Ugashik could see another big year
Fish and Game says Egegik and Ugashik districts could see a combined return of 12 million sockeye - less than last year, but still plenty to harvest.
Fish and Game Biologist Paul Salomone manages both the Egegik and Ugashik districts each summer in Bristol Bay. The forecast calls for a pretty normal summer, he said.
“My take home message at this point is I’m not going to have to do anything special because a forecast that’s at the extreme end of the range, so I won’t have to be to aggressive or too conservative based on the numbers that we have," he said.
In 2015, the total run to Egegik was about 10 million reds, 13 percent below its forecast.
This summer, 7 million sockeye could return to the District, with a possible harvest of almost 6 million, down from the 8 million reds caught there last year.
The largest component of the Egegik run is supposed to be sockeye that have spent three years out in the ocean. Those are usually larger fish. But those fish have been harder to predict in recent years, Salomone said.
“The relationship hasn’t been holding up the last couple of years, where we see a big bunch of two-twos and they turn into a bunch of two-threes," he said. "We should have had some last year, and we didn’t have many. Not sure what to make of it.”
Salomone said he doesn’t know why that’s changed, but ocean factors could be at play. Those fish were also smaller than usual last year, which he says he’ll be keeping an eye on.
Fish and Game said the Ugashik River should to see a return of almost 5 million fish, and 4 million will be available for harvest – well above average, although a little less than last year.
“The Gash forecast is a little bit towards the top end of the range, so if it comes in that way, it’ll be a good thing," Salomone said.
Salomone said next summer’s a long way off, and he won’t finalize his management plans for a while. He, like the other managers, will also be waiting to see what happens at the Bristol Bay board of fisheries meeting in December.