FAIRBANKS (AP) The date has been announced for dipnetters to start scooping salmon out of the Copper River.
The tentative June 4 opening is for just 24 hours but it is likely to be extended to at least twice that, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
''We'll see some extension,'' said biologist Tom Taube with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Glennallen. ''Whether it becomes a two- or three-day opener will depend on what we see this week.''
The openings are based on sonar counts at Miles Lake, about 70 miles downstream of the Chitina dipnet fishery. The schedule released by Fish and Game was based on preseason projections and will be adjusted based on the number of fish that are counted.
The sonar was put in place on May 10 and as of Wednesday, more than 19,000 fish had been counted. According to the preseason forecast, the sonar count wasn't supposed to reach that number until May 25.
On Wednesday, 6,700 fish passed the sonar compared to an anticipated count of 1,021.
As it is set now, the fishery will open from 12:01 p.m. June 4 to 12:01 p.m. June 5 and then shut down for 2 1/2 days before opening again at 12:01 a.m. June 8.
At that point, the fishery is scheduled to be open continuously through midnight July 3.
Based on the fact that more than 250 fish were counted the first day the sonar was operational and almost 20,000 had been counted as of Wednesday, dipnetters will probably find more fish at Chitina than in past openers.
Based on preseason projections, the peak of this year's run should hit Chitina the last two weeks of June and the first week of July.
Almost 240,000 fish are expected to pass the sonar between May 31 and June 17, an average of 13,243 fish a day.
Access issues to the river at Chitina are still being hashed out between the state and local Native corporations. It remains to be seen what kind of access dipnetters will have at O'Brien Creek.
The Department of Natural Resources is negotiating with the Chitina and Ahtna Native corporations concerning some kind of access at O'Brien.
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