Commercial drift fishing outlook published by Fish and Game ahead of opening

Around 5.7 million sockeye are expected to return to Upper Cook Inlet

Local commercial drift gillnet fisheries open later this month, and an outlook for the fishery published by the State Department of Fish and Game on Monday says around 5.7 million sockeye are expected to return to Upper Cook Inlet, with 3.7 million of those fish available for harvest across all user groups.

The document says that drift gillnet vessels cannot participate in both state fisheries and federal fisheries on the same day, specifically citing the Cook Inlet exclusive economic zone, which is newly under federal management this year. This year, commercial fisheries are expected to open June 20 by regulation or June 19 by emergency order.

Drift gillnet openings will be Monday and Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the recently passed Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Stock of Concern Management Plan closes all drift gillnet fishing within 2 miles of the Kenai Peninsula shoreline.

Additional fishing time can be added based on sockeye salmon abundance.

Forecasts included in the announcement says that the Kenai River is expected to see around 3.4 million sockeye. That’s less than the historical average of 3.9 million but more than the recent 10-year average of 3.2 million. The escapement goal for the species on the Kenai River is 1.1 million to 1.4 million sockeye.

On the Kasilof, around 1.1 million sockeye are forecast, which exceeds both the historical and recent averages. The escapement goal is 140,000 to 320,000 sockeye.

The Upper Cook Inlet commercial fisheries information line is 907-262-9611, and the recorded message will have the recent emergency order announcements, as well as catch and escapement information “whenever possible.”

For more information about fishing regulations and availability, including the full “Upper Cook Inlet 2024 Outlook for Commercial Drift Gillnet Salmon Fishing,” visit

Reach reporter Jake Dye at