A lower-than-projected sockeye salmon return in Bristol Bay is bolstering Cook Inlet fish prices.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported Thursday that the catch of reds in Bristol Bay to date was 12.4 million -- far below the 23 million projected. With the peak of the run in the world's largest salmon fishery traditionally coming the week of the Fourth of July, it appears that projections won't be met.
And that could be good news for inlet fishers. With the price of Bristol Bay salmon hovering between 50 and 60 cents a pound, and supply trailing demand, Cook Inlet prices are staying up.
"It's looking pretty darn good," said Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association president Rob Williams. "The posted price is 80 cents, with 10 cents more for delivery, that brings it to 90 cents per pound."
Williams said posted prices early in the season usually range between 70 and 90 cents and usually change depending on what happens in Bristol Bay.
"If Bristol Bay stays under 30 million (fish caught), that usually helps our price," he said. "But it looks like they're not going to make that."
Williams also said the salmon in his catch during Monday's opening were bigger than normal.
"They were about a half-pound larger than usual, making them 5 1/2 pounds," he said.
He said part of the success of the good opener Monday was a strong southwest wind, which helped push the reds up the inlet.
Fish and Game's Jeff Fox said east side setnetters brought in 22,000 reds on Monday, with driftnetters accounting for 42,000, for an average of 101 fish per boat.
"Actually it was a reasonably good catch, not great, but spread out over everyone," Fox said.
Total catch in Cook Inlet so far is 117,000 sockeye.
Escapement of reds up the Kenai River Tuesday was 3,400, bringing the total to 10,000. Two thousand reds went up the Kasilof on Tuesday, bringing its escapement to 81,000, Fish and Game said.
"The escapement is par for the course," Fox said. "But until July 10, there's nothing in the Kenai River."
He said once the peak of the run hits, escapements range from 10,000 to 150,000 reds a day.
Reports from Bristol Bay say there is a shortage of two-ocean 5-year-olds in this year's run. Fox said it's too early to tell what the make up of the Cook Inlet run is, though.
"If anything, we are missing two-ocean reds from the Kasilof, but it's too early to be guessing," he said.
Fishers will get another shot at the red salmon today, though the Kenai and East Foreland subdistricts will remain closed. Those subdistricts are scheduled to open on Monday. In other commercial fishing news, KPFA elected three new board members at Saturday's meeting, Williams said. They are Gene Palm, Paul Shudura and Mike Wiley.
At the United Cook Inlet Drift Association meeting, also on Saturday, Bob Merchant was elected president, succeeding Phil Squires. All other officers remain the same. Dyer VanDevere was elected to the board of directors.
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