Commercial fishing for coho salmon is winding down in Prince William Sound. Gillneters at the mouth of the Copper River are seeing a relatively average year with about 170,000 fish harvested so far. While the harvest is typical, the price this year is not. Coho are fetching about $1.50 per pound at the docks, about double the average price.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Jeremy Botz expects fishing to stay open another week.
“So, we projected a total commercial harvest of about 207,000, and it seems like it’s trending to come somewhere in that ballpark,” Botz explained.
Botz said this year’s run came in a little later than expected. The fleet harvested just 3,000 coho during the first 24-hour fishing period in mid-August.
“The following week, around [Aug] 21, it jumped up to about 20,000, and it’s just been steadily climbing since then,” Botz said.
Fishermen pulled in about 40,000 fish over two days last week, the largest harvest of the season.
Botz adds that the weather has been uncooperative for most of August with high winds and rain, limiting the days boats were able to be on the water. However, Botz said more rain also expanded habitat for fish.
“Well, we’ll probably have coho swimming in the trees this year. We had a lot of water in the delta,” Botz noted. “Good weather for coho, expands their habitat. Should find coho in all sorts of places out on the delta this year.”
Large rainfalls have also led to murky waters. Botz said that and bad weather have also limited the days Fish and Game was able to conduct aerial surveys, counting the number fish that make it up river to spawn.
He said with clearer weather, Fish and Game should get enough counts in to see if the river met its escapement goal, but Botz said he has no doubt enough fish made it to the headwaters.