Sockeye index indicates fish are coming

Statistics released Sunday showing an index of 257 sockeye salmon may not be a clear indication of what can be expected in the river, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Pat Shields.


The Sockeye Salmon Index is based on readings taken at six stations spread across Cook Inlet. Shields said a drift gillnet vessel fishes each station for 30 minutes with a 200-fathom long net and converts the catches into index points.

Shields said the high number on Sunday in itself does not mean there will be an abundance of fish in the rivers because 248 fish of the total 257 for Sunday came from one station. The two stations on either side had 1.6 and 1.7 fish. Shields offered some explanation for the high number.

“They set the net where the GPS tells them, it just so happens this time it could have been close to a rip, so there were a lot of fish in that area,” he said.

Around July 20, the index will be used to help Fish and Game adjust management strategies based on the numbers of fish previously counted coming through the Inlet and predict how heavy the fish runs will be for the rest of the season. The start of later runs — whether they are early, on-time or late — can also more accurately be determined based on the information.

“We have management plans that tell us how to manage commercial and sport fisheries, we make that in-season estimate so we know which management plan to follow,” he said.

There have been solid index numbers (over 100) spanning the last few days, and that, Shields said, is a better indication of what to expect.

“When you add up the three days combined, there are almost 600 index points on multiple stations,” he said. “That gives credence to the fact we’ve probably had a large number of sockeye come in to Cook Inlet.”

Logan Tuttle can be reached at