Prior proper planning prevents poor performance, says ADF&G

May 25, 2017

Bristol Bay fishery managers are seeing common mistakes and finding records of infractions committed during last year's commercial fishing season in Bristol Bay.

Credit KDLG

Dept. of Fish and Game Bristol Bay commercial fisheries managers say there are some common mistakes being made that are costing skippers money in fines or lost fishing time. This list includes getting registration paperwork done ahead of time, remembering to register to fish in a district, checking markings, and for Nushagak setnetters, being careful where they deliver.

Audio transcript: Registering to fish in a district is something Bristol Bay commercial fishermen know to do, although sometimes some seem to forget. It’s a mistake that Fish and Game will easily notice during post-season record checking, and can still issue fines for after the fact.

Another mistake area management biologist Tim Sands is seeing involves Nushagak setnetter fish tickets.

“One of the problems that we’re seeing—what I call an unforced error, or self-inflicted wound—is setnetters that, for example, might be fishing at Coffee point, and they’re registered to fish at Coffee Point, but for whatever reason they deliver to the tender that’s by the Combine,” said Sands.

When that delivery happens, the fish ticket may show the harvest was Combine fish rather than from Coffee Point. That’s a problem.

“Once they sign that ticket and it’s incorrect, they are basically breaking the law—they are fishing in an area they are not registered to fish in. It’s something that’s very easy for Fish and Game to catch, and try to make a case out of, and it’s something fisherman need to pay attention to,” said Sands.

Another common, avoidable problem ADF&G staff see each season is fishermen waiting to the last minute to drop a district registration card. Taking care of this early can help avoid fees for expedited paperwork, says Sands, who encourages skippers to use the form at the ADF&G website.

"You can print out, and you can mail it in. When you come to town, you can come in to the office, either here or in King Salmon. We have the paper forms, you can get one there and fill it out.  Then, in the case of a drifter, if you haven’t decided which district you’re going to fish in, you can give that form to your company.”

Just ahead of the first openers, the office scrambles to help fisherman who have let other registration paperwork, be it for boats or permits, pile up towards the last minute. At this point, the DMV or Fish and Game or CFEC or the post office may not work as fast as a skipper might hope.

“These are simple things to take care of pre-season, and if they don’t take care of them, it could end up costing them big in the long run,” said Sands.

Last season several fishermen were cited for other easy fixes like unmarked buoys or corks, unlit buoys, out-of-date vessel markings, and one skipper paid big for a net that was several fathoms too long. Some of these violations cost thousands of dollars in fines, and thousands more in legal fees or lost fishing time.

Copies of the Bristol Bay commercial fishing regulations are available at the Fish and Game offices in Dillingham and King Salmon, and online.   

Reach KDLG fisheries reporter Nick Ciolino at or 907.842.5281.