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Bristol Bay fishery Sunday update

Molly Dischner/KDLG

Bristol Bay catches climbing, processors plugging up.

  DILLINGHAM: Saturday's bay-wide catch was 2.1 million sockeye, bringing the season total to 18.7 million. The total run is estimated at 27.7 million fish so far this summer, still below the pre-season forecast of 54 million - but not a total bust according to some fishermen.

The Nushagak District total run was 5.6 million through Saturday, still below the 8.3 million preseason forecast.  Nushagak fishermen were on limits last night, and yesterday's catch was estimated at 260,000.

Lower combine setnetter Jonah Golden said it seemed like most people were catching their quota with time to spare.

"We caught our quota and got to come in and take a little nap," he said Sunday morning.

The Igushik section of the Nushagak District has been an underreported hot spot this year. Through Saturday, Igushik fishermen have harvested 285,000 sockeye and the Igushik River escapement this year is 218,000 sockeye; just 60,000 fish shy of the goal.

Nushagak Area Manager Tim Sands said the catch this year is about 33,000 fish ahead of the 15 year average.

"We're projecting, actually, over 400,000 escapement there, it's always been a place that if there's a lot of fish coming, it's hard to control, no matter how much we fish" Sands said.

Togiak has had weaker numbers, with restrictions implemented last week during what is typically the peak of the fishery. Saturday's catch was just 400 sockeye.

East side catches also continued Saturday, with Naknek-Kvichak fishermen having their biggest day yet, with a catch of 1.3 million. 

Drifter Lange Solberg said fishing in that district has been steady. 

"There seems to be fish all around the district. I think the line's doing well, I think there's fish everywhere," he said.

The Naknek-Kvichak was expected to see a run of 28.8 million sockeye, and was at 11.2 million through Saturday. The Kvichak forecast was downgraded last week.

Through Saturday, the total run to Ugashik was 3.9 million sockeye, which is above the preseason forecast of 3.7 million. 

The Egegik District has had steady fishing and passage, but at 6.8 million total run so far it’s a little more than halfway to the preseason forecast of 12.5 million.

Prior to the mid-week push in the Naknek-Kvichak, the major processors were reported to have started sending employees home, and those that were working weren't getting as many hours as promised.

Ocean Beauty employee Bradley Jordan-Kortsin traveled to Naknek from California for the run, and said he expected long hours - and to take home $8,000 or $9,000. For the first ten hours a day, there was little fish to process and he didn't work much, he said.

"I might be walking away with, maybe, half of what they were expecting due to this season," he said on Friday.

Copper River Seafoods Bristol Bay Manager Vojta Novak said the slow start gave him an opportunity to get that company's new plant running smoothly before the runs hit hard. He had the right level of staffing for the run, he said.

"I strongly believe the run will still show up, and the season will be good for fishermen and processors and for the transportation company, and I still believe in the good end," Novak said.

KDLG's Dave Bendinger contributed to this report.