The seas were rough, but the fishing was good for Cook Inlet's commercial fishers on Thursday.
"It was a very rough day for the drift fleet," said Steve Tvenstrup, of United Cook Inlet Drift Association, on Friday. "Everyone says we have such an easy life, because we make all our money in one month. Give me one day like yesterday to take someone out who says that, and they'll change their mind real fast." High winds and 10- to 12-foot seas made for difficult conditions, spreading fish out over the inlet and making them harder to catch Tvenstrup said. "It would have been better if it wasn't so rough."
In spite of the bad weather, commercial catches were good. Tvenstrup said most of the fleet's 585 permit holders went out, and the average catch for each one was 400 to 500 fish.
"If a boat didn't go out, he was broke down -- or didn't want to fight the high seas," Tvenstrup said.
Fishing was good, but rough, for commercial setnetters, too, who fished for just the second time this season.
"It was wonderful, but very difficult because the winds were so strong," said Leda Taradonova, who has fished a beach site off Kalifornsky Beach Road since 1951.
"We got soaked. I'm still getting all my rain gear dried out."
But Taradonova said setnetters were thankful for the harvest anyway.
"We were very grateful for the opportunity. We have to spend blindly each year to buy gear and hire people and be ready for the fish -- whether they come or not -- so it's good to see so many of them," she said.
Rob Williams, president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association, said setnetters caught a total of 206,000 sockeye on Thursday.
This year's run of sockeye salmon is just getting started, according to Pat Shields, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
"The fish are moving into the river in big numbers," he said. "There's a couple thousand fish an hour coming through our counters."
Fish and Game's Kenai River sonar weir tallied more than 24,000 sockeyes on Thursday, and 72,000 so far for the whole summer. On the Kasilof, 7,800 reds were counted on Thursday, with 128,000 for the season so far.
A total return of 4.5 million sockeye is predicted for Cook Inlet this year.
"So far, there's nothing to say we're not right on that forecast," said Shields. "We usually don't see such a big push of fish on July 13, that usually comes a few days later."
Monetary returns for Thursday's catch weren't so good. Prices ranged from 80 to 90 cents per pound. Steve Tvenstrup reported a price of 85 cents a pound for his catch at Snug Harbor Seafoods. He hopes for better prices for this week's openings.
"We all need to make extra money," he said. "We haven't had a really good season since 1992. But I'm optimistic. Monday and Thursday should be huge days, and hopefully we'll have better weather."
Taradonova said setnetters are optimistic, too.
"Last year we made very little, and the year before, we made nothing," she said. "But yesterday God took things into His hands and let us go out and gave us a good harvest."
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