KENAI (AP) -- Cook Inlet's commercial driftnet salmon fishermen will get their first opening of the season Monday and expectations look good, say fishery managers.
A run of 20,000 sockeye salmon is projected for the day, according to Jeff Fox of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Commercial Fisheries Division. The projection is based on fish counts from the Kasilof River, which numbered 10,000 on Friday and are expected to increase. Counts for the Kenai River are not yet available.
The opening will cover all areas of Cook Inlet's northern district except for the east side. From now until Aug. 7, drift fishing will be open every Monday and Thursday.
Drift fishermen are optimistic about the coming season.
''A fisherman's expectation is always that every season will be bigger than the last one,'' said Steve Tvenstrup, a commercial fisher since 1974 and member of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association. ''But yes, we're hoping for a better season than last year.''
About 100 boats are expected to take part in Monday's opening.
''(The early run) is a fairly small and unproductive segment of the season,'' said Fox. ''The fishermen are mostly there to shake out their gear and get all the kinks out and get ready for the real fishing later on. But we do garner some valuable information on early returns to the Kasilof from their results.''
Those boats that do go out Monday can expect to receive $1.00 per pound for their catches of sockeye, although area fish processors will not post prices until the catch actually comes in later in the day.
''Kodiak is getting 80 cents right now, but our price in Cook Inlet usually runs a little higher,'' said Tvenstrup. ''After the runs in Bristol Bay start coming in and we see what they're getting, our price changes accordingly. It depends on the number of fish. The run was late last year so the price went up to $1.40, but that went back down to $1.20 after Bristol Bay came in. But we should get at least $1.00.''
The Department of Fish and Game projects a total return of 4.5 million sockeye for this year. That is a little above average compared with the last few years, Fox said.
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