Fishermen could catch a few extra sockeye salmon in Upper Cook Inlet waterways during 2013.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced its sockeye salmon forecast today, projecting a total run of 6.7 million fish, and a harvest of 4.9 million for all users.
That’s up slightly compared to a 2012 harvest of 4.4 million, and about 1 million more than the 20-year average harvest of 3.8 million fish.
Sockeye on Upper Cook Inlet river systems are caught in sport, personal use, subsistence and commercial fisheries.
The Kenai River forecast is down slightly compared to 2012. The prediction is for 4.4 million sockeye in the Kenai, compared to a run of 4.7 million in 2012.
Fish and Game Biologist Pat Shields said the forecast ties to a management plan, which Fish and Game will use in the summer to oversee the fisheries.
“This puts us in the middle tier for management next year,” Shields said.
Under the middle tier management, Shields said east side setnetters will have two closed windows on Tuesdays and Fridays after July 8, with some flexibility regarding the timing of the closures. It also means that there will be twelve hour openings on Mondays and Thursdays, with an additional 51 hours of fishing time allowed each week. And it sets an escapement goal of 1 to 1.2 million sockeye passing the Kenai River sonar.
Although the Kenai sees the biggest share of the Upper Cook Inlet sockeye run, several other river systems will see fish return as well.
The sockeye run on the Kasilof River is expected to come in just under a million fish at 903,000. That’s about 200,000 more than last year.
The Susitna River could see a decline, with a forecast of 363,000 fish compared to 443,000 in 2012.
The Crescent River, on the west side of Cook Inlet, could see an increase, with 110,000 sockeye predicted to swim upstream compared to 89,000 last year.
The Fish Creek forecast is 61,000 fish, down from 84,000 in 2012. Fish Creek drains from Big Lake into the Cook Inlet at the Knik Arm.
About 872,000 fish are expected to return to unmonitored systems.
The Kenai, Kasilof and Crescent River predictions are all above escapement goals listed in the department’s forecast, while the Fish Creek estimate is within the escapement goal range. An escapement goal isn’t available for the Susitna River, because that river is gauged based on three different lake escapements: Larson Lake, Chelatna Lake and Judd Lake.