Runs are late and harvests are low, but anticipation is high across the bay. Egegik had the biggest daily catch again. Nushagak's fleet has openers coming up. And analysts say the run could still reach the pre-season forecast.
The total run in the bay passed 5 million yesterday and now stands at 5.4 million. The total catch is over 3.5 million, and total escapement is over 1.7 million.
West side update
The Togiak District doesn’t have escapement numbers yet, and the wait may be even longer. The site of the counting tower was recently vandalized. People usually go up and access the Fish and Game cabin at the tower site, and usually that’s not a problem. Here’s Area Management Biologist Tim Sands.
“Invariably we have to leave equipment there because we can’t haul everything in and out every year,” Sands says. “This year some of the stuff we need to set up the tower is missing. That’s unfortunate on many levels. For us it means it’s a delay in starting the count. The count is how we make decisions so if we’re not counting fish, we can’t be as liberal with our fishing time as we might otherwise be.
Fish and Game has considered cutting the Togiak counting tower due to budget restrictions. This new damage and added costs may further discourage future operations.
“It’s unfortunate and hopefully it won’t happen again, but we definitely want to help people to understand that we use the tower to manage the fishery. We use the numbers to do that and we don’t want to lose that tool,” he says.
The Nushagak sonar site is fully functional and although the Chinook run continues to be low, the sockeye run in the Nushagak River has passed the lower-end escapement goal.
“I expect we’ll hit the lower end of the Wood River range in the next 3 or 4 days. Igushik is a little bit on the slow side and we’re keeping an eye on that,” he says.
Harvest in the Nushagak District is quite low so far this season, but Sands says that will probably change as the run comes in.
“We’re not seeing a lot of harvest right now. We’ve seen this before where we had an early push and some good catches then several days of dropping off catches and then it picking back up and that’s what I expect to happen,” he says.
We’ve also been hearing reports about the size of the sockeye coming in, with reports of smaller fish in the 3-pound range, when sockeye are usually in the 4 to 5-pound range.
“Part of that can be the mixture of age classes and part of it can be fish are smaller for their age,” he says. “I think both of those are going on --not sure why. One of the theories has always been, small fish means big run and we don’t have a big run at this point but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to turn into a big run.”
Sands also pointed out that the small fish from this year might have been impacted by the larger runs of the last several years -- many of the fish could have been at the same places at the same time in the ocean, competing for food.
A late run: UW breaks down the run timing so far
The salmon coming back to Bristol Bay are … running late. The University of Washington keeps daily tabs on the run and compares them to previous years. Right now, the bay-wide run is more than two days later than the 40-year average.
The runs in the Ugashik, Egegik, Naknek-Kvichak and Nushagak districts are all trending at or below the 2-day-late mark, which follows the Port Moller reports.
We’ll have more from UW next week.
Dr. Cathy Hyndman, clinical director of BBAHC, retires after 20 years of work in the region
The clinical director of the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation retired on June 30. The COVID-19 pandemic made for an eventful end to two decades of work in Bristol Bay. Her weeks were filled with teleconferences, her organization rushed to prepare for the upcoming fishing season and the health risks that came with it. But as KDLG’s Izzy Ross reports, the doctor’s time in Bristol Bay extends far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here on the westside….
The Nushagak is still the only district in the bay with a run of over 2 million.
The Nushagak fleet caught 58,000 fish yesterday. Total harvest in the Nushagak district is now 1.4 million -- 4% by Igushik set-netters, 28% by Nushagak set-netters, and 68% by the drift fleet.
Escapement for the full Nushagak district was 90,000 fish yesterday, for a total district escapement of 960,000. Breaking that down by river in the Nushagak District:
The Nushagak sockeye salmon escapement was 37,000 yesterday, for a cumulative of 441,000. King salmon escapement in the Nushagak was 264 yesterday. The cumulative king escapement is 34,000. And chum escapement in the Nushagak was 1,900 yesterday for a total of 54,900 escaped chums.
The Wood River sockeye salmon escapement was 49,000 yesterday and 16,000 at 6:00 a.m. this morning, for a total of 498,000.
In the Igushik River, tower crew counted 3,800 sockeye yesterday and 1,500 as of 6am this morning, bringing the Igushik sockeye escapement to 35,800.
The Togiak tower crew arrived at their site yesterday, but found the camp vandalized and some items stolen. This will delay escapement information in the Togiak for an undetermined amount of time.
The fleet caught 1,700 fish in Togiak yesterday, bringing the total harvest, and the total run count, to 8,400.
Taking a look at the eastside…
In the Naknek-Kvichak district, the total run is 1.2 million. The district’s daily catch was 179,000. Total harvest in the Naknek-Kvichak is now 838,000, caught 8% by Kvichak set-netters, 21% by Naknek set-netters, and the remaining 71% by the drift fleet.
Escapement across the Naknek-Kvichak District was 46,000, for a district season total escapement of 959,000 fish so far. Breaking down that escapement by river:
12,000 fish escaped in the Alagnak yesterday for a total escapement there of 31,000.
In the Kvichak, a daily escapement of 32,000 yesterday brought total escapement to 52,000.
And finally in the Naknek River, 2,100 fish escaped yesterday, bringing total escapement in the Naknek to 305,000.
The run in Egegik is almost 2 million, but not quite.
Daily catch in Egegik yesterday was 395,000, pushing the total catch in the Egegik District to over 1 million. That’s attributed 88% to the drift fleet and 12% to the set-netters.
Yesterday’s escapement in Egegik was 100,000 for a total escapement so far of 377,000 fish.
In Ugashik, the total run is now 61,000.
A catch of 16,000 fish yesterday brings the total catch in Ugashik so far to 34,000. That was hauled in 67% by Ugashik drifters and 33% by set-netters.
Escapement in Ugashik was 6,000 fish yesterday, rounding out total escapement in that district at 17,000.
Down at the Chignik weir, a total of 6,710 early run sockeye passed through the weir yesterday. The late run sockeye were at almost 1,000 yesterday. The season total for the early run is 82,379, and the late run is at 4,116.
12 chinook passed the weir yesterday, bringing that escapement to 80 so far this season. The early sockeye run is about half of what it was in 2018, when the escapement was over 162,000. The late run in 2018 was at 634.
Permit registration on July 3 9:00 a.m. to July 5 at 9:00 a.m.
There are 1,258 boats fishing the bay as of 9am today, and 350 of those are D boats. That’s 1,608 permits fishing in Bristol Bay at the moment. That total will increase to 1,313 boats on Sunday morning at 9am, 377 of which will be D boats.
Breaking down where those boats are fishing:
The Nushagak has the most vessel registrations in the bay -- 40% -- but is still losing boats. There are currently 461 boats fishing there, 128 of which are D boats. In 48 hours, the Nushagak will lose 2 D boats, for a total of 126 D boats out of 459 vessels.
The Naknek-Kvichak represents 30% of the fishing fleet. There are 383 boats fishing there, 113 of which are D boats. That will jump to 399 boats on Sunday, 122 of which will be D boats.
Egegik will see the greatest growth in the next 48 hours. There are 350 boats fishing Egegik right now, 100 of which are D boats. Come Sunday morning, that will by 382 boats, 119 of which will be D boats.
Togiak is still being fished by 36 boats and no D boats. That 3% of the fleet won’t change in the next 48 hours.
And the 2% of the fleet in Ugashik is 28 boats, 9 of which are D boats. That will jump up to 37 boats at 9am on July 5, 10 of which will be D boats.
Down at the Port Moller test fishery, the Ocean Cat was able to fish stations 8 - 22 yesterday, and the fishing once again returned the highest indices of the season.
Scott Raborn said in an email that yesterday’s high indices point to a late run this year. How large and how late is yet to be determined, but Raborn believes that based on data from the test fishery and catch and escapement so far, the run will reach the pre-season forecast.
Here’s what the Ocean Cat caught:
Station 8 had an index of 265 -- 69 in the 4 ½ and 46 in the 5 ⅛.
Station 10 had an index of 81 -- 12 in the 4 ½ and 81 in the 5 ⅛.
Station 12 had an index of 36 -- 7 in the 4 ½ and 5 in the 5 ⅛.
Station 14 had an index of 65 -- 26 in the 4 ½ inch mesh.
Station 16 had an index of 71-- 12 in the 4 ½ and 20 in the 5 ⅛.
Station 18 had an index of 184 -- 66 in the 4 ½ and 17 in the 5 ⅛.
Station 20 had an index of 70 -- 26 in the 4 ½ and 2 in the 5 ⅛.
Station 22 had an index of 168 -- 53 in the 4 ½ and 31 in the 5 ⅛.
Correction: The Nushagak run is counted by a sonar counter. The original report stated that it was a tower, and has since been corrected. Additionally, the percent allocations of harvest by gear type are calculated from the cumulative harvest, not the daily catch as initially reported.