Prince William Sound nears last year's total pink harvest

Jul 21, 2017

After a historically dismal year for pinks, both in the sound and statewide, this year's run seems to be shaping up to meet expectations, and even on an odd year will soon surpass last year's total catch.

Icicle beach crewman Jorden Wood holding an 11.3 pound pink salmon.

Last year was not a good year to be fishing for Alaskan pink salmon. The run was so pitiful, in fact, it was designated a natural disaster by the federal government, though the fisheries may not receive relief funding.

Prince William Sound has supplied almost half of the state’s return of pink salmon in recent years, and saw a historically weak harvest of just over 13 million fish last year.

KDLG’s Nick Ciolino has an update on what could be shaping up to be a nice turnaround season after last year’s tragedy.

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT: The forecasted total run of pink salmon to Prince William Sound is about 67 million fish—more than 21 million wild run and the rest from area hatcheries.

Through Thursday the fishing effort in the sound has counted a total harvest of more than 12 million pinks—less than one million shy of last year’s total—and the run is expected to pick up through August.

The area management biologist for Prince William Sound seine fleet is Charles Russell. He says aerial surveys earlier in the week suggest a recent influx of wild pinks to the western side of the sound.

“I went out and surveyed the western part of Prince William Sound. My estimates indicated that in the Northern, and in the Coghill and Northwestern district of Prince William Sound we had higher than anticipated Pink Salmon escapements within the streams and the mouth of the bays. It indicated to me there was a surplus of fish to that part of the sound.”

Russell announced an opener for the western districts Tuesday. He says after a slow start the sound is now on pace to meet escapement goals.

Shane Roedell is running a skiff on a seiner boat. He says he’s glad to see a decent turnaround from last year’s season.

“Things are pretty, pretty good. You know, compared to last season it’s about a thousand times better. We got fish to work on, and there’s enough fish for them to keep us open. Pretty much every day since it opened last Monday, we’ve been fishing ever since, and it looks like we’ll have the next ten days to two weeks to keep working around Valdez. So it’s been good; it’s nice catching fish.”

The return of pink salmon to the state of Alaska is typically stronger in odd years with total runs often doubling the return in even years.

This season could be shaping up to meet expectations. August, as always, will be the deciding month.

Contact KDLG's fisheries reporter Nick Ciolino at fish@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281