when pinks return to spawn, ADF&G predicts strong salmon runs as long as there is “decent groundwater, and water continues to flow without major flooding,” Anderson said.
There is no immediate worry for sockeye populations, Anderson said.
“There’s large enough closed water where a lot of these systems of plenty of fish that will mill and wait for water,” Anderson said.
He has not observed a lot of salmon die-off this year.
“I haven’t heard of die-offs here at the moment. It’s not unheard of. I’ve definitely seen it in the past, major die-offs due to lack of oxygen usually in lagoon-type areas,” he said. “I haven’t heard of it happening this year yet.”
If the dry spell continues, it could affect spawning success, he said, but added that he does not have the information to fully confirm this.
They have not yet flown aerial surveys to measure the areas with the lowest water levels.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game published a news release Monday morning announcing a 72-hour extension to the current commercial salmon fishing period that will end 6 p.m. Thursday in the following areas:
• The Northwest Kodiak District
• The Southwest Afognak, Northwest Afognak, Northeast Afognak, Southeast Afognak, Raspberry Strait, and Perenosa Bay sections of the Afognak District
• The Seven Rivers, Two-Headed, and Sitkalidak sections of the Eastside Kodiak District;
• The Northeast Kodiak District
• The Katmai, Alinchak Bay, Cape Igvak, and Wide Bay sections of the Mainland District
• The Humpy-Deadman Section of the Alitak District
• The Outer Ayakulik Section of the Southwest Kodiak District.