Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: June 23, 2021
The Nushagak fleet is waiting for its first opener, which could come as soon as tomorrow. Stock composition numbers from Port Moller show most fish still headed to that district. Egegik had another haul yesterday, and there were smaller catches from Togiak and the Naknek-Kvichak. The total run for Bristol Bay is nearing 600,000 fish -- double what it was a few days ago.
If Alaska state leaders can’t resolve an impasse over the budget, large swaths of state government will shut down in July. KSTK's Sage Smiley reports that a shutdown could include Alaska’s lucrative summer salmon fisheries, which is causing concern across coastal communities.
For more on Fish and Game’s approach over the next few days, we talked to Rick Green, special assistant to the commissioner.
Stormy weather in the bay
Some stormy weather hit Bristol Bay today. As we learned from Climate Specialist Rick Thoman with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, such storms are unusual for this time of the year.
Cape Greig walrus haul out pushes managers to shift Ugashik District line
Walruses are hauling out at Cape Greig, on the northern side of Ugashik’s commercial fishing district. The rotund pinnipeds just recently started to use the cape as a haul out spot -- the first time in recent history was in 2016, and they have returned every year except for 2018.
When they do, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game pushes Ugashik’s northern boundary about a half mile to the south to allow space for the protected marine mammal.
The change does require an adjustment for fishermen in the area, but Aaron Tiernan, the Egegik and Ugashik area biologist, has not seen much pushback from local fishermen.
In the past, staff have heard upwards of 8,000 walruses on this particular beach, but this year the estimate is about half.
“You know, sometimes you’ll go down there and they’re not there, and they won’t be there for two to three days. But then you’ll just go down there for whatever reason, and there they are,” he said.
Tiernan said the walruses are definitely back this year -- biologists think there might be a clam bed off Cape Greg that the walruses are attracted to.
Walrus haul out and boundary adjustment aside, Tiernan anticipates a good sockeye run to the Ugashik this season.
Messages to the fleet
Ty Babb on board with Brad Angasan. Missing you on coast of Maine.
Sending birthday wishes.
"This goes out to the Badass FV Crawdad with all strong women -- wishing you a great season -- from Laika and Zorro on the coast of Maine"
For Reuben, from Capt. Cate:
We’re halfway through the first week of the report, so along with the daily numbers, we’re going to take a look at the Fish and Game forecast for the 2021 season.
The total run for Bristol Bay is at 572,000 fish -- double what it was a few days ago. An estimated 51 million sockeye are projected to return to the bay this season.
As runs pick up around the bay, the Nushagak District is still waiting to fish -- that first opener might come as soon as tomorrow. The Egegik District is seeing the biggest run -- and the biggest harvest -- so far. The Naknek/Kvichak runs are beginning to trickle in, though the harvest is still pretty skimpy there. We’re still waiting on Ugashik numbers and the Togiak fleet has also started to harvest.
Let’s break that down by district:
On Tuesday, the Nushagak District saw 9,665 for a total of 110,550 for the total run.
Both the set netters and drift fleet could fish as early as Thursday. Managers intend to wait and allow for as much king salmon passage as possible, but
the fleet should still be ready to fish on short notice.
Fish and Game forecasts a run of nearly 15 million sockeye to the district -- half of those are expected to return to the Wood, 1.35 to the Igushik and nearly 5.7 million to the Nushagak River.
Yesterday, the total sonar count up the Nushagak River climbed to 90,156 sockeye. The daily count was 4,283.
The sonar counted 292 kings with a total count coming to 5,586.
Management Biologist Tim Sands says subsistence catches have been increasing, and people have been catching lots of kings.
The current total for Wood River escapement is 25,254.
Yesterday, the tower counted 5,382 fish. Around the same number of fish swam up in just six hours this morning -- between midnight and 6 a.m. today, 4,860 fish swam upriver.
The forecast calls for 8 million fish to escape up the Wood River.
The Togiak fleet caught 600 fish with a total harvest of 1,206.
Togiak is forecasted to see a run of slightly under 1 million sockeye this season.
In the Naknek-Kvichak District, 330 fish escaped for a total of 984.
Harvest numbers are as follows: just over 527 fish were caught yesterday for a total of 700 fish harvested so far this season.
The total runs for the Naknek/Kvichak District are forecast to come in at 17.3 million fish.
The Kvichak River is expected to see 6.3 million fish this season, and the Naknek River’s forecast is at 7.2 million fish. The Alagnak River is projected to see 3.7 million sockeye.
The fleet harvested again yesterday bringing in 111,000 fish. The season total harvest is 246,256. Egegik District’s forecast is at 11 million.
Escapement for the Egegik River is up to 152,634; yesterday's daily escapement was 67,974.
There still aren’t any numbers from the Ugashik District. The forecast for Ugashik is at 6.6 million sockeye.
Chignik Weir Counts
At the Chignik Weir, 10,968 salmon swam through yesterday. No salmon have passed the weir so far today. The total run for the season is 81,234.
The Chignik’s 2021 forecast is the lowest on record – 437,000 fish for the early run and 438,000 for the late run.
On Tuesday, 113 kings were harvested, bringing the season total to 1,958. Sockeye harvests were 201,403 with a season total of nearly 2.7 million. Pinks were 260,431. And 76,952 chums were harvested bringing the total to about 600,000 [WEB: 596,108].
Due to a limited number of processors, some harvest numbers in Area M are confidential.
Port Moller Test Fishery
Catches were stronger yesterday, particularly at the outer stations, according toan update from scientist Scott Raborn.
He noted that unfavorable weather at Port Moller will probably decrease catches today, but he is optimistic about fishing tomorrow (Thursday).
Station 2 caught no fish. The catch index was 0.
Station 4 caught 5 fish in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 7 in the 5 1/8. The catch index was 26.
Station 6 caught 25 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 27 in the 5 1/8. The catch index was 89.
Station 8 caught 39 fish in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 8 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 94.
Station 10 caught 28 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 28 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 112.
Station 12 caught 28 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 0 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 76.
Station 14 caught 37 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 35 in the 5 1/8. It had a catch index of 160.
Station 16 caught 27 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 15 in the 5 1/8. It had a catch index of 120.
Station 18 caught 5 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 18 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 69.
Station 20 caught 28 in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 27 in the 5 1/8. The catch index of 110.
Station 22 caught 30 fish in the 4 1/2 inch mesh and 28 in the 5 1/8. The catch index is 6.
The third stock composition from June 19-20 was released today. Samples were taken from fish at all stations.
The Nushagak River stock is still dominant -- 42% of the fish sampled were headed there, while another 20% were swimming to the Wood River.
Fish going to the Nushagak District made up 63% of this estimate.
Egegik will see 21% of the fish sampled.
The Naknek-Kvichak District will see 10% -- just half a percent were going to the Naknek River, and 8% were gunning for the Kvichak.
1% are heading toward Ugashik, 1% to the Kuskokwim, half a percent to the Igushik, and just .1% to Togiak.
Permit registration on June 23 9:00 a.m. to June 25 at 9:00 a.m.
As of 9 a.m. this morning, there are 542 boats fishing around the bay, 143 of which are D-boats. That bumps up to 630 boats and 167 D-boats on Friday.
Let’s take a look at where those boats are, and where they’re going:
Egegik has the most boats right now; 262 boats are fishing there, 87 of those are D-boats. On Friday morning, that will increase to 273 boats and 89 D-boats.
The Nushagak hasn’t seen an opener yet, but that’s not stopping people from registering in the district-- 177 boats are waiting to fish, and 39 of those are D-boats. On Friday, that will increase to 250 boats, 61 of which will be D-boats.
From there, registrations drop off.
In the Naknek-Kvichak, 62 boats are registered, 4 of which are D-boats. On Friday, that will increase just a bit to 65 vessels, 5 of which will be D-boats.
There are 22 boats in the Ugashik, 13 of those are D-boats. Ugashik will gain just one D-boat on Friday.
Finally, in Togiak, 19 boats are fishing. One boat will join that fleet on Friday, bringing Togiak’s total to 20.
Contact the fish team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-842-2200.