Kodiak’s 2019 salmon season is off to a slow start after 16,000 reds were caught during the first opener over the weekend.

Just 16,000 sockeye salmon were caught over the weekend, during Kodiak’s first opener of the 2019 commercial salmon season. 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened the Northwest District of Kodiak for 57 hours, from noon Friday to 9 p.m. Sunday, after surveys and escapement levels suggested that a strong start might be on the cards for the early-run sockeye. According to ADF&G Kodiak Area Management Biologist James Jackson, levels of harvest thus far has been “less than spectacular.” 

“I’d say it’s less than what we were expecting. We were hoping for a bit more. It was a pretty poor showing for the first opener on the west side there,” Jackson said. “We were hoping for something between 20,000-25,000; instead we only caught 16,000 or so.”

The vast majority of the harvested reds were caught in the Northwest District, with only roughly 250 sockeye caught in the Izhut, Duck and Kitoi Bays. ADF&G opened those areas on Friday at noon, as well as the Foul Bay Special Harvest Area and the Waterfall Bay Special Harvest Area, all of which will be open until further notice.

The total area-wide early-run sockeye harvest was forecast by ADF&G to be around 800,000 fish; the total area-wide late run sockeye harvest is anticipated to be around 1.5 million fish. Combined, this is higher than total red harvest of 1.8 million fish in 2018 and roughly the recent 10-year average of about 2.3 million fish.According to Jackson, the big surprise of the opener was the number of pink salmon caught. Despite the fact that all eyes are on the early-run sockeye, over 3,800 humpies have already been harvested. In a typical year, fishermen don’t usually turn their focus to pinks until early July.

“We usually don’t catch this many pinks this time of the year,” said Jackson. “For a west side opener, we usually catch 100 … Hopefully this is a preview of coming attractions.” 

Jackson was referring to the bumper humpy forecast for Kodiak this year; ADF&G are projecting a total catch of 27 million pink salmon in Kodiak over the whole season. This would be above the most recent 10-year average and far higher than last year’s pink salmon harvest of 6 million fish.For now, however, all eyes are on the returning sockeye. Jackson said escapement is continuing at a good rate, which means ADF&G are likely to open the fishery again in the coming days. As of Tuesday, 85,000 reds had passed the weir at Karluk. Jackson said their escapement target at Karluk for the early-run sockeye is 200,000-250,000. “With the closure, we’re probably going to reopen at the end of the week,” Jackson said.Over the full season, combining projections for all salmon species, Kodiak’s salmon harvest is forecast to be around 30.6 million fish. This is above the most recent 10-year average of around 21.5 million fish. At a statewide level, ADF&G is expecting a total salmon catch of 213 million fish in 2019, almost double the 116 million salmon caught in 2018.

ADF&G reminds fishermen that, from noon Friday until further notice, Chinook salmon 28 inches or greater in length may not be retained by purse seine gear in the commercial fishery in the Kodiak Area and must be returned to the water unharmed.

ADF&G previously announced a reduction in the closure of some waters for subsistence users. Closed waters are reduced for subsistence use in the following areas: at Saltery Creek (stream #259-415) to the stream terminus; and at Ouzinkie Harbor to the stream terminus of stream #259-396.

You can get all recent salmon fishery information by calling the ADF&G’s 24-hour record-a-phone at 486 4559.