Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 7, 2021

Jul 7, 2021

The Nushagak fleet harvested another 1.5 million fish yesterday -- The Kvichak’s run is still surging, as around 800,000 salmon swim up river. Some sun and warmer temps are in the forecast on the West Side. 

Boats line up in Naknek
Credit Mackenzie Mancuso

'Getting kind of used' to big numbers in the Nushagak 

Even though the fish have been slamming in the Nushagak, the fishing hasn’t been too rough, at least according to Sean Howard, a crewmember on the F/V St. Brendan. 

“Last night, actually, we had some giant sets -- two just back-to-back giant sets, and there were almost no boats out,” said Howard. “It was kind of mysterious, like we were wondering what happened to all the rest of the fishermen.”

One of their biggest catches from the past week was a two-set tide, when they hauled in around 12,000 pounds. 

Howard has been fishing in the bay since 2012, and while he’s seen some slow years in other districts, the Nushagak’s sockeye runs have been so consistently big that he’s not really surprised -- even when the fish hit hard. 

“It’s unusual, the large numbers, but at the same time we’re kind of getting used to it, which is weird to say,” he said.

And while the fish have been pushing, for Howard, the mood of the fishery has been chivalrous. 

“Seems like the guys have been out there just being really professional and very courteous with their sets for the most part, haven’t seen a lot of the corking off kind of action that we always seen previously and it’s been real nice,” said Howard. “Everybody’s hopefully getting a lot of fish and feeling good about it, and staying safe and all 10 fingers and 10 toes working well and still attached.”

Nushagak River Apportionment

KDLG’s Brian Venua sat down with bay biologists to learn more about why the Nushagak River apportions fish counts – and why others do not.

A field-based course in fisheries management offers college students hands-on experience

Commercial fisherman Mike Davis
Credit Stephanie Maltarich

College students from Seattle and Juneau traveled to Bristol Bay this summer for a field-based course in salmon fisheries.  

For three weeks students study the salmon fishery, meet with guest speakers and take field trips. The ultimate goal? To learn how to make their own management decisions. 

Stephanie Maltarich traveled alongside the students on a field trip around Nushagak Bay. 

Messages to the fleet 

To: Steven Jones 

I love and miss you so much. Fill those tanks and hurry home...to dotty and I! Also your garden is huge and cherry tom plants are taller than me now! 

See you soon my love xoxo. -Always, Brandi

To: Rayn Aaberg

Happy birthday, from your family in Anchorage. Wishing the rest of the Aaberg family a good fishing season on Ekuk beach.

To Makani “Bondo” Foster:

Happy birthday Bon! We all love you so so much, especially your new son Kanin Cap. Love and aloha from Danielle, Mom, Em, Katy, Melia, Chloe, Charlotte, Chazz, Kainehe, Kahanu, and the rest of the ‘ohana. Good luck to you and the crew!

The Numbers

The baywide run is at 30.5 million fish, well over halfway to the season estimate of 50 million. Around the bay, more than 1.8 million fish escaped yesterday. Around 11 million fish have swam to their spawning grounds. Daily catch was a whopper, as fleets around the bay harvested 2.7 million fish. So far, 18.5 million fish have been sent to the processor this season. 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s look at the Mckinley Research Group’s weekly harvest update. 

Compared to 2020, Sockeye harvest is up 98% -- nearly double what it was at this time last year. That being said, the bay is on track with the five year average for annual harvest. Bristol Bay is currently one of the most productive regions of the state. 

Nushagak District

The Nushagak District is on a big, million-fish streak -- fishermen harvested 1.5 million fish yesterday. That makes six out of seven days that the Nushagak has caught over a million fish. Average drift delivery yesterday was 1,784 sockeye. The total harvest is 11.4 million. 

Nushagak drifters have caught around 83% of the season’s cumulative harvest. Nushagak set netters have hauled in just over 10%, and Igushik set netters harvested 2%. 

Around the district, 607,732 fish escaped yesterday, bringing the season’s total escapement to 6.6 million.

The Nushagak’s total run is at 18.1 million. 

Nushagak River

Nushagak River’s sockeye run is coming right along -- 328,666 sockeye swam past the sonar yesterday, bringing total escapement to 3.6 million. 

The Chinook run, meanwhile, is continuing at a steady, slow pace: the sonar counted almost 2,967 Chinook, for a total of 41,613. 

Chum saw a bump yesterday, as 5,795 of them swam up the Nushagak, bringing the total chum run to 70,609.

Wood River

The Wood River’s numbers are staying high -- 225,300 fish swam up river yesterday, and another 47,118 fish had swam past the tower as of 6 a.m. this morning, bringing the Wood River’s total escapement to 2.7 million. 

That escapement is now 1 million fish over its upper end escapement goal of 1.8 million. 

Igushik River

In the Igushik, 53,766 fish passed the counting tower yesterday, and another 10,338 swam past this morning, for a total escapement of 348,846. That means the Igushik is right in the middle of its escapement goal range of 150,000 - 400,000 fish.

Togiak

Togiak’s fleet harvested 12,000 fish yesterday, with an average of 230 sockeye per drift delivery. The total harvest there is at 47,082.

We’re still excited to see Togiak’s escapement numbers -- 6,012 fish swam up river yesterday, and another 684 fish escaped this morning. The season’s total escapement is at 10,842 -- just 9% of the minimum escapement goal there of 120,000.

Togiak’s total run is at almost 57,924.

Naknek-Kvichak 

The Naknek-Kvichak fleet harvested 862,000 fish during yesterday’s openers, with an average of over 1,200 sockeye per drift delivery. The district’s total harvest is 2.4 million. 

Of that cumulative catch, the district’s drifters harvested 61%, and the rest is split between the Kvichak and Naknek set netters -- Kvichak’s set net fleet has harvested 19%, and Naknek set nets have caught 20%.

A huge escapement in the Naknek-Kvichak, as more than 1.1 million fish swam past counting towers in the district. That’s one third of the season’s total escapement so far of 3.4 million.

The run there doesn’t look like that will slow down any time soon -- an estimated 800,000 fish are in the Kvichak. 

The district’s total run is at 6.6 million.

Naknek River

In the Naknek, 454,644 fish swam upriver yesterday, for a total escapement of 1.2 million -- right in the middle of its escapement goal range.

Kvichak River

The Kvichak’s run is still going strong, as 502,456 escaped, bringing the total to 1.3 million -- the highest in the district, though still at the lower end of the goal range of 2 - 10 million fish. An estimated 800,000 fish are swimming up the Kvichak. 

Alagnak River

Hefty numbers in the Alagnak -- 148,632 fish escaped up the river yesterday, for a total of 753,558. That’s well above their minimum escapement goal of 210,000. 

Egegik      

Egegik’s harvest numbers are continuing apace -- the fleet caught 314,000 for a total of 3.9 million. The average drift delivery was 724 sockeye.

The drift fleet has caught 84% of that total catch, while set netters have harvested the remaining 16%. 

Egegik has passed its lower end escapement goal of 800,000. The river’s total escapement has reached 1 million, as 127,902 fish escaped yesterday. An estimated 75,000 are swimming upriver.  

Egegik’s total run is 5 million fish. 

Ugashik

Ugashik didn’t fish yesterday, so its cumulative harvest stays at just under 668,875.

The drift fleet has harvested almost 95% of the season’s total harvest, and the set netters have caught around 5%. 

An estimated 10,000 are swimming up the Ugashik. 

3,000 fish swam up the Ugashik yesterday, bringing the season’s total escapement to 36,456. That’s under 10% of the lower-end escapement goal there of 500,000.

The total run is at 715,331.

Chignik River Weir 

Over to the Chignik River now -- 8,040 sockeye passed the weir yesterday, and 18 Chinook swam up river.

192 sockeye passed the weir as of 9 a.m. Six Chinook also passed the weir by 9 a.m., bringing the season total Chinook run to just 61. 

The total sockeye run up the Chignik River is at 216,496. The early run is at 198,319, and the late run is at just over 18,177. 

Area M 

All of yesterday’s South Peninsula harvest is confidential, due to a limited number of processors. 

Yesterday, the Area M fleet caught almost 220,000 sockeye, for a season total of 4.2 million. Chinook harvest was 24, for a total of just over 3,100, and chum harvest was 34, bringing that total to 802,000. 

Port Moller Test Fishery

No fishing at the Port Moller Test Fishery yesterday, as both boats were weathered off the water, according to an update from scientists Michael Link and Scott Raborn.

The Pandalus made a long and slow run in from Station 12 Monday, and spent yesterday in the Port Moller area. The Ocean Cat spent last night behind Hagemeister Island and ventured out this morning headed for Station 20. After a few hours of 12-14-foot seas and strong winds, the crews deemed it unfishable and turned back to hide another night near Hagemeister.

Winds today were forecast to improve significantly, but the big seas from a SW’er may take a bit to lie down.  

Link and Raborn say that 7/7 seems like a lucky day to get a good set of stations fished… fingers crossed.

Stock composition estimate #8 from July 2-4

We do have the eighth stock composition estimate. 

There’s a push of fish heading to the Ugashik -- around 24% of the fish sampled were making their way there. 

The Nushagak’s run looks like it will recede slightly from the high highs the district has seen recently -- 18% of the run sampled was headed to the Wood River, while just over 12% was going to the Nushagak River, and .6% was swimming to the Igushik. 

Around 11% of the run is swimming to the Kvichak, and another 10% is headed to the Naknek. The Alagnak will see about 4%. 

10% of the fish sampled were headed to Egegik, 6% were going to the North Peninsula, and 3% were Kuskokwim fish. 

Finally, a little over 1% of the sample catch were Togiak-bound fish. 

Age Composition Summary

Taking a look at age composition -- 

Around the bay, the biggest group are 1-2 fish; fish that spend one year in freshwater and two in the ocean. The 1-2s make up almost 60% of the total sockeye run. The 1-3 fish make up another 27% of the run. 

In Egegik, most of the fish caught so far this season -- over 64% -- were 1-2 fish. That was also the biggest escapement group, at around 50% of the river’s escapement.

Over in the Naknek River, 70% of the fish that escaped are 1-2s, and that age group made up 79% of the Kvichak’s escapement. The Naknek-Kvichak’s drift harvest was 40% 1-2s, and 1-3s made up another 30%.

To the mighty Nush, where 1-2s are in the majority as well, making up almost 68% of the fish harvested so far. 

The majority of the Nushagak River’s escapement 56% is 1-3 fish, while over 80% of the Wood River’s escapement is 1-2 fish. 

Ugashik is no exception here -- more than 60% of that harvest is 1-2 salmon. 

Vessel registration Wednesday July 7 9:00 a.m. to Friday July 8 9:00 a.m.

Boast are still gravitating toward the Nushagak District in the next few days. There are 548 vessels registered in the district, 176 of which are D-boats. That goes up just a bit on Friday, with 550 boats registered. The number of D-boats stays at 176.

As fish return to the Naknek-Kvichak, the boats follow. There are 332 boats registered to fish in the district, 79 of which are D-boats. That increases quite a bit on Friday, with 362 boats registered. The number of D-boats goes up to 88.

In Egegik, 277 boats are set to fish there, and 86 of those are D-boats. That drops just a bit by Friday, with 275 boats registered there. D-boats stay at 86.

Ugashik will see a few more boats join its fleet in the next two days. It has 102 boats registered to fish there, with 49 D-boats. That will go up to 113 vessels on Friday, and 50 of those will be D-boats. 

In Togiak, 31 boats are registered to fish, and that fleet will stay the same through Friday morning.

Contact the fish team at fish@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.