Commercial Fishing Winds Down In Lower Cook Inlet

The season is wrapping up in the Southern, Outer, and Kamishak Bay districts.

“In general, things are winding down I would say,” says Glenn Hollowell, area management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.

He says there may be a few areas that continue to produce.

“There might be some seiners interested in going over to Kamishak Bay to fish for coho, but the weather tends to get really nasty there in late August or early September,” says Hollowell. “I don’t know that we’re going to see a lot of effort over there at this time.”

Sockeye returns have not been consistent across lower Cook Inlet. In the Outer District, there was a system in McCarty Fjord that produced about 20,000 sockeye, which is very good for that area.

“Some of our other systems have just met escapement, like English Bay, for instance,” says Hollowell. “We have made our escapement goal pretty cleanly there. We’re right around the middle of the goal which is a good place to be. But, there was really not enough fish there to have a significant commercial harvest on them. The harvest went to subsistence users over in Port Graham, primarily.”

Pinks have been doing well overall. 2013 was a record-breaking year for pinks in lower Cook Inlet with 2 million picked up in the Outer District alone. It’s certainly not up to that level this year, but it’s been consistently good, with about average returns in the Outer District.

“Pink salmon are pretty much everywhere,” says Hollowell. “Most of the little streams and rivers around Kachemak Bay and other places on the lower Kenai have small pink salmon runs associated with them. But, right now in Kachemak Bay, I would say Humpy Creek has a good number of fish associated with it.”

Hollowell says Humpy Creek was a little slow to meet its escapement goal this year. He says Fish and Game held off opening it on the typical three-day-per-week schedule until returns were higher. He says he saw good numbers of fish when he walked the stream a few weeks ago, so it’s been opened for common property harvest.

The Kamishak Bay district was looking good for fishing early on, but has had some trouble following through. Hollowell says a trip there on August 20th shows it’s not for lack of pinks.

“Well, the weather’s been terrible over there, which unfortunately we can’t control,” says Hollowell. “That’s really limited harvest. I went flying there and counted about 60,000 pink salmon in the Bruin Bay River, which is a really nice return for there. Unfortunately, Bruin Bay is incredibly shallow and rocky. It’s a very difficult place to fish. The fleet has not been able to access them and catch them and bring them in to processors.”

The Bruin Bay area is open to commercial harvest now, but Hollowell says he doesn’t see the fishery making a particularly great turnaround.

“Early on in the season, it was looking like this was going to be a really, really nice return, like a good number of fish coming back,” says Hollowell. “So, we decided to open it up a little bit early to aggressive fishing. Unfortunately, the bad weather has precluded that. It’s been pretty slow over there. I believe we’ve taken about 45,000 or 50,000 pink salmon out of there so far.”

Pink and chum returns have been good overall in the Outer District. Hollowell says there’s been a lot of activity around Port Dick and Dogfish Bay this season. Chums have also turned out well in the southern district.

“Chums are a bit more scattered, I would say,” says Hollowell. “Port Graham has had a nice show of chums coming back to it.”

Coho has had a good showing this year, with strong returns to the fishing hole on the Homer Spit. The personal use fishery in that area closed after just 72 hours after meeting its guideline harvest level of 1,000 to 2,000 fish.

Overall, it’s been a decent season so far for a variety of salmon in each of the districts in lower Cook Inlet.

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