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BBSRI to study mesh selectivity in the Nushagak District

Sarah Grace Durrance

The Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute will begin a study on mesh selectivity in early June.

What is the best size mesh to catch a Nushagak District sockeye salmon? That is what Bristol Bay Science and Research institute will be studying, beginning in early June.

Area management biologist Tim Sands explained that the purpose of the project is two-fold. It will give the Alaska Department of Fish and Game a better picture of fish movement early in the run. Additionally, it will provide better understanding of mesh selectivity for fishing.

Previous mesh selectivity studies at Port Moller have indicated that fishermen may not be taking full advantage of the range of mesh sizes.

“If everybody’s using 5 1/8” that works great, but maybe it isn’t the optimal size,” Sands said.

In order to test the efficacy of different mesh sizes, researchers will compare the catches from nets of 4 1/2” mesh and nets of 5 1/8” mesh.

The Nushagak district is a prime testing location because of the diversity of fish size swimming in from the Wood, Igushik, and Nushagak Rivers.

“Historically the Nushagak River is a much smaller sockeye run, and the Wood River is big but with smaller fish because it has a lot more of the one-two age fish component,” said Sands. “We can sometimes catch a lot more Nushagak fish because they’re bigger and more susceptible to the bigger gear the fishermen use. By trying to control the Wood River escapement, we’re really catching too many Nushagak fish, and so then we have the Wood River special harvest area.”

One-twos refer to four-year-old fish that have spent one year in fresh water and two in the ocean.

The results are especially pertinent this year as ADF&G is anticipating eight million one-twos will swim up the Wood River this season.

“That’s a lot of fish. And we wouldn’t want to just not catch any one-twos, we don’t need eight million for escapement for sure. That’s a lot of economic opportunity right there. You want to get the right mesh size that allows you to catch the fish in proportion to their abundance,” said Sands.

BBSRI is currently looking for a permit-holder with a boat to bid on the project. The selected bidder will be compensated. Those who want bid on the project can contact BBSRI or the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.