Unless you fished for salmon this summer at Bristol Bay, it’s been slim pickings for fishermen in other Alaska regions.
We'll start with a few notable mentions for Alaska’s 2020 salmon fishery.
For the first time since 2015 commercial fishing occurred in the Kuskokwim region.
Kodiak’s pink salmon catch has been strong and steady, topping 10 million as of Saturday, Aug. 8.
Alaska sockeye catches have tracked nicely with preseason projections at more than 44 million fish so far. More than 39 million of the reds came from Bristol Bay, but those fishermen have a different problem.
The bay's base price of 70 cents a pound is down 48 percent from last year and “has understandably created anger and confusion among fishermen,” said the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association in a statement on market conditions.
Salmon returns have been so poor in much of the state that communities already are claiming fishery disasters.
Cordova’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Aug. 5 asking the state to declare disasters for both the 2018 Copper River sockeye and king salmon runs, and the 2020 sockeye, chum and king runs at the Copper River and Prince William Sound.
The resolution also urges the state and federal governments to declare an economic disaster in Cordova, reported the Cordova Times.
The sockeye fishery at Chignik on the Alaskan Peninsula also has remained closed again this year. So few salmon have returned, state managers said it is unlikely escapement goals will be achieved for the third consecutive year.
“It’s looking like one of the worst years in Chignik history,” Ross Renick, area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told KDLG in Dillingham.
Salmon catches throughout Cook Inlet are bleak again this year with a total take barely topping 2.7 million, mostly pinks. Only 748,000 sockeyes have come out of the Inlet so far this season.
Southeast Alaska communities also are being hit hard by weak returns; by Aug. 8 the total catch for the region had yet to reach 6 million salmon. For pinks, the catch was nearing 4 million out of an already low forecast of 12 million fish, one-third of the 10 year average of 35 million humpies.
Also low were pink prices — a nickel a pound compares to a regionwide average of 33 cents in 2019.
For chums, the Southeast catch had yet to reach 1.5 million out of a projected take of 9 million fish.
Sluggish chum returns to the Yukon means summer fishing is likely over, and ADF&G said no commercial openers are likely for this fall.
Low numbers also reduced fishing time at Norton Sound where only pinks have again shown up in strong numbers, but with no buying interest.
At Kotzebue, a total harvest could come in at under 200,000 chums for the first time since 2009.
Across the state, the peak for silver salmon production is still a few weeks away, but catches so far are skimpy compared to past years. A total catch of 4.2 million silver salmon is projected for the season.
In all, Alaska’s statewide, all-species salmon catch for 2020 is projected at nearly 133 million fish.