Bristol Bay Fisheries Report: July 9, 2019

Jul 9, 2019

The Nushagak River had the lowest king escapement of the season yesterday, but it saw a jump in sockeye passing the sonar. Egegik’s streak continues, with the fleet hauling in more than 800,000 fish for the fourth day in a row. 

Salmon swim up the Wood River in late June.
Credit Alex Hager / KDLG

Welcome to the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report. The Nushagak River had the lowest king escapement of the season yesterday, but it saw a jump in sockeye passing the sonar. Egegik’s streak continues, with the fleet hauling in more than 800,000 fish for the fourth day in a row. 



Over at Port Moller, stations 6 and 8 saw a spike in catches yesterday. The daily catch index is 47, almost eight times higher than Sunday’s. This pattern is promising as fisheries feared the run was tapering off. There is a chance a more sizable run is on the horizon. 


The recent heatwave that has descended on Bristol Bay has been stifling here on land, but it’s also having an effect on those in the water. Lee Borden is the Assistant Area Manager for Sportfishing, and he says recent conditions have had a noticeable impact on fish as they make their way up river.


"The increased water temperatures and high heat in the bay is definitely affecting the way fish move, they'll tend to run deeper in the river. It can even delay movement altogether if it gets extremely hot. And then in these cases, when the water gets exceedingly hot, it can be fatal. So we think that that definitely had an effect this year. Most likely delayed fish and also most likely made them harder to count at the sonar."


This week's heat was just one of the factors that led to an emergency order in the Nushagak on Monday, a directive saying that king salmon of any size need to be released immediately and prohibiting the use of bait. Borden said the order came as the result of a few different reasons.


"Based on the weather conditions with the warm temperatures and more and water temperatures that with the low sonar count kind of spurred the emergency orders. We took it to a step down approach. So the first emergency order issued was the cutting the daily possession limits in half based on the numbers not significantly improving. We went ahead and stepped that up to a catch and release emergency order."


While there’s an emergency order placing some limits on the Nushagak, I also talked to Tyler Savage of the Bristol Bay Lodge, who’s been fishing the Togiak and Agulawok. He said conditions haven’t been bad, even with the warm weather.


Things are going well. Obviously, the last couple of weeks with the heat, it's been a kind of unchartered territories as far as the weather goes. But as far as the fishing goes, we're still making it happen. You know, the king fishing on the Togiak is, has been steady for us, getting in to fish every day, working for it a little bit, but getting into them. The sockeye fishing on the Agulawok has been phenomenal as far as the season goes.

 Even though he says fishing has been going well, Savage says they’ve had to improvise to find fishing hiding from the heat. "A lot of times, when you get that hot weather, the bright sun and whatnot, it tends to slow the fishing down a bit. You definitely have to work a little bit harder, get kind of creative. But we've noticed, at least as far as the king fishing goes, our guys are finding some of the deepest, darkest holes in the river. They can and are pulling some fish here and there." Savage says he’s also heard reports of fish going belly-up in the river, which could be a symptom of the heat. "I have gotten word from some of our guys in some of our camps that they have witnessed a little bit of that. It doesn't surprise me being the weather that we're having and that creating those warmer water temperatures definitely puts a big shock on those fish." 

ADF&G said they heard those reports too, and they’re keeping an eye on the situation going forward.


The commercial fishery has been dealing with hot weather, too. Kaleb Westfall set nets in the Nushagak, and right now he’s fishing in the Wood River. He says heat is making it difficult for set netters, who can’t easily catch fish swimming in deeper channels.

"I would say maybe the fish are swimming deeper in the channels and the harvest numbers are pretty substantial. From what I understand, the drift fleet is doing pretty well and they are able to get in channels more. As for the set netters, we're not able to fish the deep channels and just on the shore."

Still, Westfall says the season is going well so far, although it’s slow compared to last year.

"And now both sides of the beach seem to be getting fish and slows down a little bit with this heat. But sounds like we might get something from the Port Moller numbers in the next couple of days. So just wait for that to happen and trying to put on the sunblock."

If you have suggestions or corrections for the fish report, we want to hear from you! Please let us know by sending an email or calling us at 842-5281. If you’ve got a message to the fleet, send it to the same place. or give us a ring at 842-5281.