Copper River and Chitina update from ADF&G:
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From: Viavant, Tim R (DFG)
Date: Wed, May 22, 2019, 4:18 PM
Subject: FW: Copper River Salmon Management Update
Here is Mark's message for the week, which does a good job of putting a lot of information in one place.
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From: Somerville, Mark A (DFG)
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 4:11 PM
Subject: Copper River Salmon Management Update
The commercial fleet harvested 53,232 sockeye salmon and 1,755 king salmon in the second 12 hour opener on Monday May 20. Total commercial harvest now stands at 73,766 sockeye salmon and 4,064 king salmon. The harvest on Monday was within the expected harvest range for that date for sockeye salmon and a little below expected for king salmon. Weather played a large role in the lower king salmon harvest.
Passage of salmon at the Miles Lake sonar is running a few days early and now stands at 41,190 salmon with today's count expected to exceed 15,000 fish (Figure 1). NVE has sampled 397 king salmon at their Baird Canyon site which is well above the average sample of 172 king salmon for this date (figure 2).
The sockeye salmon run appears to be tracking above projection and the king salmon run appears good. Based on the harvest to date and the strong sonar passage the commercial fisheries manager has determined enough sockeye salmon surplus to justify a 24 hour fishing period tomorrow. The catch, is that the weather in the Gulf of Alaska is expected to generate over 12ft seas, which will greatly reduce the efficiency of the commercial fishery. Therefore, the opener tomorrow will start with 12 hours of fishing time that will include fishing within the king salmon inside closure area and then continue only outside of the king salmon closure area for the final 12 hours. The expectation is that with the predicted weather and lower efficiency, overall king salmon harvest will not exceed the expected harvest that would happen under 24 hours of fishing outside the king salmon closure area in good weather.
There was much discussion between fishery managers on this topic and all the ways it could go wrong. In the end it was agreed that a 24 hour opener with 12 hours of fishing time inside the king salmon closed area was the best way to ensure needed sockeye salmon harvest while minimizing the effect on king salmon. If, at the end of the period, king salmon harvest is well above the expected (expected is around 2,500 king salmon) further commercial openings may see additional closed areas to protect the remaining (about 60% of the run) king salmon. I fully trust the commercial manager's insights on the fishery and his many years of experience on how the commercial fishery works and how tides, weather, river flows, and fish movement can affect the harvest. The decision on this opener took a lot of analysis and discussion.
One last point on the commercial fishery. Although the inside area will be open this period, it is likely that it will be closed in any opener next week unless there is very clear indication that the king salmon run is at or above forecast. If you have some questions that the commercial manager can answer that may answer or alleviate any concerns you have I'm sure he would appreciate your call (907-424-3212 and ask for Jeremy)
For the upper river, the Chitina personal use fishery will open at 12:01 am on June 7th and if sonar passage continues as it is now that fishery will remain open through at least June 16. I have had reports of sockeye being caught already by hook and line and the federal subsistence is currently open. With the early river entry we are seeing at the sonar, there should be good fishing in the subsistence fishery starting the first week of June.
The Copper River remains at historically low levels so fish passage will be different than past years. Sport anglers should see sockeye salmon in the Klutina River the first couple of weeks of June and king salmon in the Gulkana River by mid-June. We are still only two commercial openers into the season and both the commercial and sport fish managers are remaining cautiously optimistic about this year's run and we are using, and ready to use, any and all tools to manage the fishery to allow good opportunity for all users and continued sustainability of future salmon returns.
Feel free to call me or email with any questions or concerns you may have. Also feel free to forward this email to any other interested folks. I will send out my next update on Saturday.
Mark A. Somerville
Area Management Biologist
Upper Copper Upper Susitna Management Area