Size Matters For Smallish Salmon Numbers

Good read in the Alaska Dispatch News, as the Copper River’s sockeye season last week started with kind of a thud:

The first opener produced a catch of 25,000 sockeye and about 1,500 kings.

“It was pretty slow to start. Small fish, not too many of them,” said Kelsey Appleton with Cordova District Fishermen United.

Weights recorded on several hundred samples after the 12-hour fishery showed sockeyes averaging just 4.2 pounds, 15 percent smaller than last year when fish size was the smallest in 50 years. Sockeye salmon normally average 6 pounds.

“It’s bad for our economy and bad for our fishermen,” said Rob Campbell, a biological oceanographer with the Prince William Sound Science Center. “It’s not necessarily bad for our fish.

“It’s just been astoundingly warm in the entire North Pacific for two or three years now, and for most cold-blooded things like salmon or plankton, in warmer conditions they tend to reach a smaller final body size,” he said.

Of course, the biggest fish story of the week was the price for the first fish — a whopping $6.50 a pound for sockeyes and $9.50 for kings. That compares to starting prices last year of $5.15 and $6.50, respectively.
Those dollar numbers should provide some hope for fishermen as projections are for a much smaller run of fish this season.