Monday's first period for Cook Inlet commercial fishers yielded a decent sockeye harvest for both setnetters and driftnetters while still providing sport fishers nearly 11,000 to catch on the Kasilof River.
The 12-hour period, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, attracted about 150 drift boats, which hauled in an average of 60 salmon apiece, according to Pat Shields, assistant area fisheries biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
Combined harvest for commercial fishers was in excess of 50,000 reds.
"That's a good harvest for a June 25 opening," Shields said.
Last year's opening day catch, which came on June 26, was less than 20,000 salmon.
"The difference there was we didn't have the Kasilof area open last year," Shields said.
The Kasilof setnet fishery opened Monday by emergency order after escapement into the Kasilof River surpassed 50,000 reds.
The cumulative escapement of sockeyes into the Kasilof as of noon Tuesday was 64,534. The escapement Monday, during the commercial period, was 10,955.
Steve Tvenstrup, a Kenai driftnetter, reported he hauled in 150 reds, which is about 1,000 pounds.
"That's probably the second-best opening day I've had fishing for 20 years out here," he said. "But that's really no indication of what the run will be like."
"That's the question everyone is asking," Shields said. "But we don't know the answer."
Other fisheries in the state started strong but then dwindled to a trickle.
"I guess Kodiak started strong and is now struggling to meet escapement," Tvenstrup said.
Setnetter Paul Shadura, who fishes three miles north of the Kasilof River, agreed.
"Other areas, Prince William Sound, Kodiak, they all started out with a pretty good bang like this and seemed to taper off pretty quickly," he said. "We're happy with a very good first day, but we're viewing the rest of the season with cautious optimism."
Shadura declined to say how many fish he caught, but said fishers on the beach did very well. He said the emergency order opening the fishery was a little bit of a surprise.
"Any time you have an early opening it's a surprise. The first few days are always chaotic," he said. "You bring on new people who have never seen a fish before, and they spend all day inundated with them."
He also commented on the unusually large number of sharks caught in his net and the amount of salmon with bite marks on them.
"They're long and skinny and have a big shark head that get caught in the net," he said. "Their skin is like sandpaper, and it completely frays the webbing.
"But that's life as a setnetter -- sharks, big tides and green crews."
Both driftnetters and setnetters will have their nets back in the water at 7 a.m. Thursday for the second commercial period of the season.
When the drift boats go out, they will have more room to fish. By emergency order Tuesday, the department moved the Blanchard Line corridor way-point 1,000 feet west. That change was not in effect for the first opening, but was in effect last year. The changed datum point is now at 151 degrees 25.5 minutes west, at 60 degrees 27.1 minutes north.
The department noted that the increase in area would provide for a more orderly fishery.
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