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Bristol Bay 2015 season summary: 3rd-largest run ever

Dewey Hemilright

Fish and Game released numbers counting a near-record-setting run total of 58 million sockeye;  harvest was counted at 37.6 million sockeye

The Department of Fish and Game released a summary of the Bristol Bay 2015 fishing season, now noting a total inshore run of 58 million sockeye salmon.

That makes 2015 a near-record-setting year, says Fish and Game area biologist Tim Sands. “It’s second out of the last 20 years – the only one that beat it was 1995 – and it’s the third-largest run of all time,” said Sands.

This year’s harvest was counted at 37.6 million sockeye, which Sands say is the fourth largest ever, using records going back to the 1880s. 

Following the end of the season and the final daily run summary, the total run has jumped by several million sockeye. Sands says aerial survey information added an estimated 5.7 million fish in the Alagnak River, which accounts for most of the difference.

This year’s total run was 14 percent above the preseason forecast, and all but two districts saw more fish arrive than was expected.

Egegik’s run was a bit below the 12 million forecast with a final total of 10.4 million, and Togiak came in three percent below, at just over 572,000 instead of the predicted 590,000.

All other districts came in higher than the forecast, with the most dramatic difference in Ugashik, where the total run of 6.8 million was nearly double the pre-season forecast.

In their summary, Fish and Game also notes that this year’s run was approximately seven days late, one of the latest timings on record. The preliminary ex-vessel value was 94.8 million dollars, which is 15 percent below the 20 year average of 110 million dollars.

Confirming what many fishermen reported through the season, the 5.2 pound average weight of harvested sockeye was low, according to the 20-year department record.

“There were one or two 5.3s [in the records], but 5.2 is a really small average weight,” said Sands. “And I would imagine if you went back even further it would still be the smallest. I don’t think we’ve seen that small a fish in quite a while.”

The Department will soon start working on the preseason forecast for next year, due out sometime in November.

Read the full 2015 summary report here.