Salmon opener yields ample reds, fewer kings

Posted: Monday, May 18, 2009

FAIRBANKS - The opening of the Copper River salmon season has exceeded expectations for red salmon, but fewer kings than anticipated were caught by commercial fishermen.

The preliminary harvest for the 12-hour Cordova opening was 18,600 red salmon and 1,400 kings, instead of a projected harvest of 9,300 reds and 2,800 kings.

Glenn Hollowell, a commercial fisheries biologist in Cordova, attributed the smaller chinook harvest to low tides during the opening.

"Fish move around when they're in a high tide series," he said. "Had we had better tides I think the king catch would have been higher."

Hollowell said the fact fishermen caught twice as many reds as projected is good news, but adds that one 12-hour opening doesn't mean much.

As many as 500 boats participated in the first commercial opening.

Processors were paying $5.30 a pound for kings and $3.50 a pound for reds. That's down slightly from last year's opening-day prices.

Biologists are projecting a Copper River run of 1.3 million red salmon - the fifth-lowest since 1980 - and 77,000 kings, which would be about 24,000 higher than last year.

Based on those projected runs, the commercial harvest is predicted to be 509,500 reds and 30,700 kings.

Last year's commercial sockeye harvest was only 320,000, less than half of what was projected.

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