Southeast Alaska’s commercial troll fishing fleet will have another crack at king salmon in August even with a big haul from the first Chinook opening in July.
Trollers had their first summer king opening July 1st through July 7th. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had expected the opening to be longer with a large quota for kings this year. Pattie Skannes, the department’s troll management biologist for Southeast, said Chinook catch rates were more than double those of a year ago. And she said the number of boats fishing was also up. “We had 106 permits in addition to what we had last July,” Skannes said. “So we had a feeling there’d be more people up here fishing, some coming from the Lower-48. We also expected that there wouldn’t be as many trollers targeting chum this year during the king opening, which was true. But we were surprised to see how much higher the effort was, when all the numbers were in. But the catch rates were the most amazing aspect of the fishery. The abundance is just incredible out there.”
Overall 820 permits were fished during that first king opening. The highest catch rates were on the northern and central outside waters. The total harvest from that opening was 198-thousand, 760 kings. Skannes said the daily haul started strong and did not drop off this year. “The catch per fleet per day was one of the highest we’ve ever seen, it was about 28-thousand 400. So our catch came in over our target by about that amount. So in other words, in hindsight we fished about one day too long,” Skannes said.
Southeast troll caught kings were worth $3.55 a pound for at the docks in July. Fish averaged 11.5 pounds, a little small for Chinook. The daily average catch per boat was around 35 kings a day, compared to 20 a day last year. Even with the big first opening, the fleet will have a short, second opening sometime in mid-August.
The season typically shuts down for a few days in early August to allow coho salmon to return to streams on the inside waters. A closure of at least two days is planned to start just before midnight August 9th. The second king opening will follow.
Since the first king opening, some trollers have been catching coho salmon. Skannes said the total haul of silvers by the final week in July had reached just over half a million. “They’re actually looking above average so far though nothing like last year.”
Fish and Game forecasts this year’s total coho run in Southeast will be around 4.2 million fish and the all-gear catch is projected at 2.2 million silvers. That’s down from a big season last year but still ahead of long term averages. Troll-caught coho are fetching a dollar 10 cents a pound at the docks in late July while chum are fetching 65 cents a pound.