A Chinook salmon is seen in an undated photo. (Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

A Chinook salmon is seen in an undated photo. (Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Salmon drift gillnet season ends with a hint at final numbers

King goals expected to be met in six of 11 index locations

Southeast salmon drift gillnet season officially closed Thursday and, with the announcement, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game released a brief summary of the season.

Detailed numbers will be released at the Drift Gillnet Task Force meeting on Nov. 28.

Aside from chum salmon, traditional drift gillnet harvests of all species were below 10-year averages, a period that encompasses 2013–2022, according to the release from the commercial fisheries division of ADFG.

At the same time, there were fewer fishers working. The total number of permits issued was 341, which is 20 less than last year. It’s also well below 391 permits, which is the 10-year average.

“We were looking at, for the most part, runs of all but chinook salmon, that were above average, or good — excellent, in terms of pink salmon,” said Troy Thynes, management coordinator for ADFG. “But due to conditions, price for fish, cost of fuel — it wasn’t worth it to go out there and fish.”

King or chinook salmon production continues to languish. Escapement goals, the hoped-for number of fish that return home to spawn, are likely to be met in six of the locations in the 11-index system. That includes the Alsek, Chilkat, Unuk, Chickamin, Blossum and Keta rivers.

Thynes said the low runs have persisted for the last six to seven years and that it is possible this year might actually end up “a little bit of improvement” thanks to some of the restrictions in place.

Other salmon species fared better, according to the preliminary overview.

Sockeye salmon escapement goals were achieved for the Chilkat, Chilkoot, Taku, Tahltan (Stikine) rivers, and McDonald Lake. However, goals were not met for Hugh Smith Lake. (Results are still pending for the Stikine River mainstem component.)

Coho salmon escapements are still being evaluated, but considered good. Wild chum salmon runs and hatchery runs were very good in “most areas.”

Pink salmon escapement was “uniformly good to excellent” throughout the region with “an all-gear harvest of around 48 million fish.” Some 44 of the 46 pink salmon stock groups being managed met or exceeded target ranges.

Detailed numbers also will be published in the annual management report of the 2023 Southeast Alaska commercial purse seine and drift gillnet fisheries.

• Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

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