State allows 90-hour dip net opening at Chitina following strong sockeye return

Late-run Copper River sockeye continue to come in strong, and the state has scheduled a 90-hour dip net opening at Chitina beginning Thursday. A weaker than expected early run shut down fishing last month, but the return has been improving in recent weeks.

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Department of Fish and Game area management biologist Mark Somerville says it now appears escapement will be met.

”Tremendous spikes here of fish later in the season. A good portion of those are probably hatchery-bound fish,” Somerville said. “So we’re seeing strong returns probably there and we’re also seeing some good late stocks, seem to be performing better than the earlier stocks.”

Cautioning that the overall run is still weak based on historic numbers, Somerville says over 680,000 fish have passed a sonar counter at the river’s mouth. He says that’s enough to ensure the minimum escapement goal for wild salmon and to allow normal management of the dip net fishery.

”Now we’re at a point where we feel very comfortable with making that escapement goal,” Somerville said. “So hopefully, we can go right back to just the management plan and manage on a weekly basis based on weekly sonar passage.”

Somerville notes that while this summer’s early run sockeye were small, the later fish are a little bigger.

”We’re definitely seeing some larger fish coming in which just strikes me to say that we’ve got some healthier stocks coming in and probably the reason why we’re seeing strength in these later stocks,” Someville said.

Somerville says hot weather has seen the Copper River come up, but so far not enough to significantly limit fishing.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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