Every Alaska salmon season is different, yet the same.
Some regions produce bountiful harvests. Some perform way under forecast. Either way, fishermen usually go home grumbling about the prices.
This season we give the blue ribbon to Bristol Bay, which produced a catch of almost 31 million sockeye on a forecast of 24 million. That's 31 million reds. Wow.
As for underperformers, we all know the sad story of the Yukon River Chinook.
But the season's biggest disappointment might be the Prince William Sound pink salmon fishery. So far it's been a royal bust.
Coming into the season, the forecast was for a spectacular run of 54.9 million pinks, with a potential commercial catch of 40 million. The run would be composed of 14.3 million wild stock fish, 17.9 million from the Valdez Fisheries Development Association hatchery, and 22.7 million from Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. hatcheries.
What's happened so far?
The wild pinks simply haven't shown up and the movement of spawning fish into freshwater streams is running way behind.
As for hatchery production, the early return of pinks to the VFDA hatchery was shockingly low and the catch won't even cover the association's expenses.
The industry is now waiting anxiously to see how returns to the PWSAC hatcheries play out.
Through Friday, the total pink salmon catch in Prince William Sound stood at just under 4 million fish. Oh, wow.
Sound seiners are still waiting for what's known as a commercial common property fishery — that is, a fishery for the fishermen, not just to pay for hatchery expenses.
As with the Yukon Chinook, many in the Sound wonder what what the heck happened to their fish.
Jeremy Botz, seine manager for the Department of Fish and Game in Cordova, said one explanation might be the cold water temperatures noted the year hatchery fish were released to sea as smolts. Cold water can suppress plankton blooms that provide vital food for growing fish.
Whatever the cause of the Sound's disappearing pinks, fishermen are feeling a little shell-shocked, Botz said.
Dutch Harbor report
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