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Togiak herring fishery opens, breaking the record for earliest start

Tim Sands

ADF&G staff spotted herring in the eastern half of the Togiak district during a survey conducted April 16. The sac roe fishery opened that same day.

Commercial fishing for purse seiners opened at 5:00 p.m. on April 16, beating the previous April 17 record set in 2016 by one day. 

“The main driver I think, for the herring, is the water temperature," said Tim Sands, an area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "And we’ve seen the water temperature getting steadily warmer over there, and it gets to the point where it’s optimal for them to go in and spawn.”

During a survey of the district the day of the opener, department staff spotted herring in the eastern half of the district. Most of the biomass was gathered to the east of Right Hand Point. A significant number of fish were still entering the district and were observed a few miles from normal fishing areas.

Surveyors saw spawn in the bays between Anchor Point and Rocky Point, as well as in the east corner of Nunavachak Bay and Ungalikthluk Bay. According to Sands, the breadth of the spawning area is also unusual, though not unprecedented.

“Fish were first reported to us Sunday night, so it’s only been a couple of days. And normally, we see the spawn in a more limited area after the first two or three days," he explained.

Fish sampled from Nunavachak Bay were at 9.1 percent roe maturity. But despite the early start of the season, Sands said it’s likely that most roe are not yet ready for the market.

“Usually they want at least 10 percent before they harvest them," he said. "A lot of the fish we saw were still entering the district. They weren’t up against the rocks where you’d spawn, for sure. There were schools offshore, still moving towards some of the bays.  

Yesterday’s seine opener extends from Togiak Reef to Cape Newenham, and from Right Hand Point to Anchor Point.

The area within half a mile of Summit Island is closed. Metervik and Ungalikthluk Bays are closed by regulation.

The Egg Island section is open to seiners until 6:00 a.m. on April 18. That section will open to gillnetters after the seine closure.

Contact the author at or 907-842-2200.

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.