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Northern Alaska Peninsula has strong 2016 sockeye returns

Courtesy Alaska Department of Fish and Game

To the west of Bristol Bay, Area M fishermen are still hauling in fish offshore from the Alaska Peninsula.

Area M fishermen have hauled in nearly 9 million salmon so far this summer, including almost 5.5 million sockeye. Most of that catch comes from the North Alaska Peninsula, which has seen strong sockeye returns this summer. 

Bob Murphy, the Area Management Biologist at Port Moller, said the North Peninsula has had a strong harvest so far this summer, with a little more than 3 million sockeye hauled in for the entire North Alaska Peninsula management area, including Nelson Lagoon and the Northwestern District harvests. That's more than the 2.2 million sockeye harvest forecast.

The catches were strong enough to prompt processors to limit fishermen's daily deliveries for most of July, a move that Murphy said has been common in recent years.

Murphy said most rivers also went over their escapement goals.

But not every section performed as well. The Outer Port Heiden section is at the northwest end of the North Alaska Peninsula fishery, and genetics last spring showed that many of those fish are headed on to the Ugashik District in Bristol Bay. Despite a good year in Ugashik, Murphy said it was not a particularly strong year at Outer Port Heiden.

"Overall, the harvest in the Outer Port Heiden section this year was not as strong as we typically see it," Murphy said. "We had about 585,000 fish harvested in the OPH section to date. That’s probably average or actually maybe even below average, considering that we did have pretty strong runs throughout the North Peninsula and Bristol Bay this year."

The last Outer Port Heiden fishing period closes at 6 p.m. July 27. Elsewhere in the North Peninsula, catches will continue through August and beyond. The late Bear River sockeye run typically begins around August 1 and continues through mid-September, depending when processors stop buying.

"It’s not as strong as the early run at Bear River, but it is a significant run and in some years has produced catch and escapement of over a million fish," Murphy said.

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