Salmon task force discusses fisheries at bi-annual meeting in Cordova

Regional salmon fishery stakeholders joined at the Cordova Center last week to discuss the stock and make recommendations for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) ahead of the upcoming season.

The group that meets bi-annually, called the Copper River/Prince Williams Sound Salmon Harvest Task Force (SHTF), provided projections for the 2023 run, as well as data from previous seasons at the April 19 meeting. 

Mark Somerville, the Upper Copper Upper Susitna area sport fish management biologist for the ADF&G, shared that the agency will not be liberalizing the king salmon sport fisherythis season,unless biologists “had an indication they were greatly exceeding that 31,000 upper end of the escapement goal.”

He said the same goes for the sockeye fishery, “unless we know we are going to exceed the upper bound.”

When asked by an audience member if there may be an increase in guided sport fishing for Chinook salmon on the upper Copper River, Somerville said there’s a possibility of that.

“We have seen that in the past. This year, we are getting lots of calls about king salmon — how strong that would be is hard to say,” he said during the SHTF meeting. “We had that happen back in the early 2000’s — similar sort of thing happened where the Kenai was down, and a lot of people came up to the Copper River Basin and fished.”


Still, Somerville said he wasn’t sure about what’s in store this year.

“I am not sure what the logistics are this time with guides and how they are operating,” he said. “But I am anticipating an increase of guides outside the area — to what extent I can’t say.”

For this coming season, the Copper River sockeye salmon run forecast is predicted to be 1,695,000 fish. For the Copper River king salmon run, it’s forecasted to come in at 53,000 fish.

In the Glennallen sub-districts, the ADF&G predicts an increase in participation of dipnet fishing and a decrease in participation with fish wheels. According to the department, harvests have been relatively lower, on average, over the last five years.

In the 2022 season, the data shared for the overall total Copper River Sockeye Salmon run was about 1.3 million fish, the sonar passage saw roughly 750,000 fish, the Chitina personal use (PU) harvest was roughly 157,000, and the Glennallen Subsistence harvest was just shy of 61,000 fish — a little lower than anticipated, and not as high as past years. The hatchery brood/excess was roughly 5,004 fish, and an upriver escapement number was roughly 520,000.

Officials said that data was “still preliminary pending final sockeye salmon sport harvest estimate through Statewide Harvest Survey.”

The data shared for the 2022 Copper River king salmon total run was roughly 50,000, with an in-river estimate of roughly 38,000. The Chitina PU harvest was roughly 2,300, above average. Glennallen Subsistence harvest was roughly 3,800 fish.

The sport harvest numbers aren’t yet in, but are estimated at 2,000-3,000 king salmon harvested in the sport fishery, which fall within the escapement goal.

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Amanda Williams
Amanda Williams, originally from California, is a reporter, photographer and videographer for the Cordova Times. She has a long history of writing professionally for magazines and newspapers in her home state, and she also writes her own music. Williams is a decorated Navy veteran. When she isn’t covering the news, she enjoys skiing, singing, spending time with friends and family and traveling. She first came to Cordova as a VetsWork intern working for the Forest Service as a public outreach specialist on the Cordova Ranger District.