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Nushagak District breaks record for single-day harvest

A sockeye salmon. June 2022.
Brian Venua
A jaw-dropping sockeye salmon. June 2022.

The Nushagak District broke its record for the largest single-day harvest. Fisherfolk caught 2.46 million salmon on Thursday. That’s about 600,000 fish over last year’s record daily harvest, which was set last year.

The district had back-to-back record harvests exactly one year ago, when fleets caught1.7 million on June 30 and 1.82 million on July 1. Fish and Game Area Management Biologist Tim Sands says the trend for runs like this is relatively recent – but it has become a regular occurance.

“It wasn’t until 2017 that we even really broke a million sockeye salmon harvest in a day and that was amazing," he said. "And then it was happening every year, now to break two million is just – wow.”

Port Moller technicians predicted a big run would hit the bay this weekend. Sands says a pattern has emerged over the last few years; big runs hit the district around June 26, followed by a lull, and then another peak around June 30 and July 1.

“When we saw the forecast for the wind on the 30th. I was telling people, ‘Hey, that's going to be the day, the fish are going to show up then,’ And they did,” he said.

Port Moller numbers indicate the district runs will stay high for another few days, but Sands says he is unsure if the record will be broken again any time soon.

“I think if you ever use June 30 2022, as the bar, things will always be slower," said Sands. "But I think it's still good fishing out there. My guess is we will catch more than a million fish again today.”

Tyone Raymond fishes on the F/V Mr. Fox in the Nushagak District. He says fishing has been great – despite terrible weather.

“We were out fishing all day and all night, and it was blowing pretty hard. Fish were piling in,” he said.

While Bristol Bay’s sockeye runs are breaking records, king runs up the Nushagak have been weak. Raymond says he and his crew try to help Chinook escape.

“Whenever we see some big kings come in we check immediately to see if they’re alive, and if they’re alive we put them right back over the side in the hopes that they might go up and increase their escapement numbers,” he said.

While Port Moller numbers indicate strong runs this weekend, that pace may slow down next week.

Brian Venua grew up in Dillingham and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. He got his start in journalism at KDLG in 2020, interviewing and writing for the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report and signed on as a full-time host and reporter later that year.
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.