Copper River and PWS Drift Gillnet
The Copper River District was opened to commercial fishing for a 12-hour fishing period on May 17 and 21. These were the first and second fishing period of the 2012 season. The next opening for the Copper River District is Thursday, May 24 and will be for 12-hours.
Escapement monitoring at the Miles Lake Sonar Station for sockeye and Chinook salmon returns to the Copper River began on May 16, 2012. Daily sonar passage is near anticipated with Copper River water level increasing and approaching the historical average.
Currently there are an estimated 450 to 500 drift gillnet permits participating in the fishery. There are no processing capacity problems to report at this point. Waters inside of the barrier islands from Steamboat Anchorage to Coffee Creek were closed during the fishing periods on May 17 and 21. The inside waters will be closed during the 12-hour period on May 24.
The harvest estimate from the Thursday, May 17 12-hour period was 156,000 sockeye and 1,000 Chinook salmon. The harvest estimate from the Monday, May 21 12-hour period was 218,000 sockeye and 1,300 Chinook salmon. The sockeye salmon harvest from the first period was the second highest first period harvest in the last 20 years. The sockeye salmon harvest from the second period was the fourth highest first period harvest in the last 20 years.
The anticipated harvest for these openings was 31,700 and 93,600 sockeye salmon and 2,100 and 3,400 Chinook salmon, respectively. The 5-year harvest average for the May 17 and 21 harvest dates is of 45,800 and 100,800 sockeye salmon and 2,000 and 2,100 Chinook salmon, respectively.
Good weather and high sockeye salmon abundance contributed to high participation in the fishery during the first and second fishing periods. Break-up of the lower Copper River is occurring and river water levels are approaching average depths.