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Boom in Silver Salmon Puts Elim on Track for Record Harvest

Silver (coho) salmon. Photo: Sam Beebe via Flickr Creative Commons.

Fishing season is winding down with a boom in coho salmon, which is good news for commercial fisheries in Eastern Norton Sound and Norton Bay. Unalakleet, Golovin and Shaktoolik are seeing strong silver runs, and Elim is on track for a record harvest this year.

“Elim has just been phenomenal,” said Scott Kent, biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. “They’ve got the second best escapement on record for the state.”

Elim had a record escapement in 2006, but there was no commercial fishery that year. This year, they’re also on pace for a record commercial harvest. “The old record is 10,100 fish,” said Kent. “This year we’re on pace to shatter that.”

Kent said Fish & Game expected the silver run to surpass the past three years, and a few areas exceeded expectations.

“It appears that there’s ample numbers of coho salmon to provide for escapement and subsistence uses and continued commercial harvestable surpluses for the remainder of the season in most areas,” said Kent.

Morris Nakarak is a fisherman in Elim. He’s seen this year’s thriving harvest firsthand—and he said the boom hasn’t been limited to silvers.

“It’s just been a really good year—a good year for all the species of fish. People have been out just about daily,” said Nakarak. “They just got done with the pink salmon and chum salmon, now they’re targeting silver salmon.”

Storms the past few years limited commercial harvests, but this summer’s clear and calm weather is allowing for a plentiful harvest. Nakarak said he’s getting over $1.50 per pound selling to Norton Sound Seafood Products.

Kent said the silvers might be a little slow coming into Golovin and Nome because they’re waiting out the low water, sun and warm weather. But Kevin Keith, fisheries biologist for NSEDC, said in Nome he is expecting a good year. But, Keith said, “you never know until the fish are here.”