Coho catch disappoints fishermen

Chum harvest well below average, but 2007 a good year for reds, pinks and kings

Posted: Monday, October 08, 2007

This fall's commercial coho salmon season came in close to historical averages, but it still left disappointment in the hearts and bank accounts of most fishermen, as it fell short of the stellar catches of the last couple of years.

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Southeast Alaska fleets have hauled in about 2 million coho this year, compared to 3 million a few years ago, according to Scott Kelley, the regional supervisor for commercial fisheries for Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The long-term average from 1960 to 2005 for coho is 2 million. One of the highest years for coho was 1994, when 5.7 million were caught.

"It's average, but unfortunately a fisherman doesn't look at it that like that. We compare it to last year and how much money is in our pockets," said Kathy Hansen, head of the Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance.

Total salmon catch for Southeast Alaska

Sockeye salmon:

2007: 1.9 million.

2006: 1.3 million.

Average: 1.3 million.

Pink salmon:

2007: 44 million

(consistent with recent years).

Average: 28.8 million.

King salmon:

(includes winter trolling)

2007: 346,000.

2006: 371,000.

Average: 298,000.

Chum salmon:

2007: 9.2 million.

2006: 13.4 million.

Average: 4.6 million.

10-year average: 12.4 million.

(reflects the growth in hatchery business).

Coho salmon:

2007: 2 million.

2004: 3 million.

1994: 5.7 million.

45-year average: 2 million.

Source: State Departmentof Fish and Game.

Sport fishermen aren't seeing a great coho season this year either.

"This might have been the fourth lowest year that we've observed," said Brian Glynn, a sport fisheries biologist at Fish and Game.

Commercial sockeye, pink and king catches were all above average, but chum came in well below the 10-year average of 12.4 million, at 9.2 million. The chum fishery has grown during the past decade because of an increase in hatcheries. The 45-year average is 4.6 million.

"As far as disappointments go, chum was probably the most disappointing of the lot," Kelley said.

Hansen agreed, saying good predictions had led to high hopes.

"People had become excited about the projections, but the runs came in half of what was predicted. They had geared up and prepared for really good runs," Hansen said.

"Overall, people feel a little disappointed in the season. On the other hand, they say, well, overall, I really didn't do that bad," Hansen said.

Prices are rising for all salmon species, and king salmon fetched record-high prices, between $8.50 and $9 per pound, especially for winter-caught fish, according to the Department of Fish and Game. Pink salmon also have tripled in price, from 5 to 7 cents a pound to 20 to 25 cents a pound.

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