KENAI (AP) -- The Cook Inlet red salmon run has been a bust, but this may be a bumper year for silvers.
''All indications are that if it isn't a record year, it's at least a very good return,'' said Jeff Fox, area management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
One indication is the strong showing in the Department's test gillnet fishery off Anchor Point. Through Wednesday, the cumulative coho index there was 697, versus a cumulative index of just 194 by this time last year.
This year's test fishery already has caught more silvers than the totals through July 30 for any year since 1988, Fox said.
Likewise, upper inlet fishermen have caught lots of cohos, despite 40-knot winds and heavy seas during the July 13 and 17 driftnet openings. Their catch includes 176,000 cohos so far, as opposed to last year's season total of 125,000.
Cohos arrive in northern Cook Inlet streams before they appear in the Kenai River or lower peninsula streams. Susie Hayes, a research biologist for the Division of Sport Fish, said 5,986 cohos already have passed the Susitna Valley's Deshka River weir, by far the most since the weir first operated in 1995.
The previous record was 2,181 by this time in 1998. By this time last year, just 883 cohos had passed the Deshka weir.
''They're also in really good in the Chuit, Theodore and Lewis rivers and in the Beluga streams,'' said David Rutz, area management biologist for the Division of Sport Fish in Palmer. ''We're seeing good numbers in all of our systems so far. The Little Susitna is doing good. There are good catches in all of our east side streams. Lake Creek is early. They were early all over.''
Rutz said stormy weather in mid-July, when drift boats generally take a fair number of silvers, likely did allow more to reach northern inlet streams, as did days when the drift fleet was restricted to a narrow corridor near the inlet's eastern shore. However, good marine survival also may have contributed to this year's strong showing.
''All the cohos this year seem to be a lot more robust and larger,'' he said. ''They look like they did well in the marine environment.''
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