Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 20, 2020

Jul 20, 2020

The bay-wide run is now at 52.6 million fish -- almost 4 million more than projected, and a million over where it was at this point last year. The Nushagak is winding down, and all rivers except Togiak have reached or exceeded their escapement goals.


A crew in the Naknek-Kvichak District, 2020.
Credit Courtesy of Nels Ure


At 52.6 million, the total bay-wide run is now almost four million above the preseason forecast. It’s also more than a million fish over where it was at this point last year! Almost half of the total run is in the Naknek-Kvichak -- at 23 million fish, that district has seen the largest run in the bay, followed by Egegik, at 13.9 million fish. All rivers except Togiak have reached or exceeded their escapement goals.


Heeding reports of illegal fishing, Fish and Game closes Wood River Special Harvest Area

After mounting complaints about illegal fishing from fishermen and troopers, Fish and Game made the unusual decision to close the Wood River Special Harvest Area to commercial fishing for the season. KDLG’s Sage Smiley got the lowdown about the closure from Management biologist Tim Sands.

A Camai clinic health worker and first Bristol Bay Borough resident test postive for COVID-19

Perspectives from Pilot Point set netters

Now a look at the Ugashik District, where set netter Catie Bursch manages the Red Dog site off of Pilot Point.

“I’ve been fishing this little darn patch of mud for over 35 years,” she said.

The run's peak has passed in Ugashik, and many fishers are wrapping up their seasons. Looking back over the summer, she says this summer's compressed run isn’t anything new for the district. 

“So we’re kind of used to that," Bursch explains. "But we did have some good fishing time before the peak, which was nice, and now we’re just going to see what we can scratch up after it’s over here.”

Bursch says that the limits processors imposed during that peak a couple weeks ago did impact a couple of their big days. Still, they went into the season expecting some adjustments.

“The fact that everybody has less people, right? From processors to fishermen. We just -- I think everybody did the best they could, and it could have been a lot worse, with limits. I think we were all going into the season with some pretty big expectations about limits knowing we’d have them,” she says.

Heading into the season, crews like the Red Dog worked to develop health and safety protocols to keep COVID-19 out of Pilot Point and Ugashik. There is no shore-based processor in the district -- fishermen deliver to tenders or the floating processor in the bay. Set netters also have camps outside of the village. That all made it easier to put protocols in place to keep residents and fishermen safe. Still, they made a lot of changes to their normal operations. They altered their transportation route so they don’t drive through the village at all, they consolidated their mail runs, and the village developed a well for the fishermen. They also got their fuel from the tank farm instead of the village.

"A lot of us got medevac insurance, so if someone got ill, we didn't have to go to the clinic here if we could help it," she says. "We're just really taking it seriously. All our camps flew quarantine flags, and were staying away from each other, which is really hard, not to visit. But we're not visiting, and we're not going on tenders, and we're trying to be really careful." 

People across the seafood industry have been impacted by COVID-19 financially, as well. 

Processors have had to implement expensive health and safety protocols. Looking towards the end of the season, Bursch thinks while the companies will apply for financial assistance, they will pass additional expenses on to the fishermen.

"They're also going to apply for loans and get help," she says. "But basically they're going to look at their bottom line, and make sure they make money. And they're just going to lower our price. So where do the fishermen go? Like, how do we pass our expenses on? How do we get paid back for our limit days and the fact that we had crew for two weeks quarantining in Homer before they came out, and all these additional expenses. Charter, you know, I paid four grand just for one airplane ride."

Bursch says to offset those costs, she’s applying for the Paycheck Protection Program. But she says it has been extremely difficult to do so before the deadline, which is August 8.

"You cannot apply for this loan without internet," she says. "You know, we've been fishing, and I didn't get back to my email. It's literally impossible to do. It's like, I didn't get back to the internet in time, so now it's timed out. So now, all my Small Business Association stuff, the file, just got canceled. Cause I couldn't do it in time. So fishermen in remote areas -- it's hard for us to even get on the phone, much less internet. And how are we supposed to apply for these loans?"

Bursch says she hopes government officials will work to provide additional assistance to fishermen.

Two (Four) Minutes a Day in the Bay

Today’s testimony comes from fisherwoman Maio Nishkian, she is a set-netter who also fishes in Ugashik, out of Pilot Point. Before we play the testimony, we would like to remind our listeners that these are personal opinions that do not reflect the views of the KDLG.

Just a quick note, as of this broadcast, there has been no community spread of COVID-19 in Bristol Bay.

Messages to the fleet:

This one goes out to the Joan L. crew... 

Hope y'all are having a really great season!

A special shout out to one man in particular. He's one of the most talented humans to ever exist. A man who left Seattle as one of my very best friends (for the better part of a decade), and returning as my boyfriend.

Mr. Aaron Daniel, I love you so much and I'm looking forward to seeing you again! 

Your family sends their love to the entire crew...

Rachel said: "be safe, and tell Birddog to wear his lucky sweater."

Your mom says: “Mama Love” and cant wait to hear about your fishing season."

From miss Roxy: “I miss you! And I love you and I hope to see you soon” ... 

Your Dad: "keep it out of the water when ya pee!!!!"

And lastly, Caiden with:  "Ahhhh, E, E, E"

We love you guys!



The Numbers

At 52.6 million, the total baywide run is now almost four million above the preseason forecast. It’s also more than a million fish over where it was at this point last year! Almost half of the total run is in the Naknek-Kvichak -- at 23 million fish, that district has seen the largest run in the bay, followed by Egegik, at 13.9 million fish. All rivers except Togiak have reached or exceeded their escapement goals.

Nushagak District

The Nushagak District is slowing down -- the total run there is at 12.2 million -- now past the preseason forecast of 12 million fish. The fleet caught 96,000 fish yesterday. Yesterday, there were an average of around 300 sockeye per drift delivery. The district’s total catch is now at 8.6 million -- about a million short of the preseason forecasted harvest. The cumulative catch so far was hauled in 68% by the drift fleet, 25% by set netters, and 3.5% by Igushik set netters. Escapement across the district was 48,500 yesterday, for a total of 3.6 million.

Breaking that down by river system...

Nushagak River

The Nushagak River sonar counted 4,400 fish escaping upriver yesterday. That brings the Nushagak’s total escapement to 1.2 million -- about 300,000 more than the upper end escapement goal of 900,000.  

Wood River

The Wood River tower counted 29,200 fish yesterday. Total escapement there is now 2.1 million, also about 300,000 over the upper end goal for that river of 1.8 million.


In the Igushik, 14,900 fish escaped yesterday, for a total escapement of 261,700 -- right in the middle of the escapement goal range. 


No harvest from Togiak yesterday -- the total harvest is at 161,400 -- short of the preseason forecast of 690,000 sockeye. That’s also about a quarter of what it was at this point last year, when the harvest was approaching 480,000. Escapement in Togiak was 5,850, bringing the season total to 63,900 -- about halfway to the lower end escapement goal of 120,000. The total run there is 225,300, just a quarter of the forecasted run of 880,000.


The total run in the Naknek-Kvichak is now at 23 million fish -- the largest run in the bay, and 4 million over its preseason forecast. The fleet hauled in 281,000 fish yesterday. Average drift delivery was about 480 fish. The total catch there has surpassed the preseason projection of 12.3 million as well -- it’s now at 12.8 million -- also the largest in the bay. That total catch was harvested 81% by drifters, 11% by Naknek set netters, and 7% by Kvichak set netters. Across the district, 110,000 fish escaped yesterday, bringing the total to 10.1 million fish. 

Breaking that mammoth down by river system escapement... 

Alagnak River

In the Alagnak River, 44,200 fish escaped yesterday, for a total of 2.1 million. That is ten times the minimum escapement goal for that river of 210,000 sockeye.

Kvichak River

Daily escapement up the Kvichak River came in at 32,300, bringing the season total to 3.9 million, pushing toward the middle of the river’s escapement goal range (between 2 million and 10 million).

Naknek River

In the Naknek, daily escapement came to 33,500. A total of 4 million fish have escaped up the Naknek so far -- double the upper end escapement goal of 2 million.


The Egegik fleet caught 267,000 fish yesterday, with an average drift delivery of around 800 -- the highest average delivery in the bay yesterday. Egegik’s harvest is the second largest in the bay -- at 11.5 million it’s 4 million over the district’s preseason harvest projection. The drift fleet brought in 86% of that cumulative harvest, 14% by set netters. 17,500 fish were counted escaping up the river yesterday, bringing the total escapement in the district to 2.3 million, continuing past the upper end escapement goal range of 2 million. Egegik’s total run is now at 13.9 million fish, exceeding the preseason forecast of 10.2 million sockeye by about 3.5 million.


Ugashik’s total run is now 3.1 million, still below the forecasted run of 4.5 million fish. The fleet in Ugashik caught 143,000 fish yesterday -- average drift delivery was 750 sockeye. bringing the total harvest to 1.8 million -- a little over half of the forecasted available harvest of 3.3 million fish. The drift fleet brought in 77% of that cumulative catch, and set netters brought in 23% of the total catch. 85,500 fish escaped yesterday, bringing the season total escapement to 1.3 million -- just under the upper end escapement goal range of 1.4 million. 


Over at the Chignik weir, 5,624 sockeye passed through the weir yesterday. As of 9 a.m. this morning, 1,632 sockeye had escaped upriver. The season total for sockeye is now 187,874 -- that is far below the preseason escapement goal of 570 - 850,000 fish. The early run total is at 133,151 and the late run total is 54,723. 

36 chinook passed through the weir yesterday, and 36 more have passed through the weir as of 9 a.m. this morning. The season total for chinook is at 729. 

Area M

The majority of the sockeye harvest from Area M is coming from the North Peninsula fleet, which has hauled in 1.1 million fish to date. Chinook on the North Peninsula are at 1,100. The vast majority of the pink harvest is from the South Peninsula fleet, which brought in 1.9 million pinks. The fleet there also brought in 496,400 sockeye. Chinook are at 16,400. Coho harvest is at 17,700, and chum are at 570,600. 

Overall, the Area M harvest for sockeye is at 1.6 million. The chinook harvest is at 17,500, and pinks are at 1.9 million. Coho catch is at 17,800, and chum harvest is at 574,600.