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M. Scott Moon
The F/V Katmai returns to the Kenai River through heavy swells in Cook Inlet after a recent sockeye salmon opener for the commercial driftnet fleet.

Pretty dog-gone good

Big return has commercial fishermen, processors hopping

Posted: July 20, 2011 - 7:27am

With the record-setting season upon the Kenai Peninsula, the fish business is flourishing.

Dipnetters are not the only the ones having success fishing this year. The commercial fishing fleet has been keeping processors busy this season with the abundance of fish being caught in Cook Inlet.

“We’re doing pretty dog-gone good at this point,” commercial driftnet fisherman Dyer VanDevere said. “I gave away some fish to some dipnetters yesterday, I went over my limit.”

The limits, VanDevere said, are plugging up the processing plants in Cook Inlet.

Peninsula Processing & Smokehouse in Soldotna has their hand in every aspect of the fish business, and right now, business is good.

“We’ve been crazy busy,” Ariel Vail, assistant office manager said.

The influx of business has kept the company working extra long hours.

“We open around 5 a.m. and there’s usually someone here until about 10 p.m.,” Vail said.

Fish indexes show the season is already on par with the phenomenal effort of 1992, but it might be too early to tell for sure.

“It might be running on par with ‘92, I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out yet,” VanDevere said.

VanDevere is optimistic the heavy run will continue.

“I think we got plenty of fish to come, I don’t think it’s going to pick up, but it should stay the same for a while,” he said.

Pat Shields, Alaska Department of Fish and Game commerical fisheries biologist, said an estimate would be from about 800,000 to a million fish.

“The season is going pretty well so far,” Shields said. “Everything indicates at forecast or above forecast, harvest rates have been good over the last week and escapements are on track.”

Indications are pointing toward a good season now, but the story could change.

“Things always change in a hurry in Cook Inlet,” Shields said.

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