Upper Cook Inlet sees strong return of sockeye salmon

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2003

KENAI (AP) Commercial fishermen in the upper Cook Inlet are seeing a strong return of sockeye salmon, prompting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to grant some increases in fishing time.

Jeff Fox, a commercial fisheries biologist with the agency, says the season is shaping up to be a good one in terms of the numbers of fish caught by commercial fishermen.

He said the department's preseason harvest prediction for upper Cook Inlet of 2 million had already been met after Thursday's regular fishing opener.

''We're going to be over forecast,'' Fox said.

Thursday's opening was extended by three hours for both set and drift gillnet fishers, and an additional 10-hour period was granted Friday, as well.

Fox said how far above the forecast the run will finish is still up in the air. However, Fox said additional openings are likely, as escapement numbers on both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers have been extremely strong so far.

Fishermen will see more fishing time as the Kenai and Kasilof sockeye in-river escapements continue to swell.

As of Friday, the Kenai already had seen 427,466 fish pass its sonar counter, more than half of what the department sets for its minimum escapement for the entire run. And on the Kasilof, 242,909 sockeye had entered the river, already within the department's management goal.

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