Fishermen around Bristol Bay wait anxiously to see if they will have to head to special harvest areas to help the Kvichak River meet its escapement goal.
Fishermen across Bristol Bay could be restricted to where they can fish because of the low return of sockeye to the Kvichak River. KDLG spoke to some set netters in Naknek to see how they’re preparing for the possible move to the rivers special harvest area.
Lorri Cockrell considers herself an old-school set netter. She just finished walking along with her line near Peterson Point in waist-high water while picking it.
Cockrell reflected, “I told my son the day I die you can go with a skiff, but until then I’m sticking my boots in the mud.”
She’s only caught about 250 pounds of fish today and says the seasons been a little slow so far.
She said, “It’s a little quiet. You know, we’re still waiting for the bulk of the fish to come through.”
One thing Cockrell has noticed is the fish she’s pulling in are small which makes her think they weren’t headed to the Naknek River.
According to her, “These little guys coming through are meant for the Kvichak so I just hope and pray that they go up and help our numbers out so we don’t end up in the river.”
The Kvichak River has been struggling to meet the Alaska Department of Fish and Games escapement goal for it. So eastside fishermen may be forced to fish closer to shore and some even upriver. If managers decide to make this change, they’re hopeful this strategy will let more sockeye into the Kvichak. But, it’s causing set netters to scramble.
Cockrell went up the Naknek yesterday to stake out a spot and was surprised to see there weren’t many places left to claim.
She said, “Well to tell you the truth I thought I was ahead of the game and I went up last night following the beach and they were already staked out.”
It can get really stressful fishing up the Naknek river according to Cockrell, and Carol Ann Hester Agreed.
“The river is a nightmare. I have a spot up near leader creek where I could go put my net, but there’s times when in the river they give us short openers and we have to swim to put our lineout, our net out and I’m kinda getting old for that.”
Hester is also a set netter that also doesn’t use a skiff. She’s decided if fishermen have to head to special harvest areas, she’ll be done fishing, at least commercially.
She said, “So we’re going to go subsistence fish and just fill our smokehouse really full.”
All in all Hester doesn’t believe this year’s season will turn out how it was initially predicted.
According to her, “When it started it looked like it was going to be good even though it was coming late but right now the way the numbers in the Kvichak now I see anyone who went fishing in Dillingham did the right thing and that’s my assessment.” Hester continued, “Otherwise we are over here having a real good time on the Naknek because everyday is so beautiful and we live in paradise over here because we live on the edge of ever.”
The setnet period in the Naknek-Kvichak district was extended earlier until tomorrow at 3pm. And, Fishermen in the Egegik and the Naknek-Kvichak districts will also find out if they’ll have to head to the special harvest areas to help conserve the amount of fish being caught in the Kvichak River around noon.